Auburn players Michael Dyer and Kiehl Frazier – both Arkansas natives – had both found the end zone and the Razorbacks were on the short end of a 14-7 deficit.
But that was nothing that 31 unanswered points couldn't take care of before a frenzied crowd of 74,191 fans.
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson completed 19 straight passes at one point and threw for 262 yards while Joe Adams ripped off a 92-yard scoring dash as the No. 10 Razorbacks went on to hammer the No. 15 Tigers by the score of 38-14.
"We got off to a little rocky start there, but defensively we played real well in the second half and created (three) turnovers," Petrino added. "We have been waiting for these turnovers to come and we did a nice job of that."
Indeed Arkansas (5-1, 1-1) in three picks – two by Tramian Thomas and one by Eric Bennett - after taking a 21-14 lead over Auburn (4-2, 2-1) into intermission.
"On offense we were up and down a little bit," Petrino continued. "We were real sharp on some touchdown drives and then we struggled a little bit in the second half when basically we were looking at that clock wanting it to run out."
The loss ended the defending national champions' 11-game SEC winning streak under head coach Gene Chizak and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, the former Arkansas high school coach and Razorback one-year assistant.
"I think it was pretty obvious what happened tonight," Chizik said. "We did the classic things you can not do to win games on the road. Offensively, we turned the ball over three times. Against a good team on the road, that certainly is not going to you any wins. This was a total team loss."
It was a rematch of last season's 65-43 Auburn win at home.
"This was a big win for us," Petrino said. "Our players did a really nice job throughout the entire week, our assistants coaches did a great job throughout the week understanding this was a big game. We prepared well in the classroom, we practiced hard and - like I said on Thursday – I thought it was our best week of practice as far as our effort, our focus and our concentration.
"So it didn't just happen," Petrino added. "Our assistant coaches and players made it happen."
All seven touchdowns in the game were scored by Arkansas high school players.
Wilson started out 2-of-7 before getting on his hot streak – the third-longest in SEC history.
He was 20-of-25 at halftime for 228 yards and ended the night 24-of-36 passing with two touchdowns.
Wilson has now thrown for 594 yards and 6 touchdowns in two games against Auburn.
"It was something that we really needed," Petrino said. "We got in a good rhythm and he did a good job of getting his feet set and understanding what they were trying to do coverage wise in the first half."
Wilson spread the ball around to seven different wide receivers, tight ends and running backs.
Adams (6 catches for 49 yards), Jarius Wright (5 for 76), Greg Childs (4 for 49) and Johnson (3 for 49) led the way.
"I thought our receivers really made a lot of good plays for him and we protected better," Petrino said.
Adams' long run – the second longest in school history behind current teammate Broderick Green's 99-yard one in 2009 against Eastern Michigan – highlighted an improved rushing attack.
The Razorbacks rolled up a season-high 176 yards rushing even with starting tailback Ronnie Wingo (toe) injured and unable to play.
Green added 16 carries for 47 yards and Dennis Johnson chipped in 12 carries for 42 yards.
The Arkansas defense certainly did a better job after a first quarter in which Auburn rolled up 168 yards total offense – 141 of which were on the ground.
The Razorbacks shut out their foe for the last three quarters.
"I thought we just tackled better," petrino said. "We got them behind the sticks and had good success on first down on defense. They were really trying to keep our offense on the sideline. They ran the ball a bunch and once we got them to have some negative plays, got them in third down, then we created the turnovers."
That defense was led by linebackers Jerry Franklin (15 tackles) and Alonzo Highsmith (12 tackles).
"I thought they both played real well," Petrino said. "Jerry is in there really running the defense and had a good understanding of what was happening before the ball was snapped.
"It was also great to have Jake (Bequette) back," Petrino said of the injured senior defensive end, who had missed three games. "He provides us with a lot of leadership and a lot of heart."
Highsmith had 10 solo tackles, including two for lost yardage.
"He is really good football player," Petrino said of the junior college transfer in his first season with the Razorbacks. "He is very fast, he can tackle well and he understands the game. With him and Jerry out there, they really help us know what is going on."
Dyer rushed 21 times for 112 yards, including a 55-yard dash to start the scoring.
But after rushing 8 times for 78 yards in the first half, the former Little Rock Christian star was limited to 8 yards on 9 carries in the third quarter and just 34 yards total in the second half.
"I was excited to play in front of friends and family, but it was disappointing to lose," Dyer said.
The Tigers ended the night with 291 yards rushing.
"We were just trying to do what our game plan was and stay with it and try to fight and continue to try and get some success running the ball and try to make something happen," Dyer said.
Frazier threw four passes, completing two to his team and two to Arkansas, while the former Shiloh Christian standout rushed 13 times for 54 yards.
"He had a good learning moment today," Chizik said. "…Those windows in college close early."
Malzahn noted that it was the young quarterback's baptism by fire.
"We're trying to expand his role and he competed very hard tonight," Malzahn said. "It's his first rodeo in college football and he did some good things tonight."
Frazier was obviously disappointed in the loss and his play on a night when he got a season-high 23 snaps.
"I had a whole bunch of friends here," Frazier said. "I hope they are still proud of me."
Starting quarterback Barrett Trotter was harrassed into a 6-for-19 night for just 81 yard although several of his passes were dropped.
"During the game those things don't really cross your mind," Trotter said. "I've got confidence in all the guys I got in there that they can catch the ball nine times out of team so it's just a matter of making sure they do it."
Dyer's 55-yard run and Frazier's 10-yard scoring dash were sandwiched around Green's 5-yard TD run in the opening quarter.
Wilson's 1-yard scoring plunge tied it and then he hit Wright with a 7-yard TD pass to surge Arkansas ahead 21-14 with 4:23 left in the second quarter.
It stayed that way until the Razorbacks' first offensive play of the second half.
He got several key blocks, including one from fullback Keiro Small – who Adams hurdled before outracing defenders to the end zone.
"We go back in at halftime and we script six plays to open up the second half," Petrino said. "It was a play we had been working on all week long. Garrick decided it would be a great time to open the second half with it. They blitzed from the opposite side so it worked out perfect.
"…Joe made a good run and there were some great blocks on it," Petrino added. "What a tremendous run. He looked really fast."
Zach Hocker, who had missed his first attempt of the night, drilled a 36-yarder early in the fourth quarter to give Arkansas a 31-14 lead.
After Thomas picked off his second pass and returned it to the Auburn 26, the Razorbacks delivered a knockout punch.
It was Wilson's screen pass to Johnson, which he took 18 yards for score while Wilson was on the receiving end of a late hit penalty.
Hocker's PAT with 5:50 left set the final score.
The three interceptions were a season-high for takeaway for the Razorbacks.
"We've been working on that, too, and thinking positive," Petrino said. "We knew that they would come. I thought Tramain did a really nice job playing the ball, broke on the ball real well. I thought Eric Bennett made a really nice play, jumped up high and caught it in his hands. They were really good football plays by our players."
Thomas, a senior who has not started the last two games, came off the bench and played the majority of the game with nine tackles and the two picks.
"It felt great to come out here and get two picks in front of the home crowd and in a big game like this," Thomas said. "We played great as a defense and that's how I got my picks. We dictated the offense and when they were able to throw we were able to get our hands on them."
Petrino lauded the crowd, the seventh-largest one in Reynolds Razorback Stadium history.
"It certainly was a great atmosphere for a football game and certainly helped us," Petrino said. ‘Particularly on third downs for our defense."
Arkansas now gets a Saturday off before heading to Ole Miss for a game on Oct. 22.
"It is a good time for a bye week," Petrino said. "We do need it. We need to work hard and get better and we do need to get healthy."
Safety Eric Bennett had one of Arkansas' three takeaways on the night.
Arkansas' defense swarms former Shiloh Christian and current Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier.
Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino celebrates a touchdown.
Razorback tight end Chris Gragg had 3 catches for 17 yards.
Dennis Johnson gets loose in the opening half.
Auburn running back Michael Dyer is hit high by Jerry Franklin and low by Zach Stadther as D.D. Jones arrives to help out.
Jarius Wright makes a sensational catch as T'Sharvan Bell looks on.