FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas was riding a special teams high few weeks ago, making an impact on games with big returns, trick plays and solid coverage.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas was riding a special teams high few weeks ago, making an impact on games with big returns, trick plays and solid coverage.


Running back Korliss Marshall outran Northern Illinois on the opening kickoff to set the tone in a 52-14 win. Punter Sam Irwin-Hill surprised everyone with a fake punt against Texas Tech, rumbling 51 yards for a score to take a halftime lead. Punt returner D.J. Dean nearly got in the end zone a few weeks earlier against Nicholls State, too, before being shoved out at the 2-yard line after a 63-yard return.


But Dean said it’s no secret Arkansas’ ability to produce big moments on special teams has faded in back-to-back losses to Alabama and Georgia.


"We’ve been missing them," Dean said Wednesday. "But we’re just trying to do anything and everything to try to get something started this week."


Arkansas (3-4, 0-4 in SEC) is hoping to get back on track when the Razorbacks play UAB (4-3, 2-2 in Conference-USA) on Saturday at 11 a.m. Plenty went wrong on offense and defense during Arkansas’ losses to Alabama (14-13) and Georgia (45-32), but its special teams performance has contributed to the struggles.


Some of the problems have been subtle. Others have been glaring. But Arkansas special teams coordinator Rory Segrest said the issues must be fixed.


"We’ve obviously got some room to improve there, but guys have to make sure they take pride in their role and go out and get their job done," Segrest said.


The most obvious: Arkansas’ field goal and extra point team has struggled. The Razorbacks had two extra points blocked in two games. A bad snap wiped out a field goal opportunity against Alabama as well. Senior John Henson is 2-for-4 on field goals this season, but his longest made attempt is from 22 yards.


The Razorbacks are tied with Illinois for the fewest made field goals in the NCAA so far this season (2). But Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is hoping sophomore Adam McFain can help solve the problems after taking over the place-kicking role.


"I think the obvious thing in the field goal/PAT we’ve had a few get blocked and I think it’s been a little bit of a perfect marriage between maybe not great protection and a low kick," Bielema said. "But like I said, to move McFain, he gets the ball up very, very quickly and I’m excited about the answer that he provided."


Arkansas also has been evaluating its options at punter this week after Irwin-Hill struggled against Georgia. He averaged 33 yards an attempt against the Bulldogs and is having to show improvement in practice or else Toby Baker will take the role.


Segrest said Wednesday the Razorbacks hadn’t made their decision on who would punt against UAB. But he said Irwin-Hill did respond to the competition this week.


"It’s more of a technical thing than anything else," Segrest said. "He gets in a game and he’s rushing things a little bit and he’s just not making solid contact with the ball. When he’s out there and he’s in specialist and nobody’s around him, he kills it. … We’ve just got to make sure we carry that over to when it counts."


Arkansas also is hoping to produce more on kickoff and punt returns.


Dean hasn’t returned a punt the past two games, calling for fair catches or letting the football bounce. The result? Nine of the 11 punts by opponents in the past two games have left the Arkansas offense starting drives inside the 20-yard line.


The Razorbacks are ranked fourth in the NCAA in kickoff returns this season (26.8 yards), but most of the production came in the first five games. Arkansas’ longest kick return by the Razorbacks the past two weeks is a 27-yarder by wide receiver Eric Hawkins, who is filling in for Marshall while he serves his suspension.


"He’s actually really comfortable back there," Segrest said. "He’s got great speed. He’s got some potential. We’ve just got to make sure we’re getting some blocks made for him and give him an opportunity to get going."


Bielema believes some of Arkansas’ special teams problems are the result of depth issues across the roster. He used linebacker Brooks Ellis’ injury as an example.


The sophomore has played an integral role on some special teams units in addition to his work at linebacker. So removing him last week had its impact on the Hogs.


"Wearing down really shows up in the kicking game, just because we don’t have enough bodies to field a four-quarter game," Bielema said. "Every play matters and every kicking game gets magnified probably even moreso because it’s such a critical point in field position."


Still, Bielema pointed to two special teams penalties that hurt the Hogs in field position last week. He said giving away free yardage is "unacceptable" no matter who is involved on special teams because the impact is felt.


Arkansas’ average field position to begin drives last week was the 25-yard line, while Georgia’s got started at the 40. Alabama won the field position battle, too, starting at its 37-yard line while the Razorbacks were at the 25 two weeks ago.


The Razorbacks are hoping to solve those problems against UAB.


"You’ve got to win that battle of field position and it starts with special teams," Segrest said.