Arkansas had earned that respect with a 4-0 start and a No. 7 national ranking, but one group that took a dislike to all the attention heaped on the Hogs was Auburn's offense. Mired in anonymity for the week, the unit came out firing on Saturday as Auburn defeated the seventh-ranked Razorbacks 10-3 to remain undefeated in SEC play.
Looking at things from the stat sheet and scoreboard, you wouldn't know that this is the type of game the Tigers wanted to play from the opening minutes when Carnell Williams ripped off a 44-yard run. Instead of spreading the field, throwing the ball and risking short drives, the Tigers decided to play for field position and time of possession to keep their teammates on defense fresh the entire game. The strategy worked just well enough as Auburn was able to hold off a late push by the Hogs for the win.
"We heard that all week about how physical they were and how they run the ball and how they like to wear down defenses," quarterback Jason Campbell said. "We've been hearing that all week and we wanted to help our defense out by keeping them off the field. We wanted to do as much as we possibly could to keep them off the field. That's why we ran the ball so much today. We usually mix it up, but today we ran it more because of the opponent we were playing."
With junior Ronnie Brown out because of a strained hamstring, the bulk of the load went to fellow junior Carnell Williams. Pounding the Hogs time after time for a short gain here and a medium gain there, Williams finished the day with 150 yards on 35 carries and one touchdown.
His 123 yards in the first half were the most by an Auburn back since Brown rushed for 153 last season against Ole Miss. Saturday's game was his fourth straight in which he's scored a touchdown. Williams became the first back in Auburn history to rush for 35 or more carries in two consecutive games and he also is the first runner since Rudi Johnson in 2000 with back-to-back games of a 150 or more yards. It was Williams' seventh career 100-yard game and the Tigers are 6-1 in those contests. He said that he was ready to do anything to help his team to a victory.
"With Ronnie going down, coming into the game I knew there would be more of a load on me," Williams said. "I stepped up to the challenge and produced. As a team we all produced. As far as the carries I feel great."
Saturday's performance against Arkansas wasn't a typical game by Williams. Instead of ripping off several runs of 15-20 yards, he was reduced to three, four and five yard efforts by an Arkansas defense giving everything to slow him down. While that worked well enough to hold Auburn to 10 points, Coach Tommy Tuberville said in the end it was just too much Williams and that was the difference.
"The thing about Carnell is that he's very durable and he has as much energy in the fourth quarter as he does in the first quarter," Tuberville said. "The players believe in him. We've got more running backs than him, and I thought Brandon Jacobs ran the ball hard, but the thing about Carnell is that he gets a lot of yards after contact. He makes two or three extra yards, which are really devastating to a defense."
Those yards after contact are what drives Williams to succeed. Never looking like a physically imposing runner throughout his high school and college career, he has performed well because of his absolute all-out effort on every play that makes him a very physical performer. Williams said that is his style and something he believes in fully.
"My whole life playing football I kind of take that personal, never let one guy tackle me. If he does he's going to come along for a ride, two, three or four yards. That's basically my motto. I'm always going to run hard and continue to run hard."
Silas Daniels comes up with one of the biggest catches of the game for Auburn in the fourth quarter of a 10-3 win over Arkansas.
Saturday's victory wasn't just about William. The win was just as much about the play of the offensive line and quarterback Jason Campbell. Auburn held the ball for a full three and a half minutes more than the Hogs on a warm day in Fayetteville and when the Tigers had to throw the ball Campbell was up to the task. Finishing 10-18 for 118 yards with one interception, Campbell said that the key to this game wasn't anything more than being ready to play between the ears and in the heart.
"The offense had an opportunity to put up some points," Campbell said. "If we keep making plays like this, because we can also throw the ball, it will fit our play-action really well. We just have to stay mentally in it and emotional. When we play with a lot of emotion we're a totally different team. It was tough to get up for this game today, but we wanted to win and we came out and played hard."
The passing game came through with several big plays on the day, but perhaps none was as big as Silas Daniels' 29-yard reception on second down early in the fourth quarter. Facing a 16-yard deficit, Campbell caught the Hogs by surprise over the middle and Daniels took it down to the 21-yard line before being hauled down. Four plays later John Vaughn booted a field goal that would prove to be the final points of the game.
Now the Tigers will have a short time to savor their first victory over Arkansas in Fayetteville since 1997 with the Mississippi Bulldogs up next. That means another physical test for the offense, something that shouldn't be a problem for an offense that has been passing tests each of the last four weeks.
"We knew our defensive line and defense was going to be able to match up with them," Pera said. "We knew we had to be able to go out and run the ball. That's what we did.
"It gives us great momentum," Pera added. "The last two weeks in the SEC, those guys on the other side of the ball have been great with good defenses. For us to come out there and get two wins against Top 10 teams has been great."