Defense Leads AU To Fourth Straight Win

Auburn improved to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the SEC with a 9-7 victory over Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Fayetteville, Ark.--In typical Auburn fashion, the Tigers edged out Arkansas 9-7 on the road with a game-winning field goal by Wes Byrum with 21 seconds remaining, capping off an eight play, 50-yard drive. The Razorbacks took their only lead of the game, 7-6 with 2:43 in the fourth, but the Tigers responded with another late scoring drive for the victory.

"We'll take it," head coach Tommy Tuberville said. "It wasn't pretty. Go back to the Florida game, and that's how you win on the road. You play hard-nosed, smash-mouth football and you play defense."

Wes Byrum makes his second game-winning field goal of his freshman season.

On a night where the Auburn defense held Darren McFadden and Felix Jones to a combined 85 yards rushing on 23 carries, the Tigers held Arkansas off the scoreboard until the final minutes.

"I was real proud defensively," Tuberville noted. "Forty-two points a game they've been averaging, and Coach (Will) Muschamp and his coaches and players came up with a heck of a scheme and slowed them down.

"The big thing is you've got to tackle," he added. "We went back and looked at yards after contact with everybody they've played. They break tackles. A couple of times we got out-flanked a little bit, but the big thing was just containing them. The first guy there usually made the tackle."

The Razorbacks had been averaging 338 yards per game on the ground, and Auburn held them to just 67 net.

Auburn controlled the ball, the clock and the scoreboard for almost the entire game. The Tigers scored a field goal on their first series and tacked on three more to take a 6-0 lead in the fourth. However, after Byrum's miss late in the fourth, Arkansas took the momentum and the lead on a six-play, 71-yard touchdown drive. The Hogs had a first and goal from the 13 after a holding penalty when Casey Dick hit Lucas Miller on a fade against Jonathan Wilhite to tie the game, and Alex Tejada's extra point gave Arkansas its first lead with 1:36 remaining.

However, that lead was short-lasted as Brandon Cox, just as he did against Florida in the Swamp, led the Tigers down the field for the game-winning field goal. After Brad Lester's kickoff return gave Auburn the ball at its own 47, Cox hit Rod Smith and Montez Billings to get the drive started and move the Tigers into Razorback territory. On second and 10 from the 42 he hit Robert Dunn on and out, which turned out to be a game-changing play. Dunn beat his man to the corner, picked up a nice block from Tim Hawthorne and was run out of bounds at the Arkansas 12-yard line. Ben Tate carried down to the three and Byrum again had the deciding points for the Tigers.

"I'm not going to take credit for that one," said Byrum of his game winning 20-yarder. He had missed a 46-yarder with 4:47 to play that could have given Auburn a 9-0 lead.

"We weren't going to throw the ball in the end zone and get it tipped up or anything," Tuberville said of the final drive. "You play the percentages and Wesley has won a couple of games for us this year and done a good job.

"It's not the first time we've had to kick a field goal to win," he added.

"Our philosophy is to play how our defense plays. If we feel like we can win on field goals, we'll play like that on offense. We can open it up and we can do some different things, but it was one of those nights where we just wanted to have a few more points than they did."

Auburn was accustomed to the first half it played against Arkansas. The Tigers had held their previous two opponents, Florida and Vanderbilt, scoreless through the first 30 minutes. Meanwhile, the Razorbacks through five games had averaged 23 points by halftime.

Also as the Tigers had done in wins over Florida and Vanderbilt, they marched down the field on their first possession and put points on the scoreboard. Arkansas had a few chances to stop the drive, but shot themselves in the foot with penalties. Third and long hasn't been a strong suit of the Tigers through this season, and a personal foul penalty on Matterral Richardson gave Auburn a first down instead of a third and long. That penalty moved the ball into Razorback territory at the 42-yard line.

Cox then hit fullback Carl Stewart on a play-action over the middle for 13 yards on 2nd and 11. Another penalty on Arkansas--offsides on Fred Bledsoe--let Auburn work from a favorable position and Brad Lester carried the Tigers down to the five-yard line.

However, Lester was stuffed on first and goal, Antwain Robinson batted down a second-down Cox pass in the backfield intended for Tommy Trott and an out route to Mario Fannin on third down netted nothing for the Tigers. Byrum put a 22-yarder through the uprights to give the road team a 3-0 advantage midway through the first period.

Playing without pass-rush specialist Quentin Groves, backup Antonio Coleman showed again why he's a valuable replacement for the senior end. McFadden and Jones moved the chains for the Hogs, but Coleman stuffed McFadden for a six-yard loss on a first down reverse, a play that troubled Auburn in last year's 27-10 loss on the Plains.

After a pair of non-eventful three-and-outs caused by solid open field tackling by both teams, Arkansas started its opening series of the second quarter at its own 28. On first down Dick found a wide open Peyton Hillis out of the backfield on blown coverage by linebacker Bo Harris. McFadden then carried for five and Reggie Fish moved the chains with a reception down to the Auburn 29. A Jones rush for two yards and an incompletion set up third and eight, and an unsuccessful draw drew the boo birds from the red in the stands. Then Alex Tejada missed with a 41-yard attempt wide right.

Dominating defensive line play and punt coverage by both teams won out as neither team could muster much yardage for the rest of the half.

Again Auburn moved the ball down field with the help of penalties from the Pigs on its opening drive of the second half. Cox took a blow to the head from Matt Hewitt on an all-out blitz. Then Kodi Burns on an option keeper was slung to the ground by Isaac Madison after he had stepped out.

The Tigers had the ball on the Arkansas 13 when Lester took a shotgun option pitch from Burns. However, Weston Dacus brought the wood and separated the ball and the Razorbacks had the ball on their own six-yard line. However, the Auburn D rose to the challenge once again. A play-action out in the flats to Hillis was stuffed by Zac Etheridge and Sen'Derrick Marks turned in McFadden as he tried to take the corner on second. Coleman forced Dick to throw the ball away on third and long from the end zone, and the Razorbacks were forced to punt.

Dunn didn't make the best of the opportunity to give the Tigers' favorable field position, and Auburn went three-and-out after a sack on Cox. The Hogs got the ball back and went to work from the "Wild Hog" with McFadden running around left end for 13 yards before being slung down by Jonathan Wilhite. Offensive coordinator David Lee stuck with McFadden at the QB, but Muschamp and his guys had none of it. Josh Thompson clogged the Hog line and Powers brought down McFadden for a loss. On third and long Chris Evans nearly had a pick over the middle on an errant Dick throw.

The Tigers got the ball back and moved into field position on yet another Razorback penalty on a deep sideline pass to Fannin. However, the Razorbacks again survived an AU threat as Cox had a throwaway on third and short, and Byrum's 36-yard field goal sailed wide right.

The first play of the final quarter was a sack by Coleman. The Hog fans booed the play calling in the first half by running the ball when playing long distances, but Dick throwing the ball was even less effective in another three-and-out. A decent return by Dunn set Al Borges and the Auburn offense up at the UA 44-yard line.

Ben Tate carried left, right and up the middle as Auburn moved into field goal position with a chance to put the game out of reach with the way the defense had been playing. However, Cox starred down Rod Smith on a third-down comeback route that Michael Grant knocked to the turf. This time Byrum made good from 38 yards out as Auburn claimed a 6-0 advantage with 10:11 remaining in the ball game.

Arkansas had another three-and-out before Byrum's 46-yard miss. Following the Razorback touchdown that made the score 7-6 and Byrum's make, Jerraud Powers got his first career interception on the final play of the game.

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