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Coaches puzzled as No. 12 Hogs' offense struggles

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Total offensive production is up this season at Arkansas, but the points are down.

It's a season-long trend Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino has noticed, one he hopes to turn around as the No. 12 Razorbacks prepare to face No. 7 Auburn this weekend.

Arkansas (4-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) took a 21-7 lead late in the first half of a win over Texas A&M on Saturday. However, for the second straight game, the Razorbacks scored only three points in the second half and relied on their running game and defense in a 24-17 win.

The overall offensive production this season (462.8 yards per game) is up over a year ago (427.3), but turnovers and penalties have hampered the Razorbacks' offense, which finished ninth nationally in scoring last season.

Arkansas is averaging 30 points per game this season, down from last year's 36.

"We're used to moving the ball more and scoring more points," Petrino said. "Yardage-wise and a lot of things we're doing are good, but we have not scored points like we need to. Actually, all year long I've not been happy with how many points we've scored."

One major difference for Arkansas this season has been the number of turnovers, particularly those by junior quarterback Ryan Mallett. The Heisman Trophy hopeful threw seven interceptions in 403 pass attempts last season, but he's already thrown six in 176 attempts this season.

"A couple of them are just bad throws," said Mallett, who threw two of his interceptions in the fourth quarter of Arkansas' loss to then-No. 1 Alabama. "You know, you can't do nothing about that, it's going to happen. Last year, I was fortunate enough to not throw very many. Obviously, that's not my goal, to throw interceptions."

Mallett appeared to favor his left side during the Texas A&M game after being hit in the second half, but the quarterback didn't get into details Monday about his health.

"I feel good, I feel good," he said.

Petrino pointed out that two of Mallett's interceptions have come after tipped passes. However, he also said a few were errant throws, noting that defensive pressure and protection breakdowns have played parts in the offensive miscues.

"It's always one of those things that everything adds up," Petrino said. "It's never one guy's responsibility. It's everyone's responsibility."

Against the Aggies, Arkansas committed 13 penalties for 108 yards, including five false-start penalties -- 10 of those coming in the first half.

Petrino said Arkansas' concentration and focus was better in the second half. While there were fewer penalties, the points still weren't there.

"There was some frustration, there's no question about that," Petrino said. "You know, when you're not executing and you're not doing things the way you're used to doing, frustration mounts."

The Razorbacks, who entered the game last in the SEC in rushing yards (103) per game, ran the ball nearly as many times (36) as they threw it (38), finishing with 132 yards on the ground.

It was one of the few bright spots on offense, something Petrino hopes to build on as the Razorbacks prepare to face Auburn, the only SEC team ahead of them in total offense.

"I feel like we (weren't) mentally tough in the second half," said Arkansas sophomore running back Knile Davis, who ran for 82 yards on 10 carries against Texas A&M. "I feel like we started beating ourselves with little things. We've just got to keep it going for (Auburn)."