The junior tailback spent much of his evening in the secondary because of lots of help from the offensive line, which was the star of the show in Auburn's 34-17 comeback victory over Arkansas.
Irons, who had been demoted to second team behind Brad Lester, ran the ball 33 times for 182 yards after Lester was injured in the first quarter.
Irons and the Tigers rallied from a 10-6 halftime deficit and took command of the game with an 85-yard drive to start the second half. The visitors never lost the whip hand after going ahead 13-10 on that drive as they improved to 3-0 in the SEC and 5-1 overall.
"I never would imagined getting 33 carries," Irons said. "It is wonderful. I usually get 11 or 12 a game, but 33 is a load for a running back, but with a great offensive line like we have, it is no problem."
Irons said it was a running back's dream night with his offensive line being so dominant after cutting the playbook in the second half and mostly attacking the Razorbacks with piercing runs through the heart of the defense. Irons said it reminded him of high school when he carried the ball a lot and got stronger as the game progressed.
Irons said he knew the Razorbacks were beat when he could see disharmony in the ranks in the second half. "As the plays went on, they starting arguing with one another. When they started the game, they were together, but they started yelling at one another when something would go wrong and we started breaking them down."
Tommy Tuberville agreed with Irons that it was a night for the offensive line to shine. "We controlled the line of scrimmage from about the middle of the second quarter on," the Auburn coach said. "I was really proud of our offensive line and how they came off the ball."
Tuberville added, "Our guys were motivated to play this game. They read where some people said we had played a weak schedule and we were not very physical. I think we proved a few points tonight."
Reggie Herring, the defensive coordinator of Arkansas, had questioned Auburn's schedule. However, after the game he had praise for the Tiger offense, saying they won the game with an old-fashioned, hitting them in the mouth power football game.
Auburn finished with 233 rushing yards on 52 carries and passed for 203 more. Brandon Cox overcame two first half interceptions to finish the night hitting 17-26 passes for three touchdowns.
"We decided at halftime we were going to run the ball," Tuberville said. "They took a chance and blitzed almost every down in the first half and continued to do that. We said we were just going to run by them. They had a good game plan, but they went to the well once too often in the third quarter."
Auburn got the ball after Arkansas won the opening toss and deferred. The Razorbacks' strategy succeeded as the Tigers turned the ball over on their sixth play. Michael Coe picked off a Brandon Cox screen pass and returned it nine yards to the Auburn 30.
However, the Tigers stiffened on defense. On first down, Peyton Hillis was stuffed for no gain by Antarrious Williams and Will Herring. On second down Wilhite deflected a pass in the end zone thrown toward Marcus Monk. On third down, Robert Johnson completed a three-yard pass to Hillis with David Irons making the tackle at the two.
On fourth and goal, Chris Balseiro made a 19-yard field goal to put the Razorbacks ahead 3-0 with 9:26 left in the first quarter.
On Auburn's second offensive possession, the Tigers moved to their own 45 on three runs by Brad Lester following a 33-yard kickoff return by Devin Aromashodu. However, the tailback was injured on the next play after a run of four and Irons got the call.
Irons ran for three on his first carry, but Cox couldn't complete a third and three pass under pressure from linebacker Sam Olajubutu, who had a terrific night with 17 tackles.
Arkansas started at its own 20 and put together its longest drive of the first half, moving 61 yards on seven plays. The biggest one was a 35-yard reverse to McFadden, the tailback who lined up at wide receiver. "That guy is really good," said Auburn defensive coordinator David Gibbs.
That gave the Razorbacks a first and goal at the Auburn 19. Johnson then completed an eight-yard pass, but turned the ball over on the next play as he tried to pump fake a pass. The ball slipped out of his hands and Karibi Dede was there to recover it for the Tigers at the 20-yard line.
Auburn took advantage of the turnover by driving 75 yards on 14 plays to tie the score on a 22-yard field goal by John Vaughn with 11:58 left in the second quarter.
Aromashodu, who caught six passes for 98 yards, got the march started by catching a 13-yard pass to convert third down and five. Two plays later the senior caught a short pass and raced 17 yards down the sideline. Michael Coe grabbed his jersey for a possible TD-saving tackle at the Arkansas 43.
Auburn pushed the ball deeper into Razorback territory as the offensive line opened nice holes for Irons,who ran for 14, six and eight yards to give the Tigers a first down at the 11.
Irons then ran for five at left guard to the six, but netted just a yard at right end on second down. Cox tried to hit Courtney Taylor, who was in motion on the play, but the pass was deflected near the goal line. Vaughn then tied the game with the field goal.
Arkansas started at its own 31 after the kickoff by Matt Clark was returned from the four to the 31 by Felix Jones. Arkansas kept the ball for eight plays, but punted from the Tiger 42 on fourth and nine and the Tigers took over at the 20.
The Tigers went three and out and Arkansas took over at its own 49. Johnson hit a 26 yard pass to Cedric Washington, but Auburn held the Razorbacks and forced a 38-yard field goal try by Balseiro that was blocked by Will Herring.
However, the Tigers were quickly back in trouble. Cox was called for intentional grounding on the next play, putting the Tigers in a hole at second down and 24 at their own six. Irons ran for six yards on the next play, but then Cox was intercepted by Vickiel Vaughn as he threw a high floater of a pass that was returned 13 yards. A personal foul by Troy Reddick put the Razorbacks in great shape at the Tiger 13.
Another penalty, on third and goal from the six on an overthrown pass by Johnson, gave the Razorbacks a first down and goal at the five. Kevin Hobbs was called for holding on the play, a questionable ruling that the home team cashed in on the next play. McFadden used his speed to get on the right corner and coasted in for a score with 2:20 left in the half. That put the Razorbacks ahead 10-3.
After getting the ball at the 20, Carl Stewart ran for a yard before Cox hit Aromashodu on a 22-yard gainer to start a scoring drive.
Cox hit passes for 12 to Wallace, 21 to Ben Obomanu and 12 to Obomanu to give the Tigers a first down at the Arkansas 12. However, after an incomplete pass he was sacked for a nine-yard loss. Cox threw the ball away under pressure on third down. Arkansas called two timeouts to try to ice Vaughn, but he nailed a 38-yarder with 34 seconds left in the half.
Auburn grabbed the early momentum by forcing a three and out and then driving 73 yards on seven plays. Using Irons to attack the middle of the defense with his runs as the Tigers faked the wide receiver reverse and used one with Obomanu carrying the ball for 13 yards, the Tigers quieted the home crowd and took a 13-10 lead.
The touchdown came on a perfectly executed down and out pass to Aromashodu. Cox put the ball in the air before he made his cut to the corner of the end zone and the senior receiver caught the perfect toss.
Arkansas managed a first down on their second possession of the third quarter, but the Tigers got the ball on the 15 on a punt and got extra macho vs. the Pigs.
The offensive line pounded the Razorbacks as Irons and Tre Smith carried the ball. Cox hit a pair of passes to Aromashodu and Wallace to help push the ball deep into Arkansas territory.
Tre Smith scores for the Tigers.
On second and goal at the five, Cox faked a handoff into the line and bootlegged left. He threw a short pass in the flat to Smith and No. 22 caught the ball raced to the end zone, going head first into the end zone. "That was a play we thought we work against their defense," Smith said.
The drive lasted seven minutes and one second putting the Tigers on top 20-10 with 1:20 left in the third quarter. "It seemed like we had the ball almost all of the third quarter," said Tuberville, whose team enjoyed a 36:50 to 23:10 advantage in time of possession.
It didn't take long for the Tigers to add to the lead, thanks to a big play by the defense. Dede's interception of a third and 20 pass from scrambling Jones who was almost sacked in the end zone by Stanley McClover put Auburn in business at the Arkansas 24. Dede caught the pass on the sideline that was deflected by Montae Pitts.
It took the Tigers just five plays to cash in the turnover as Cox dodged the pass rush, stepped up in the pocket and floated a scoring strike to Wallace, who was in the end zone. The pass was underthrown, but Wallace got the deflection for a touchdown. "I was getting ready to tackle the guy and then there the ball was," Wallace said with a smile. "We were due to have a play like that."
Auburn led 27-10 with 12:08 left in the game after the touchdown, but the home team hadn't quit yet.
The Razorbacks drove 80 yards on six plays with McFadden scoring on a well-blocked 17-yard run to cut the gap to 27-17 with 9:34 left.
However, the Auburn offensive line was still in control of this contest and the Tigers chewed up most of the clock on an 11-play, 82-yard drive. Smith scored at right end on a seven-yard run with 3:37 to give stretch the margin to 34-17.
"The third quarter just got away from us," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "That was a disappointing thing. Their offense kept us off the field and that wore our defense out."
Next up is a 6:45 game at LSU on Saturday night in Baton Rouge.