The Feleipe Franks that showed up Saturday in Auburn was even better than the Franks who left Gainesville. The quarterback from Florida played great for the Hogs, hitting targets in stride while often on the run in the rain.
Franks nearly helped lead Arkansas to an upset of the 14th-ranked Auburn Tigers, only losing because the SEC decided to make up rules on the fly instead of following the ones that are already established.
“He just gets better every week,” said Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman about Feleipe Franks after the game. “I was really proud of him. I know he’s banged up a little bit, but it’d be hard not be proud of his performance tonight. He did a nice job.”
This was a game where the Razorbacks star running back Rakeem Boyd did not make the trip and the top wide receiver Treylon Burks did not play. Plus, standout wideout Trey Knox had no receptions.
Franks’ final line read as 22 of 30 passing attempts for 318 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. The Razorbacks scored a season-high 28 points on the back of the performance by the 22-year-graduate transfer, who was sharp on short-range and downfield passes while finding holes in Auburn’s defense.
Not only was this Franks’ best start as a Razorback, it was the best game of his college career. It was his first career 300-yard passing game. He had his second best QBR at 90.1 and threw for four touchdowns for only the second time.
“Feleipe’s a baller,” Razorback defensive back Jalen Catalon said after the game. “No matter what happens, I never see him get shook by anything. He always has his head high. He’s always motivating us to keep going no matter what the scenario is. It showed tonight.”
“Down 17-0 it’s easy to get down, but you just saw that look in his eye that he was ready to go no matter what and you saw him string together some good drives and gave us, the defense, the confidence to say ok we got a quarterback that’s going to do his thing, let’s do our thing. And before you know it we’re back in the game…. I’m proud of Feleipe and I’m glad he’s our quarterback and I wouldn’t want anyone else on our team.”
Despite the heartbreaking loss, the Hogs (now 1-2) are still getting respect in national polls for outplaying a highly-regarded Auburn team that it led for much of the last three quarters on the road. On Sunday, USA Today’s Sagarin Ratings ranked Arkansas as the No. 21 team in the nation in large part because of point differential and strength of schedule.
For Arkansas to rise higher, the Razorbacks’ offense needs to start humming earlier in upcoming games. Against Auburn, it punted on its first five possessions. The Hog were down 17-0 when Franks kicked his game into high gear. His first touchdown was a short slant to Mike Woods. He put just the right touch on the ball to get it over the defender and right into the hands of Woods.
He also connected with Devion Warren on a deep 44-yard pass on the first play of the next drive. That drive ended with a dump pass to Warren that resulted in a seven yard touchdown.
This brought the score to 17-12. Arkansas missed an extra point when the holder dropped the snap after the first touchdown, so they went for two and failed after the second one.
Franks was 9 of 9 for 99 yards on the two touchdown drives before halftime.
Arkansas scored a touchdown on a Franks pass to Trelon Smith for five yards on their first drive of the second half. That score, followed by a second failed two point conversion, brought Arkansas within 2 points of Auburn, 20-18.
The next drive started with Franks connecting with tight end Blake Kern on second down for 35 yards. Franks’ throw hit Kern in a hole and perfectly in stride to allow the big man to keep his momentum down field.
Franks led the team down to the 4 yard line when the coaches took him out on second and goal in favor of true freshman Malik Hornsby. Hornsby would run two plays that amounted to nothing and Arkansas settled for a field goal.
The next drive saw Feleipe Franks convert a 4th down with a pass to Mike Woods that went for 11. The very next play Franks, under pressure, scrambled to the front of the pocket and delivered a dime off of his left foot for a 30 yard touchdown to Devion Warren who had a step on his defender.
His throw to Warren tied the Razorbacks at 27 with Auburn before the extra point put the team up one with roughly 5 minutes to play.
Franks led Arkansas to scores on 4 consecutive drives (not counting the possession that ended at the halftime bell). The only drive that didn’t end in 6 points was when Hornsby was brought in for the final two plays.
Franks and the offense started slow, but down 17-0 Franks led Arkansas back to a 28-27 lead late in the 4th quarter. Auburn, as we know, would “win” this game on a field goal, but only after a controversial no-fumble call on a backwards pass.
On Saturday, Franks looked like the program-saving quarterback so many wanted him to be when he debuted against Georgia. He played smart, didn’t turn the ball over, and spiraled it into tight windows.
Franks wasn’t perfect, flinging a few errant throws, but the wet conditions likely affected those. He had just the right touch on the touchdown pass to Woods, and the deep ball he threw to Kern looked as if it just floated into the tight end’s hands.
Franks’ 30-yard touchdown to Warren was a tough throw on the move, off of his wrong leg. He laid the ball in there perfectly. He hit Warren in stride right in the pocket, in the endzone. He gave no chance for the corner to make up a step on a bad throw. It was a NFL throw.
Franks was able to move around the pocket which gave his receivers extra time to get open. He was also able to hit receivers on the run while avoiding pressure while keeping his great touch.
If Franks continues to play at this level Arkansas will be a tough team to beat for any team in the country.
Expect him to have another big game next week as Arkansas plays Ole Miss at home. In Ole Miss’ last game, Alabama shredded the Rebels’ defense to the tune of 63 points and more than 700 total yards.
The last Razorback quarterback to play this well was Austin Allen. Below, Allen breaks down Arkansas-Auburn:
For our latest post, go here: