Auburn sneaks past Arkansas 30-28
The Auburn Tigers escaped a wet Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday night with a tight win over the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Auburn opened up the game with an early 17-0 lead, and looked good doing it. After struggling against Kentucky and Georgia, the Tigers’ rushing attack finally came alive. Early on, the Tigers’ defense was forcing the Razorbacks to punt regularly and special teams standout Jordyn Peters blocked a punt that was recovered by Barton Lester for the Tigers’ first non-offensive touchdown of the season.
However, over the last two and a half quarters of the game, Auburn seemed to be hanging on for dear life. Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks ended up throwing for over 300 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, giving the Razorbacks a great chance to steal a road victory against a top-25 ranked team.
With just over five minutes remaining, Arkansas took a one-point lead. Auburn followed that up with a promising drive ending with kicker Anders Carlson’s missed chip shot field goal with about two minutes left.
After a defensive stop, Auburn drove again to set up Carlson for a chance at redemption. That chance was almost prevented when quarterback Bo Nix followed a muffed snap up with what appeared to be a backward spike, which could have been ruled a fumble.
In the end, Carlson made a field goal with seven seconds left to seal the victory.
Take a look at the three key takeaways from Auburn’s 30-28 win over Arkansas:
Special teams made the difference
The biggest difference in the game was that Auburn’s special teams units were much better than Arkansas (even considering a late missed field goal). When the Razorbacks were unable to even get a kick off on their initial PAT attempt, it set Arkansas on a course of chasing points for the rest of the game. Arkansas came away with no points on PATs or two-point conversions after three of their four touchdowns. Getting no points on those chances is brutal in a two-point loss.
The single most deficient group on the field was the Arkansas punt team. The Razorbacks failed to even line up in a legal formation on three different occasions. One of the times the Razorbacks did line up correctly, they allowed a blocked punt in their own endzone that was recovered for an Auburn touchdown. The Razorbacks’ special teams units will definitely want to forget their trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Arkansas tailback Trelon Smith and Auburn freshman running back Tank Bigsby were the stars of the game. Arkansas’ Smith gained 159 yards of total offense, scored one rushing touchdown and eluded Auburn defenders the whole night. The Razorbacks repeatedly got the ball to Trelon Smith in space and let him make plays. Smith proved to be a player that Arkansas can lean on through the rest of the SEC schedule.
On the other side of the field, Auburn has found its running back, regardless of other players’ injury status. Tank Bigsby continued the momentum this week against Arkansas that he started versus Georgia in Week 2. Bigsby ran with great decisiveness, vision, effort and determination, setting the tone for the Tigers’ offense. Tank had 146 yards rushing, sparking the Auburn run game for a much-needed effort that produced 259 yards on the ground in total.
Schwartz provided second-half spark
Auburn wide receiver Anthony Schwartz totaled 10 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown versus Arkansas. The Tigers offense clearly made a concerted effort to get Schwartz the ball throughout the game. However, Schwartz collected half of his catches, half of his yards and his receiving touchdown on a pivotal drive at the end of the third quarter that eventually put Auburn ahead by nine points.
Auburn’s Nix has been unable to connect very often down the field with the speedster Schwartz early in the season, but the quick passing game and screen passes have led to some key production for the offense. If Nix and Schwartz can get on the same page for deep throws moving forward, that will open up a world of options for the Tigers over the rest of the schedule.
Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @z_m_shaw