Ugly Performance Haunts Tigers

Fayetteville, Ark.--<b>Tommy Tuberville</b> said his Auburn Tigers didn't look like the 17th-ranked football team in America on Saturday. Few among the crowd of 67,213 witnesses to his team's ugly and strange loss would disagree with the Auburn coach. <p>

Even with the lopsided final result, Auburn definitely had a chance to win the game deep into the fourth quarter despite the 42-17 final score at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

"We made way too many mistakes," said Tuberville, who watched his team outgain the Razorbacks 492-297 yards but lose by more than three touchdowns. Two interceptions, a lost fumble, two missed field goals and failure to take advantage of opportunities when they were available turned what was a close game into a Razorback runaway.

"They came out and ran the option in the second half and I have never seen such a mess," Tuberville noted. "We couldn't tackle. I don't know what the deal was. We will have to go back and look at it on film. That won't be the last time we see the option."

Tuberville said there were several positives he witnessed from the sideline. "We competed," he said. "We just didn't make any plays. We looked like we would start to get things going good and then we would get a penalty or a turnover. We can't play that way on the road and win a ball game."

The other positive was the performance of a true freshman who tried to be a one-man road warrior. Tuberville reserved individual praise for one player, tailback Carnell Williams, who rushed for 177 yards on 19 carries with one touchdown. The Auburn coach said that the freshman will be in the starting lineup a week from next Saturday at Georgia.

"It should have been a lot closer than that," Tuberville said of the game that dropped the Tigers to 4-1 in the SEC and 6-2 overall. "I will take the blame for that. I didn't have them ready to play."

Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone agreed with Tuberville that it was a frustrating afternoon for his team. "We had chances to score a lot more points," he said.

Defensive coordinator John Lovett was not happy with his team's tackling and its inability to make stops in crucial situations.

Razorback head coach Houston Nutt said, "We're very proud of the way we are improving on offense, defense and special teams. We are not the same team you saw in August. We beat a very good team. We are growing as a team and a family."

Trailing 21-10 at halftime, Auburn had a chance to do something about that early in the third quarter after holding the Razorbacks on three plays and forcing a punt.

At halftime, the coaches saw a play that they thought would be wide open to Tim Carter. On AU's first possession of the half, Cobb found the senior wide receiver uncovered and the speedster looked to be going the distance for a touchdown. However, he dropped the ball without being hit. "I never really caught in cleanly and I was trying to get a better grip," Carter said. The Tigers got the fumble and on the next play, from the Razorback 32, Carter was alone behind the UA secondary but Cobb overthrew the pass.

Tim Carter loses a handle on the ball on a possible TD.

On fourth down, the Tigers had to settle for a 49-yard field goal by Damon Duval, but he pulled the ball left. The sequence was a perfect of example of how the Tigers managed to lose to a team that had just one conference victory.

Auburn bounced back from that series to cut the gap to 21-17 on a 55-yard run at left end by Williams. That capped a four-play, 68-yard drive that took just 1:21. Auburn looked to have the momentum and there was plenty of time to score more points with 4:14 to play in the third quarter.

However, that is when the Auburn defense began its major struggles with the option with backup UA quarterback Matt Jones leading the way. His 37-yard run was the big play on a five-yard, 64-yard scoring drive that stretched the margin to 28-17 with 14:44 left in the fourth quarter.

Despite that setback, Auburn looked to be very much in the game, especially after the Cadillac busted loose for 39 yards to the UA 26. However, on the next play, tailback Casinious Moore fumbled the ball while fighting for extra yardage. Corey Harris scooped up the loose ball and raced 46 yards down the sideline until a hustling Cobb made the TD-saving tackle. That could have been big, especially after Brandon O'Donohoe's 22-yard field goal try bouncing off the right upright.

With just 7:29 to play, Auburn really needed to get a quick touchdown. However, the Tigers managed only a first down and punted on fourth and 10 from their own 32. Arkansas then quickly put the game out of reach.

A 15-yard facemask penalty on AU followed by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Tuberville set up the clinching score, a 32-yard option keeper by Jones with 5:08 to play. That put the home team up 35-17.

The Razorbacks added an 88-yard interception return for a touchdown by Petty to complete the satisfying victory.

"It was a perfect game," Petty said. "The defense played really well. It is an honor to play with this defense. We know we are capable of beating anybody. We started off slow, but we are going to finish up strong."

Petty and his teammates got behind early. Auburn scored on the game's first possession after Casinious Moore burst through a large hole and ran 49 yards before Petty's touchdown-saving tackle. Auburn couldn't move any closer and Duval kicked a 36-yard field goal to put the visitors on top 3-0.

The Razorbacks scored on their second possession, moving 14 yards on 64 plays. The touchdown was aided by a very, very questionable third down pass interference call in the end zone on Junior Rosegreen. Two plays later Cedric Cobbs broke a tackle attempt by Dontarrious Thomas and scored from five yards out.

Auburn then moved the ball eight plays for 43 yards, but the drive stalled and Duval was called upon to hit a 53-yard field goal that was wide left.

Arkansas responded with an eight-play drive that featured the running of tailback Cedric Cobbs, who looked healthy with two weeks to recover from injury problems. The touchdown play was a surprise as backup QB Jones was sent onto the field. He had never thrown a college pass, but his first one was spectacular, a 21-yarder to Richard Smith that gave the home team a 14-3 lead.

The Tigers responded with one of their best possessions, driving 80 yards in 12 plays. Williams was the spark on the drive with runs of six, three, seven, 21, two and three. The touchdown came on a catch and fumble. On second and seven at the Arkansas eight, Carter caught a short pass from Cobb and ran towards the end zone. He fumbled around the one but got back on the fall in the end zone for a touchdown.

That score, with 1:25 left in the first half, cut the home team's lead to 14-10. Auburn used two timeouts to try for one more possession in the period. It worked perfectly last week, but was a disaster vs. the Razorbacks.

With 20 seconds to play following a 46-yard punt, the Tigers had the ball at their own 32. Cobb was pressured on a blitz and he tried to throw the ball away on a screen play to the sideline. However, Tony Bua made an interception and returned it 17 yards to the Tiger 16. One play later, with five seconds to spare in the half, the Razorbacks had the lead up to 21-10.

Zak Clark, the starting quarterback, hit Smith for a 16-yard TD pass in the corner of the end zone.

That play set the tone for the second half and made Auburn's comeback hill significantly higher to climb.


Cadillac Cruises

Option Troubles Tigers

More Photos From Fayetteville

SEC Standings

* * *

Subscribe to Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and football newsletter

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories