Arkansas 44, No. 17 Auburn 23

Michael Smith rushes for a season-high 145 yards, Ryan Mallett accounts for three scores and the Arkansas defense and special teams force three turnovers as the Razorbacks rout No. 17 Auburn 44-23 Saturday before 72,559 fans at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Arkansas native and former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville predicted earlier in the week that the match-up between the Razorbacks and Tigers would be decided by three touchdowns.

While Tuberville had that part right, he sure did peg the victor wrong.

Michael Smith rushed for a season-high 145 yards and Ryan Mallett threw for two scores and ran for another as the University of Arkansas routed previously unbeaten and No. 17 Auburn 44-23 before 72,559 fans Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

"The players did a nice job all week long of focusing in on what we needed to do and then also getting their bodies ready to play so we could play fast like we did," Razorback head coach Bobby Petrino said. "I am very happy and I think it was our best game to date - putting together offense, defense and special teams."

The Razorbacks (3-2, 1-2) had 495 yards total offense with 271 coming via the air as Mallett was 24-of-37 passing and a season-high 221 on the ground in winning their first SEC game in three tries against ranked foes.

It was the fourth time this season in five games that the UA offense had been over 40 points in a game, including last week's 47-19 crushing of then undefeated Texas A&M.

"It was a good game," Petrino said. "I really liked the way we executed, how we got back to balancing the run and the pass and that makes us a much better football team when you can run the ball and throw it...I think Ryan found some real good match-ups."

Mallett said getting off to a good start was a big key in the win.

"We got a good win here," Mallett said. We came out of the gates hot and played that way pretty much the the entire first half. I thought we were a little sluggish coming out of the break, but we got it going again late and were able to put it out of reach."

It was the strongest showing of the season for the UA defense, which limited the Tigers (5-1, 2-1) to just 28 yards in the opening quarter in a game where the Razorbacks led 34-3 early in the third quarter.

"We fed off of the way the defense was early," Mallett said. "They were making big plays and getting the crowd involved, so we knew we had to back them up."

Former Arkansas high school head coach and former Razorback assistant Gus Malzahn, who is now the offensive coordinator at Auburn, had the Tigers averaging over 40 points and 500 yards total offense per game.

The visitors had 375 yards total offense, but almost a third of that that came on two plays in the third quarter.

"Defensively we just came out in the first half and played real well, very aggressive, very fast," Petrino said. "We had a good plan, had a good understanding of what they were going to do. You didn't see our guys hesitate at all. That was huge - to be able to stop them and get the ball back and take the lead changed the way the game was operated."

Auburn first-year head coach Gene Chizak, whose team had a home win over West Virginia and a road win at Tennessee in its start, was impressed with what he saw from Arkansas.

"I think it was obvious that is a very, very good football team," Chizak said. "We knew going in that you can't do the things that we did today and win a game. It was all three areas of our football team that did not play well today. We were very inconsistent.

"We're not good enough," Chizak added. "We don't have enough margin for error when penalties become an issue and when turnovers become an issue. We can't win SEC games doing what we did today. This is somewhat unchartered waters for us right now. We got beat today. No excuses."

Malzahn thought his team put itself in bad positions throughout the game.

"We didn't get off to a very good start," Malzahn said. We didn't execute very well. We got ourselves in a hole and we were trying to dig ourselves out the rest of the day.

"We put ourselves in a lot of third and longs and it's tough to convert on those," Malzahn added. "They brought a lot of pressure and got to us. At times we looked like the Auburn offense and at times we didn't."

It was obviously disappointing for Malzahn, who was the OC when Tulsa lost 30-23 at Arkansas last season.

"Yeah, anytime you come back where you have friends and family and all that it's a neat deal," Malzahn said. "But this is a business trip and we just didn't get it done."

Auburn gave itself some hope in the third quarter when Ben Tate (22 carries for 184 yards rushing) scored on runs of 1 and 60 and Onterio McCalebb on a 3-yard run to cut it to 34-23 with nine seconds left in the third quarter.

But Arkansas answered with Broderick Green's second short rushing touchdown of the game with 11:23 remaining and then Alex Tejada's 23-yard field goal capped the scoring with 4:20 showing.

That came after Jerico Nelson's sack forced a fumble – one of three the Tigers had on the day - that Jake Bequette recovered for first down and goal.

Nelson led Arkansas with 10 tackles while Elton Ford and Jerry Franklin had nine each and Andru Stewart and Ramon Broadway seven stops.

"They made a little run there in the third quarter and you get nervous about that," Petrino said, "but everybody kept their poise, playing hard and we were able to finish them off."

Arkansas won the game without injured starting wide receiver Joe Adams, and while missing fellow sophomore pass catcher Jarius Wright (concussion) for the last three quarters.

"We played a little short-handed and it was real tough," Petrino said. "Joe had a mild stroke that was very concerning. He's doing good. He is being monitored day-by-day and we are very encouraged by how he felt great today.

"...It is something that we had to deal with all week long," Petrino added. "He is doing really well. We were very concerned about him, but he is doing great. I don't know what the diagnosis is or what the future holds, but he is in great hands. We don't know for sure when it happened, but we think Monday.

"He was at the game with a big smile on his face," Petrino continued. "He's doing great like I said. "He spent most of the day in Little Rock yesterday with testing, got back last night and stayed at the team hotel and is doing very well."

Williams caught 6 passes for 57 yards, Childs 5 for 85, freshman Cobi Hamilton 3 for 42 and Lucas Miller 3 for 32, while London Crawford had 2 catches for 10 yards.

It was the first game back for Crawford since his injury and the first catches by Miller since his.

"Our timing is pretty good because we got Lucas and London back," Petrino said. "If we didn't have those two guys back, it really would be a concern."

The Razorbacks also got a big game from kick returner Dennis Johnson, who had 3 returns for 145 yards with longs of 70 and 53.

"Both of them were awesome," Petrino said. "He did a great job. Anytime it looked like it was going to be close, Dennis changed the field position. I was very proud. He didn't practice a lot during the week because he had an injury last week in the game. But he was full speed today, he felt great and I told him, 'You are our kickoff return man, get in there and go.'"

Arkansas' defense set the tone with a three-and-out on Auburn's first possession and the offense immediately got to work.

Mallett completed a pair of 12-yard passes to Greg Childs and Smith to begin what turned into a 12-play, 73-yard drive.

That drive culminated when Green followed blocking back Van Stumon into the end zone for a 2-yard TD.

It stayed 6-0 because of a muffed hold on the PAT attempt.

The Razorbacks pushed that advantage to 13-0 on 5-play, 70-yard drive early in the second quarter.

Auburn had two 15-yard penalties to help the effort with a facemask and interference infractions both adding the jaunt.

Smith dashed 25 yards for the score on his first run of the season that looked similar to so many of those he had in 2008.

He had to leave the game in the fourth quarter.

"I am not sure if it was a hamstring injury or cramps," Petrino said. "...He played well and looked fast. He was very precise. We did a nice job blocking the fronts. He got it to the edge and I thought our tight ends and tackles did a real nice job getting him to the edge. Michael made some great cuts and yards after contact. That is what he had been working hard at. He did a great job."

The special teams then jumped in on the fun when Andru Stewart dislodged the ball from Mario Fannin on a kickoff return and it flew straight into the arms of Razorback safety Jerell Norton.

Mallett hit D.J. Williams for 16 and then lofted a perfect pass to Childs for an 18-yard touchdown and the Razorbacks' second score in just 39 seconds.

Tejada's PAT surged Arkansas ahead 20-0 at the 11:02 mark of the second quarter.

Auburn finally got on the board on Wes Byrum's 37-yard field goal on its next possession.

But the Razorbacks had one more score in them before the half – one in which Smith carried the ball 47 of the 69 yards covered in 8 plays.

Williams hauled in a 5-yard pass from Mallett for the score – after Auburn again aided the drive with two major penalties.

Tejada's PAT with 1:08 sent Arkansas to the locker room with a 27-3.

"I just guys stepped up," Petrino said. "We got D.J. more involved, which we have been working all week long to do that. He caught a lot of balls in practice all week."

Auburn quarterback Chris Todd, who was 15-of-28 for 133 yards passing, said his team was lost in the first half.

"We had no movement during the first half," Todd said. "It took us time to warm up today."

The home team kept in going after intermission by marching 95 yards in 10 plays scoring on Mallett's 4-yard run when his receivers were covered.

That made it 34-3 with 7:56 still showing in the third quarter.

"Today was an eye opener," Todd said. "I didn't think we had a good practice week and weren't prepared enough. We know we're a good team, but we know we need more consistency and after today we can look at film and see what improvements we need to make."

It was not a happy homecoming for former Arkansas high school stars Lee Ziemba (Rogers), Kodi Burns (Fort Smith Northside) and Adam Herring (Shiloh Christian).

"We weren't in sync today," Ziemba said. "We weren't playing the game like we know how and now it is time to make some improvements so next time we can get the job done. Everyone is definitely down after this, but we're more hungry to come out next week and get a win (at home against Kentucky)."

Arkansas now finds itself with a chance to take on No. 1 and defending Florida next Saturday in Gainesville.

"We should be a confident football team," Petrino said. "We have played well the last couple of weeks and we know we are going to go play a very good football team, but we are all excited about the challenge." Mallett relishes the challenge that awaits and is looking for his team to play a complete game.

"I still don't feel like we've put a full four quarters together the way we can, but we're getting closer," Mallett said. "Maybe that will be the week."

Andru Stewart forces an Auburn fumble.

Greg Childs hauls in a TD pass from Ryan Mallet.

D.J. Williams had 6 catches for 57 yards, including an 18-yard TD reception.

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