Auburn 3, Arkansas 0 after 30 minutes was a throwback to those days when Arkansas and Texas played field position first under Broyles and Royal.
Throughout the first half, I couldn't shake the feeling that the game would swing on a turnover or a play in the kicking game. Not as dramatic as his game winner at Gainesville two weeks ago, freshman Wes Byrum made a simple 20-yard field goal to win it 9-7 on Saturday night. That night, he celebrated with a couple of Gator chomps. The best he could do against Arkansas was a doubled-up fist swing and maybe a snort or two under his breath.
Auburn's starting right tackle, Lee Ziemba of Rogers, celebrated with his family, breaking away from the team's exit and making a beeline to the front row on the west side where he got a hug from his Auburn-educated dad and posed with a couple of youngsters.
It was two misses by Byrum that gave Arkansas an opportunity to win with one touchdown and the Razorbacks accomplished that with two of the worst looking, back-to-back, productive passes in memory. Launched by Darren McFadden, the first was so wobbly that it enticed Zac Etheridge into a pass interference penalty. On a trick play, Robert Johnson badly underthrew Peyton Hillis who somehow twisted and caught the ball for a first down at the Auburn 41.
Eventually, Casey Dick overcame a holding penalty with a 13-yard TD pass to Lucas Miller, originally a walk-on from Greenwood, with 96 seconds to play for a 7-6 lead.
Prematurely, the scoreboard identified that as the play of the game. In fact, that moment occurred with 35 seconds remaining when Arkansas overloaded to rush against Auburn's right side and Brandon Cox threw to Robert Dunn in the vacated area. Jerell Norton missed a tackle outside the 30 and Dunn reached the 12.
That was one of the few mistakes by the Arkansas defense. The Tigers made 67 yards on their opening possession and only 45 the remainder of the half. For the night, Auburn netted 290 yards and was 1-of-13 on third downs and I thought about Al Borges' words to the team after the Florida victory. This is not rocket science, the offensive coordinator said, and this defense will win us a lot of games if we don't help our opponents.
The Tigers' only turnover occurred when an airborne Weston Dacus separated Brad Lester from the ball inside the Arkansas 10 in the third quarter.
The touchdown drive was Arkansas' only solid possession of the night. The linemen couldn't hold the point of attack against Auburn's front four, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said, a shortcoming reflected in the lack of production by running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Averaging 338 yards per game on the ground, the Razorbacks made 67 vs. the Tigers. McFadden's longest run was 13 yards and he averaged only 2.5 yards per try; Jones' longest gainer was 17 yards.
This is the same defense that held versatile Florida to 312 yards and unbeaten South Florida to 319.
In the first half, Arkansas started three of its five drives from its 39 to its 47, but only once did the Razorbacks make more than one first down.
Possession was so important that Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, sitting on a 3-0 lead, went for fourth and inches at his own 31 with 5:43 to play in the second quarter. Cox's successful sneak extended the clock and helped the Tigers maintain the ball for almost 36 minutes.
Dismissed by many after losing to Mississippi State when they failed to score in the second half, the Tigers are now 3-1 in the Southeastern Conference and tied for first in the Western division with LSU and Alabama.
Arkansas is 0-3 in the league for only the third time in Nutt's 10 years and this week's trip to Oxford will test the Razorbacks' resolve.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media's Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Arkansas Falls Late; Now 0-3 In SEC
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