It put pressure on quarterback Brandon Cox and kept the Tigers' passing offense grounded most of the night. It held Auburn out of the end zone.
Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring was wondering how his group would respond after getting run over in its previous two Southeastern Conference games against Alabama and Kentucky last month. He got his answer in Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday. But it still wasn't good enough.
The Razorbacks best defensive performance of the season was wasted when Auburn moved the ball 50 yards on eight plays in the game's final minutes in the Tigers' 9-7 win. After Auburn place kicker Wes Byrum banged the ball through the uprights for the 20-yard game-winning field goal, Herring removed his headset and a little later and walked away in frustration.
"It's really just a hard game to swallow," said Herring, who had to remind himself to be careful before commenting to the media Saturday night. "At the end of the day, we were in a position to win the game. ... We didn't get it done. That's all I can say."
It was hard to fault Herring and the defense for Saturday's loss.
The final drive was a black mark on an otherwise sparkling night for the much-maligned group, which allowed an average of 41.5 points and 442.5 yards in its two previous SEC losses to Alabama and Kentucky. Auburn finished with 290 yards. Cox completed 13-of-23 passes for 101 yards and the Tigers were 1-of-13 on third down.
Auburn's longest play was 30 yards, but it was the backbreaker.
Cox tossed a 30-yard completion to receiver Robert Dunn, who slipped by cornerback Jerell Norton and down the sideline to put the Tigers well within Byrum's range in the final minute. Norton, who sat at his locker with his head in his hands after the game, declined to comment. But strong safety Matt Hewitt said Dunn made a great play to help Auburn win what he described as a "12-round fight."
"What can you say?" Hewitt said. "The defense did its part. ... But at the same time, we've got to finish."
Said linebacker Weston Dacus: "I figured if we held them to that we'd have a win. But things don't always fall your way."
That was the most disappointing part for Herring, who watched his defense surrender the game-winner in the final seconds at Alabama last month. One week later, Arkansas gave up 21 points in the fourth quarter in a 42-29 loss to Kentucky.
The Razorbacks didn't allow a touchdown for the first time since last season's 38-3 win against Ole Miss. But in the end, Herring said it's the defense's job to the game so he had no choice but to call it a "bittersweet" performance.
"I was excited about the chance to redeem ourselves from the Alabama game on the last drive," Herring said. "We didn't get it done. That's all I can say."
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