The keys to victory are simple sometimes. Yes, blocking and tackling are huge. But, the bottom line is often as simple as winning the turnover battle. Or, perhaps, it's as simple as the team that hits the other quarterback the most.
Simply, that's the way it fell for Arkansas at Auburn. The Razorbacks celebrated a tasty victory thanks to five forced turnovers and eight sacks. A defense that had ranked at the bottom of almost every national statistic made plays in a 24-7 triumph Saturday.
A defense that ached for playmakers had a wonderful list against Auburn quarterbacks Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley. These are some of the Arkansas defensive heroes against the Tigers:
• Trey Flowers, 3.5 sacks for 39 yards in losses.
• Terrell Williams, 1 sack, 12 tackles.
• Ross Rasner, 10 tackles, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble.
• Will Hines, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery.
• Chris Smith, 1.5 sacks for 39 yards in losses, 5 tackles.
For the day, the Hogs won the turnover battle, 5-2. And, just as importantly, they had an 8-1 advantage in sacks. Quarterback Tyler Wilson did not have an interception in a 20 of 27 day for 216 yards. He was rarely close to throwing into coverage, taking the underneath stuff against Auburn's cover two look.
"The defense was incredible," Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, who noted the lack of pressure he felt as the Hogs were chasing the Auburn QBs.
"I was upright today. The sack total today (for Wilson) was the same today as last week, but today it was different. I didn't have near the pressure. I didn't have to throw so many away like last week.
"It was great to watch our defense. You try to have blinders on when you are on the sideline when the other team has the ball. But you couldn't help but notice what our guys were doing."
The two first-half takeaways by Rasner and Hines were celebrated almost as much as the Hogs have celebrated any victory in that wonderful 21-5 run over the last two seasons. It's been that complete void in takeways over the last 15 quarters dating back to Rasner's interception near the goal line in the third quarter against Louisiana-Monroe.
They helped the Hogs to a 10-0 lead. The Hogs didn't have an offensive turnover until the final seconds when Jonathan Williams was spun around and stripped inside the four-minute mark. The only other turnover came on a muffed punt by Keante Minor in the third quarter.
That mistake gave the Tigers the field position that eventually would lead to their lone touchdown. It took them three possessions to crack through, mainly because the Hogs went two tries without a first down.
Moseley found Emory Blake behind Rasner for a 21-yard TD pass to finish off a 5-play, 58-yard TD drive to make it 10-7 with 33 seconds left in the third quarter.
That's when the Arkansas offense caught fire, thanks to some trickery. Tyler Wilson pitched it back to Brandon Mitchell on a reverse to set up a 26-yard strike to Javontee Herndon fo the touchdown that deflated the Tigers.
But the big plays might have been the first three in that 6-play, 75-yard answer. Wilson scrambled for a 5-yard keeper on first down to end the third quarter. Then after a short pass to Mekale McKay, Wilson reversed his field twice on a bootleg scramble to find Austin Tate alone for an 18-yard gain.
The defense did the rest. Alfred Davis stripped Mike Blakely on the next Auburn try. Colton Miles-Nash pounced on it at the Auburn 40-yard line. The Hogs started the Tiger fans towards the exits in Jordan-Hare Stadium with a seven-play drive to set the final score with 8:20 left.
Alan Turner and Rasner each had a pass interception in the end zone in the final six minutes, sandwiched around the lost fumble by Williams at the 3:36 mark.
It all started with the work up front by the defensive front. Defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said he called pressures on over 50 percent of his calls, but he said the front generated it in four-man looks, too.
"The last thing I told our guys last night before I let them go was that I was going to call pressures and it was up to them to execute them," he said. "We had four or five calls in. I told them I'd keep calling them as long as they executed them.
"We got the (four) sacks in the first half and I told them we'd keep bringing it. We did bring pressure. But it's about the guys making the plays and executing what we call.
"I told our guys at halftime we might blitz them every other down. I think we probably did, more than half in the second half."
The five turnovers delighted Haynes.
"You could see our guys start getting excited when we began to get turnovers," he said. "We did it in practice. I told you guys (in the media) it was our best week in practice.
"We started the freshmen at corner (in Hines and Davyon McKinney), but I didn't worry about them because of the way they practiced this week. They were aggressive and making plays in practice. I saw them fight in practice. If you have the fight, I don't mind playing young ones. These guys proved to me they had the fight."
Haynes has taken heat for the big numbers allowed by the defense, including 716 total yards last week at Texas A&M. But he said the attitude was great in practice this week.
"When we get behind our walls (in the Broyles Center and at practice), we have been able to separate all of that out," he said. "We'd been brutalized, but we kept at it. Our guys continued to go to work. We continued to pitch and coach them. It may not have looked at it all the way around, but we were getting better and getting things fixed. It showed up today."
Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino moved to the press box for the first time this year.
"I went up to see a little better," he said. "I just didn't want to get to Sunday and kick myself when I was watching video because I saw something then that I didn't see during the game. We'd had mistakes in the critical zone (in previous games) and I just wanted to see it better."
Petrino called Wilson's play "awesome" against the Tigers.
"What he did better was keep things alive with his feet on some critical plays," he said. "I think there were three down in the redzone where he felt it and got out of it and then made the play. He just moved around better."
Wilson said there was still frustration about points left on the field. Because of the solid play by the defense, those didn't come back to haunt the offense.
"That does frustrate, but we found a way to win," he said. "I wasn't surprised they came back. Auburn is playing at home. You don't go on the road and expect the other team not to fight back. We just should have put more points up.
"I knew on the pass to Tate in the touchdown drive that they were going to bring pressure. It's a bootleg pass and I was going to come back to him if I could get away. I knew when I rolled back away from the pressure that he had to be wide open and he was. I had to do the same thing on a pass to Dennis in the flats. But we had a chance to win because of the way our defense played. They made plays all day."
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