Once again halftime adjustments proved to be in Auburn's favor as the Tigers allowed just 62 rushing yards in the second half before a 21-yard burst by Arkansas with a minute left in the game. It was that kind of performance that senior defensive end Nosa Eguae said gives the defense a feeling of accomplishment in the team's eighth win of the year.
"We pride ourselves on finishing games," Eguae said. "We have to start better. We're playing some great teams coming up. We know that. We know that we have to come out fast and we have to finish the game just like we're doing. Our coaches do a great job of seeing stuff they do at the beginning of games and making changes."
Auburn's defensive stand actually started late in the second quarter and came from one of the most unlikely players on the team. Playing defense in Auburn's goal line package, redshirt freshman linebacker Javiie Mitchell made perhaps the biggest plays of the game. With the Tigers up 14-3 and Arkansas facing a fourth and goal as the Auburn one-yard line, Mitchell broke through the line to tattoo Jonathon Williams in the backfield.
It was another in a long line of moments for this Auburn defense that has had player after players step up and make plays when they were called upon. While he could have been celebrating his play after the win, Mitchell instead chose to give the credit to his coaching staff.
"Our coaches put us in position where we were able to see all the keys we needed," Mitchell said. "I reacted accordingly. It's something my defense needed, especially on the fourth down. We just came ready to play."
Mitchell was one of several reserves that had to play for the Tigers with a multitude of Auburn defenders going down with injuries in the win. Linebacker Anthony Swain went down and was wearing a walking boot in the second half for the Tigers. Cornerbacks Chris Davis and Jonathon Mincy were both banged up, but returned to the game. Defensive end Dee Ford was carried off the field following the win after getting rolled up on the last drive of the game, but said following the game he should be fine.
That was the tone of the game from start to finish and Eguae said that's what the Tigers expected.
"We knew exactly what it was going to be," Eguae said. "It was going to be a physical ballgame. We just had to come out there and be the most physical. We were on the field a lot. We have to watch the film and get better. Third downs; we have to get better. Tackling; we have to get better. We know we've got to improve, but we felt like we went out there today and got better as a football team."
With games left at Tennessee and against Georgia and Alabama at home, Auburn's win keeps the Tigers in position to make a run at some big things down the stretch in the 2013 season. While it wasn't always pretty, for a team that won just three games last season Egaue said they'll take them any way they can get them.
"Winning our eighth game is a testament to these coaches and a testament to these guys that have put in so much work for us seniors," Eguae said. "Us seniors, we're just trying to lead them. We know we're not where we want to be yet. We know we still have to continue to get better every single day. That's what coach Malzahn is saying. He's saying we've got to get better and that's what we're focused on doing."