Simple Stuff

Auburn take care of Arkansas with a power running attack and playing action passes on Saturday night.

This is simple stuff. The team that likes to pass ran the ball better than the team that likes to run.

You could stretch it into something a little more complex, but that is what Auburn did to beat Arkansas, 34-17, Saturday night at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

The Hogs wasted chances to build a decent first-half lead before the Tigers smashed them in the third quarter.

Arkansas didn't make it into triple digits on the ground until Auburn led by 27-10 in the fourth quarter.

Auburn struggled to run the ball against the three best teams it played in a 4-1 start. The Tigers made 50 in a loss to Georgia Tech, 118 against Mississippi State and 123 vs. South Carolina. The Tigers assaulted the Hogs inside for 233 rushing yards.

The Tigers lost starting tailback Brad Lester to a leg injury when the Hogs mauled him just six minutes into the game.

Backup Kenny Irons took over nicely. He spent the third quarter slashing through the middle of the Arkansas defense. Irons gained 74 yards in 12 third-quarter tries as Auburn took control with touchdown marches of 73 and 85 yards.

"You saw it," said Pierre Brown, the Hogs' spiritual leader in the middle of the defense. "I'm the middle linebacker. My job as captain is to have damage control. I didn't do that. It starts with me. I'm discouraged and disappointed to get beat where the other team runs it right up the middle."

Starting defensive tackles Marcus Harrison and Keith Jackkson didn't want to pin it on the man behind them. They said they didn't get off blocks and put too much on their linebacker.

"It all starts with the defensive line," Harrison said. "Me and Keith are the starters. It's a priviledge to start. It hurts because we earned that right and we couldn't stop them. We didn't compete to the level the other team did tonight."

Jackson said, "Put the blame on me. I don't blame Pierre. The guards were reaching and stepping and beating us to our gaps. What we did was poor tonight. Just poor."

It's not like the defense didn't know it was coming at halftime.

Up 10-6, Arkansas coaches told their players to expect something right up the gut in the third quarter.

Auburn's coaches obliged, cutting the playbook in half and adding a flanker sweep early to anchor the backside pursuit.

They faked that move several more times to make the outside linebackers stay at home. So the middle was isolated and took a pounding.

"They told us what was coming," said safety Randy Kelly. "What they did was put it up the middle and they always fell forward. We got him down. He was a good back, but not a great back. We just have to put more bodies on him and make sure he doesn't fall forward for that extra yard.

"They fell forward time after time. That all adds up."

Brown nodded his head in agreement.

"I had to come out a few times in the second half," Brown said. "I took some blows to my head and was getting dizzy. I knew if I stayed out there it would hurt my team. I had to take myself out a few times."

The Hogs did admit that most of the damage was done inside by guards, not by Auburn's all-everything tackles Marcus McNeill (6-9, 337) and Troy Reddick (6-5, 335) against light Arkansas defensive ends Desmond Sims (6-3, 228) and Anthony Brown (6-6, 223).

"I thought it was inside," Herring said. "It was right through the middle of the defense. They put it on us.

"Look, it was old fashioned football. You can't stop the run, you are done. It's really as simple as that."

Arkansas did finish with 148 rushing yards. Surprisingly, the Hogs averaged the same 5.6 yards per play as the Tigers. But the Hogs were just 3 of 11 on third down conversions. The Tigers were a solid 8 of 13.

However, don't make too much of the third down conversion ratio. The Tigers were so good in the third quarter that they faced few third downs and even those were simple.

Auburn didn't face a third down in its first scoring drive of the third quarter. Despite keeping the ball for 14 plays on an 85-yard TD march the next try, there were only two third downs -- both third-and-ones.

"That's the difference in the two halves," Herring said. "We got them in third and long and could come after them (with blitzes) in the first half. We couldn't get to a third down in the third quarter. That's a big difference."

If the Hogs could have kept the ball in the third quarter, perhaps things could have turned. But they went three-and-out to open the half with Robert Johnson throwing behind Peyton Hillis in the flat on third-and-two. Then, on third-and-seven, Johnson threw behind Cedric Logan on the next possession.

By the next time the Hogs got the ball, Irons had carved the heart from the Arkansas defense.

"When teams do that to you running the ball, that takes a lot out of you," Herring said. "It takes a lot of your spirit and emotion away."

That's exactly right. Pretty simple stuff.


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