Ricardo Louis (above) can't make a catch in the end zone during the fourth overtime period.
Fayetteville, Ark.--Dropped passes, the big issue in regulation, was part of Auburn’s downfall in the fourth and final overtime as the Tigers dropped a wild 54-46 decision on Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Sean White completed 19-32 passes for 254 yards and those numbers could have been much better because more than half of Auburn’s incompletions were on throws the redshirt freshman quarterback gave his receivers good opportunities to catch.
The drops looked like they were going to cost the Tigers in regulation when the Razorbacks kicked a 25-yard field goal with 1:07 left to put the home team up 24-21. Auburn got the ball back at the 26-yard line with no timeouts, but managed to move the ball 50 yards in eight plays to set up Daniel Carlson’s 41-yard field goal with four seconds left.
Peyton Barber scored on runs of two, two and one yards in the first three overtime periods, but the Razorbacks matched the Tigers and struck quickly in the fourth overtime scoring on the opening play, a 25-yard pass from Brandon Allen to Drew Morgan. Running back Kody Walker then caught a two-point conversion pass to make the lead eight points.
On Auburn’s second play of the fourth overtime from the 24-yard line, Sean White perfectly dropped a pass over the coverage into the arms of Ricardo Louis in the end zone, but the senior receiver dropped the ball. The Tigers then threw two more incomplete passes to end the marathon matchup.
“It was a crazy game, a back and forth game, but I?thought we fought hard,” said White, who completed 19 of 32 passes for 254 yards, including six for 79 yards to Louis, whose 28-yard catch in the closing seconds moved the Tigers into field goal range to send the contest into the first overtime.
“We definitely still have something to play for,” White said. “Three losses isn’t the end of the world. Our goal now is to go 9-3 and that is still a good season. We have plenty of big games left.”
The loss dropped the Tigers to 4-3 overall and 1-3 in the SEC while the Razorbacks improved to 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the league.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, whose team trailed 14-0 in the first half, said, “That was a tough one, no doubt about it. It took us a while to get going offensively in the game. I?think we had some drops early and we didn’t have a lot of first downs, a lot of yards.
“Our guys responded right before halftime and I thought that put us in the game and then the drive coming out of halftime,” Malzahn said. “I thought it was a good game from then on.
“I?am proud of our guys,” Malzahn added. “They showed a lot of heart and a lot of character, especially to get us to overtime.”
Peyton Barber rushed 37 times for 120 yards and four touchdowns for the Tigers, who finished with 162 rushing yards on 52 carries.
Malzahn added, “Obviously, you have to give Arkansas credit. They responded numerous times when they had to and made plays, and we just didn’t get it done in that aspect.”
Offensive guard Alex Kozan agreed with his head coach, noting if the Tigers had executed better in regulation, especially in the first half, they could have won the game in regulation.
“I was proud of the team and proud of the way we fought,” Kozan said. “I thought everybody played as a hard as they could. When you get to four overtimes somebody has got to win, somebody has got to lose. That is just the way it is.”
The first quarter was dominated by Arkansas catching passes and Auburn dropping them. Allen completed three for 52 yards to tight end Hunter Henry on the game’s opening possession as the Razorbacks moved 75 yards on seven plays to take a quick 7-0 lead.
The passing set up Dominque Reed’s 11-yard end around touchdown run for the only points of the period. Auburn managed just one first down in the first quarter because of dropped passes on good throws by Sean White.
A drive that started in the first period led to more points for the home team early in the second quarter. Jeremy Sprinkle scored on a 23-yard pass play to cap a possession that covered 60 yards on 10 plays.
Although White was on target throwing the football, the Tigers couldn’t get a drive going because on his first eight passes two were caught and six were dropped.
The first big catch of the day for the Tigers was by linebacker Kris Frost, who dropped deep into coverage to intercept an Allen pass just in front of the Auburn goal line with 6:33 to play in the half.
Senior linebacker Kris Frost's interception helped spark the Tigers' comeback.
The Tigers kept the ball all but 30 seconds of the remaining time in the half by moving 96 yards on 16 plays.
Two of the plays were pass completions to walk-on wideout Gray King, who caught the ball that sailed high in the air as White was hit when he threw the ball. King grabbed the pass and fought for four yards to get near the first down marker. Coming up two yards short at the Arkansas 36-yard line, Auburn called timeout and put Kerryon Johnson in to run the wildcat formation. The freshman kept the ball and gained 17 yards.
After a nine-yard pass to King to the Arkansas five on a play he was the intended receiver, on third and goal at the one-yard line Peyton Barber powered into the end zone to cut the lead to 14-7.
Halftime Numbers: Arkansas held the ball for 36 plays for 213 yards while Auburn held the ball for 30 plays for 112 yards. Auburn netted 63 yards on 18 runs while Arkansas had 22 carries for 101 yards. Auburn hit 6-12 passes for 49 yards and Arkansas hit 7-14 passes for 112 yards and one interception.
Auburn got the ball to start the second half and marched 75 yards on 13 plays to tie the game at 14-14. Receiver Jason Smith took a handoff from Kerryon Johnson to score at right end.
After the Tigers forced a three and out on the Razorbacks’ opening possession of the second half the Tigers again self-destructed in the passing game. This time freshman fullback Chandler Cox, who was uncovered on a third down pass play, dropped a throw from White near the sideline at the AU 44.
Arkansas then regained the lead by driving 69 yards on eight plays. Alex Collins scored on a seven-yard run around left end with 4:05 in the third quarter.
Auburn tied the game with 6:54 left in the third quarter after driving 93 yards on 12 plays.
White’s pass was vital on the drive. He hooked up with Jason Smith on 46-yard deep ball to the seven-yard line.
On fourth down from inches out Jeremy Johnson was inserted at quarterback and fought his way into the end zone at left guard.
Arkansas responded with a clock-chewing, 13-play drive that ended with a 25-yard field goal with 1:07 left. Auburn had to use its three timeouts at the end of the possession.
The Razorbacks trumped Barber’s three touchdown runs in overtime with two TD passes to Morgan and two runs by Kody Walker.
Worth Noting, Part 1: The Auburn offense had multiple scoring drives of more than 90 yards for the first time since last year’s South Carolina game.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Auburn’s all-time record in overtime games fell to 8-7
Stat of the Game: Arkansas converted two fourth down plays, including one in overtime, to go with 9-16 third down conversions.
Final Numbers: Auburn was out-rushed 213-162. Alex Collins led the Razorbacks with 105 yards on 25 carries. Arkansas threw for 244 yards, 10 less than the Tigers.
The Tigers return to action next Saturday with an 11 a.m. home game vs. Ole Miss.