High On The Hog

AUBURN, Ala. — Arkansas' coaches and players celebrated like it was 1998.

With 45 seconds remaining and the outcome no longer in doubt, running backs coach Danny Nutt removed his headset and hugged his older brother, coach Houston Nutt.

Wide receiver Chris Baker grabbed a large Arkansas state flag and ran around Pat Dye Field, waving the flag as Auburn fans quickly exited Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Even Gus Malzahn, Arkansas' mild-mannered offensive coordinator, approached defensive coordinator Reggie Herring and said, "Reg, give me some!" before they slapped hands.

There was plenty of reason for the Razorbacks to celebrate. And they did after they surprisingly manhandled No. 2 Auburn in a 27-10 upset before an announced crowd of 87,451 and a national TV audience.

"I thought we'd compete for four quarters real hard, but to say that we're going to be up 10-nothing, nah, I didn't know that," Houston Nutt said. "To say we're going to win by 17 points, no way."

What's perhaps even more surprising is that Arkansas (4-1, 3-0 SEC) finds itself alone atop the Southeastern Conference's western division and likely ranked in the top 25 when the national polls are released today.

The Razorbacks haven't been in such a cushy position in the SEC since they started 8-0 in Nutt's first season in 1998. With LSU's 23-10 loss at Florida, Arkansas now controls its own destiny in the western division.

"I've never been in this position," Arkansas offensive guard Stephen Parker said. "The last two years, we've always kind of been hoping for someone to lose, someone to beat someone else.

"It's great to have control of your own destiny this early in the season."

And in the process, Arkansas delivered a crushing blow to Auburn's national championship hopes.

"I don't know if reality has hit yet," Malzahn said.

The Razorbacks entered Saturday's game as a 17-point underdog, but they surprisingly dominated from start to finish. They jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and simply overpowered the Tigers (5-1, 3-1 SEC) by reverting back to a smash-mouth style of football.

At one point in the second half, Arkansas ran the ball 30 times on 32 plays. Malzahn's offensive play-calling was predictable, but it didn't matter. Auburn had no luck stopping it, anyway.

Arkansas' offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage, running back Felix Jones darted through gaping holes and sophomore Darren McFadden made a case in front of a national TV audience that perhaps he, not Auburn's Kenny Irons, should be considered the SEC's best tailback.

McFadden rushed for 145 yards and one touchdown to Irons' 75 yards and no score.

"It was just one of those things where Coach (Nutt) said, ‘If the run is working, we're just going to stick with it,'" said Jones, who added 104 and one touchdown on 13 carries. "You can't give up on the game plan that's working."

Saturday marked the first time that Arkansas had beaten a team ranked either No. 1 or 2 since 1981 when the Razorbacks upset top-ranked Texas 42-11 in Fayetteville. And the coaches and players celebrated accordingly.

For the second straight game, Nutt climbed into the stands to celebrate with fans and lead Arkansas' band in the playing of the school's fight sing.

At the same time, offensive guard Robert Felton grabbed a large, white flag with a big red Razorback logo on it and held it up in the end zone.

"No one ever gives Arkansas a chance," Felton said. "Every year, we're never ranked, we've had two bad seasons in the past and I just felt overwhelmed with joy and just had to grab the flag.

"... I think we deserved that win, and we deserved that celebration."

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