Brandon Allen threw for 222 yards and three touchdowns and Alex Collins rushed 25 times for 105 yards, but it was some of their friends chipping in late as Arkansas scored the final 16 points of the game and downed Auburn 54-46 in four overtimes Saturday before 72,008 fans at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Kody Walker scored two touchdowns and caught a two-point pass during the overtime periods while fellow junior Drew Morgan caught two touchdown passes in extra time for the Razorbacks (3-4, 2-2), who were playing at home for the first time in five weeks.
Morgan’s final grab was a 25-yarder in the fourth overtime - where he caught the pass, spun and ripped off the final 15 yards, which coupled with a Allen’s two-point pass to Walker proved to be the game-winning points.
“I couldn’t say enough about our coaches, our players, but also to our fans,” Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said. “That was awesome.
“An 11 o’clock kickoff and not having great weather and to have them respond that way was huge, huge, huge down there in overtime to get that last series down there in the friendly end zone.
“It will be really good when we get the whole place (stadium) enclosed.”
Auburn had taken a 46-38 lead in the third overtime when Peyton Barber - who rushed for 39 times for 120 yards on the day and had four touchdowns (three after regulation) - ran it in from the one and quarterback Sean White hit Melvin Ray with the two-point conversion.
Walker’s four-yard scoring dash and Allen’s pass to Jeremy Sprinkle on a do-or-die two-point conversion tied it back up 46-46.
It came a series after Allen caught a double pass from Damon Mitchell for an 11-yard game, but hurting his ankle.
“A great call, great execution, great catch, good throw,” Bielema said. “A lot of real positive things. I was a little concerned after that quarterback pass because he was really hobbling, but it just shows how amazing and resilient and tough he is. I just said ‘You all right to go?’ because I had a feeling we were going to keep going a little bit more and he was like ‘absolutely.’"
Allen and Morgan (6 catches, 56 yards) hooked up on the first play of the fourth overtime and then Arkansas’ defense made that istand up with late pass break ups in the end zone from Jared Collins and Josh Liddell.
True freshman Dre Greenlaw had a game-high 16 tackles.
“Dre Greenlaw to have, what was it, 16 tackles as a true freshman; he used to play down the street here two blocks away now he’s doing on an SEC field against a team that played in the national championship two years ago,” Bielema said. “I think it says a lot about where our program is going because we’ve got a lot of young guys playing some really good football.”
It was the first win for Bielema in three tries against former Arkansas player, former Razorback assistant coach and current Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn.
Arkansas won an overtime game for the first time since 2010 and had lost four straight overtime games, including three under Bielema.
The loss dropped the Tigers (4-3, 1-3) - who entered the season ranked sixth nationally and picked to win the league - into the basement in the SEC Western Division.
“First of all, that was a tough one, there’s no doubt about it,” Malzahn said. “It took us awhile to get going offensively in the game. We didn’t have a lot of first downs, didn’t have a lot of yards.
“Our guys responded right before halftime and I thought…it was a good game from that point on. Our guys showed a lot of heart and a lot of character, especially to get us to overtime.
“…Obviously you have got to give Arkansas credit. They responded numerous times when they had to, made plays and we just didn't get it done in that aspect.”
“…We didn’t get it done at the end when we needed to. We had our chances, we just didn’t seize the moment.”
Malzahn summed up his locker room.
“We lost in overtime on the road and that’s tough,” Malzahn said. “We had our chances. We didn’t win. We’re disappointed and that’s okay. That’s part of it.”
Allen hit five of his first six passes, struggled through the middle of the game and then rallied to finish 19-of-31 for 233 yards with three touchdowns and also picked up two first downs himself on called running plays.
With his 233 passing yards, Allen passed Barry Lunney, Jr., (5,872) for for sixth in program history and now has 5,972.
“I just kept trying to hit him on the head on the way out and saying ‘have fun, have fun,’ Bielema said. “He’d been waiting to run that quarterback throw-back play. I thought he was going to have some fun with that. I think he was enjoying the moment and you know what, as we all know, it’s also how those other players play around you.
“He was really helped. Had some guys make some big catches. About that last touchdown and that two-point play, Kody Walker’s got a half a splint on his hand he throws it money on the ball, gets it in the end zone and it ends up being the difference in the game. A lot of credit obviously to BA, but a lot of credit to his coaches.”
Arkansas led 14-0 after its first two possessions on Dominique Reed’s 11-yard touchdown run and Allen’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Sprinkle.
Reed saw his most extensive action of the season and ended the day with 4 catches for 47 yards as well as 3 carries for 25 yards on jet sweeps.
His scoring run came after Allen hit tight end Hunter Henry (5 catches, 68 yards) with three passes that covered 52 yards of the opening 75-yard drive.
“We wanted to get Dominique the ball on some of those speed reverses,” Bielema said. “ We’ll get better at those. See some yardage left on the field a little bit.
“Hunter, during our bye week I really tried to sit down and (offensive coordinator) Dan (Enos) and I had a nice conversation about ‘who are our guys and how many times do we want to get them the ball?’ Dan, I thought did an excellent job of kind of scripting that out and did a nice job in particular of (spreading) that ball around because we’ve got a lot of guys that were active today.”
The defense was doing its part early as well while limiting Auburn to just 16 yards through the middle of the second quarter.
But behind quarterback Sean White (19-of-32 for 254 yards), the Tigers ripped off a 96-yard drive after an Allen interception to end the first half and then a 75-yarder to open the second half to tie it 14-14.
Collins’ 7-yard touchdown run put Arkansas back up late in the third quarter, but back-up quarterback Jeremy Johnson’s 1-yard plunge tied it 21-21 midway through the fourth
Cole Hedlund’s 25-yard field goal with 1:04 left put Arkansas up 24-21, but several Razorback gaffes in the second gave Daniel Carson the chance to tie it with a 41-yarder with four seconds left in regulation.
The drive also continued when Beanum's sack of White caused a fumble that Arkansas recovered, but that play was reversed on review.
Bielema - whose team had 457 yards total offense (213 rushing and 244 passing) to Auburn’s 416 (254 passing, 162 rushing) - was asked if it slayed some demons in regards to losing close games, including the three in overtime.
“That’s deep,” Bielema said. “…I would probably they rather didn’t kick the game-tying field goal. I am glad we learned lessons out of it. Our fifth Arkansas edge every time is we earn everything. I told our players after the game, ‘you took that a little to the extreme.’ Today is what they earned.
“These kids learn, man. It’s so fun to be around them. They’re just so, everybody else always worries about how are you going to bring them back or how are they going to respond or are they going to be able to persevere? They’re just so resilient. Now you just hope they’re getting a little bit of that mojo curve.”
Arkansas freshman tailback Rawleigh Williams was carted off the field when he was hurt late in the third quarter after being face-masked by one defender and then hit helmet to helmet by another.
The SEC Network reported that he was at the hospital with his family, had a neck injury and had movement in all his extremities.
“I don’t have an injury update on Rawleigh,” Bielema said “Obviously our thoughts and prayers are with him. I thought people handled it really well on the sideline there. I thought, of course, there was a face mask but I thought it was more when he landed on the ground. You understand why we don’t want to jump to anything there.”
Walker, who had missed the last four games due to injury, took over for Collins in the overtimes.
It was due in part to Collins’ two fumbles and being late for breakfast.
“He’s been a little bit banged up but he was cleared to play,” Bielema said. “But, you know what, he pissed me off. He was late for breakfast this morning. It just shows if Alex isn’t right, he’s not going to be as good as he is. I knew.
“I got in his ear before the game. He’s a kid that’s got so much potential. The only person that’s going to limit him is him. Song-and-dance and all this other stuff, it’s going to catch up to him.
“Today he had enough good players around him to rally. There at the end of the half, put the ball on the ground, inexcusable. We’ve grown along together and he’s going to continue to grow or some other things will happen.”
Walker - who was granted an extra year of eligibility and is a junior now - has been practicing, but wearing a cast that had hindered his protection of the ball. He got a smaller cast recently.
“He’s practiced like three or four weeks,” Bielema said. “He was getting great reps, you know? But I just couldn’t come to enough faith. He had a big, old club on his hand. Practice we’re not tackling to the ground, you’re not hitting them as hard and everything. And I just really felt we couldn’t put him in those last three weeks.
“Then they finally tapered it down during the bye week to a manageable cast size…. To have Kody Walker back next year for a sixth year, he just does everything right. He’s so conscientious. I just think the world of that kid.”
It may be the end of the road for Arkansas redshirt freshman Jojo Robinson, who was suspended for the game due to not attending class.
“Jojo’s..he’s indefinitely suspended,” Bielema said. “He’s not with us. He and I had a conversation this week about the opportunities that are going to be in front of him. Right now I don’t see him being a part of our program. Just too much give and take.
“He hasn’t done anything wrong. There’s nothing off the field. He hasn’t broken any rules from a social standpoint. It’s all just based, really, on class attendance.
“I’m not going to have a group of people – we have a class attendance policy that’s very much written down and enforced by our university that we’ve got to turn into the SEC. For the second time he’s been close to causing missed playing time and I’m not going to live captive waiting to see if someone’s going to go to math class at 8 o’clock on Thursday.
“I’m just not going to live that way. He’s unfortunately probably going to have to look at other opportunities beyond Arkansas.”
Arkansas will return to action next Saturday when it host Tennessee-Martin for Homecoming with a 3 p.m. kickoff.
“One of our things all week was kind of ‘take it personal,’” Bielema said. “Wasn’t anything more than as a 2-4 ball club you kind of have to have a rallying cry about what you doing individually affects everybody.
“For me it’s just another opportunity to see our guys grow. Now we’re a 3-4 football team that has a non-conference game coming. I told them all along we’re not talking about the end of the rainbow, we’re talking about tomorrow. For us to have success next week we have to have success tomorrow.”