Not many people nationally - or even in their own state – seemingly gave the University of Arkansas a chance Saturday at No. 2 Auburn.
But apparently those players and coaches inside the Razorback locker room – those who were 15-point underdogs.
Arkansas used a mixture of power running, efficient passing, creative play calling and solid defense to shock and manhandle the Tigers 27-10.
They did so before a stunned crowd of over 87,000 fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium in a game that was nationally televised by CBS.
"We came down with the mentality that we were going to shock the world," Arkansas running back Darren McFadden said. "I don't think nobody believed in us. The only people who believed in us are people on the team. I don't feel like nobody really felt like we had a chance, but we came down here and shocked the world."
The upset pushed the Razorbacks (4-1, 3-0) – who rushed for nearly 300 yards - into first place SEC Division while handing the Tigers (5-1, 3-1) their first loss of the season and dropping them into second place.
"I am so very proud of them," Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt said of his team. "I have never been prouder of a group who has come back from so many injuries, so many negative things and just fought, fought, fought and hung together. The staff stayed together, didn't break. We have got a chance to have a great football team."
McFadden rushed 28 times for 145 yards during the contest – including a 63-yard dash for a score – while fellow sophomore Felix Jones rushed 13 times for 104 yards and caught a three passes for 10 yards while also getting in the end zone.
"We just beat the number two in the country and we are number one in the West," said McFadden, summing up the win.
Arkansas freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain Mitch Mustainwas 7-of-10 passing for 89 yards, managing the game very well, hitting Marcus Monk for a 50-yard score and not having any turnovers.
He is the first true freshman quarterback ever at the University of Arkansas to win his first four games of his career.
"We didn't have a sack today and we had two backs over 100," Nutt said. "That's what it is about."
The Razorback defense limited Auburn's Kenny Irons – just ahead of McFadden in SEC rushing going into the game - to just 71 yards and sacked Tiger quarterback Brandon Cox five times.
"It was very physical, the most physical game of the year," Nutt said. "We knew it would be. I just can't say enough about our defense, our defensive line, our offensive line and just stopping the run and being able to stop the run."
The Razorbacks also limited the Tigers to less than 50 yards total offense in the second half and a minus-4 yards rushing.
"Our defense did such a wonderful job," Nutt said. "They knew from Sunday on that our mindset was going to be to stop the run, stop the run. They were going to get play action, but we didn't want to give up the deep one - the 80-yarder - like we did before.
"They hung in there with their keys," Nutt added, "and I thought their eyes were all very, very focused and the concentration was level was at the level you have to have it on the road."
The Razorbacks had just under 12 minutes of possession in the first half, but had the ball for 20 of the final 30 minute.
"That is where you want it, you want it right there between 31 and 35 and now you have got a chance for your defense to play fresh," Nutt said.
Arkansas, which now has three straight home games and will all but assuredly do so as a Top 25 program, led 17-10 at halftime and then scored what proved to be a big-time insurance score off a trick play.
Tiny wideout Reggie Fish (5-7, 155) bent down and hid behind the UA's mammoth offense line, took a handoff from Mustain and raced 29 yards to the Auburn 6-yard line.
Three plays later, Jones got the final 1 yard and Jeremy Davis' PAT put the Razorbacks up 24-10 with 4:54 left in the third quarter.
Arkansas then put the game out of reach with a 22-yard field goal with 3:53 showing on the clock.
That was good enough for the Razorbacks to get their first win over a Top 10 team since a 38-28 win at Texas in 2003 and their biggest conference win in seven years since beating Tennessee in Fayetteville in 1999.
Arkansas jumped out to a 3-0 lead early on as the result of 10-play, 61-yard drive on its first possession of the game.
The march – which happened after the Razorback defense stiffened after giving up a pair of first downs – culminated on Davis' 34-yard field goal with 7:56 left in the opening quarter.
It could have been 7-0, but a third-down screen pass that might have allowed Jones to race into the end zone was a bit off and Jones unable to get going.
The upstart Razorbacks got a huge break soon afterwards to make it 10-0 when Mustain's pass – which looked like it was going to be intercepted – was instead grabbed by Monk, who raced the final 50 yards to paydirt untouched.
Davis' PAT put Arkansas up 10-0 with 3:43 remaining in the opening quarter.
Auburn rallied on the first snap of the second quarter – on yet another pass play that looked like it was going to be a mistake at first.
Instead UA safety Randy Kelly mistimed his jump and Rodgeriqus Smith hauled in a 24-yard toss from Brandon Cox, which coupled with John Vaughn's PAT cut it to 10-7 with 14:53 showing on the clock before intermission.
It stayed that way until McFadden – who had been bottled up by a strong Auburn defense – ripped off a 63-yard dash for a score, a play after getting just five.
The first rushing touchdown that Auburn had given up this season and Davis' PAT boosted Arkansas to a 17-7 with exactly five minutes left before halftime.
"First off, the line did a great job at blocking," McFadden said. "The fullback had a great block and I just hit the hole."
Auburn rallied right back when Brad Lester took a kick deep in the end zone and returned it 68 yards all the way to the Arkansas' 31.
But the UA defense stiffened again and kept Auburn had to settle for Vaughn's 36-yard field goal cut it to 17-10 with just over a minute left befoore intermission.
Mustain was 5-of-8 in the first half for 82 yards and the one score while McFaden had rushed for 92 yards in 12 carries.
Cox was 10-of-17 for 116 yards and a touchdown, but Irons – who like McFadden has been battling a toe injury - had been limited to 47 yards on 11 totes.
Arkansas will return to action next week in Fayetteville when it hosts Southeast Missouri State in a 6 p.m. game on Saturday night at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
"I want them to stay humble, grow from this, get better at it," Nutt said. "We can still get better. That is not our best game. Let's go Hogs."
Jamar Love and Chris Houston
Arkansas 27, Auburn 10
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