FAYETTEVILLE — Another opening offensive barrage by the Arkansas Razorbacks left the 17th-ranked Auburn stunned and with the Tigers’ first loss of the season.
The combination of almost 300 yards from sophomore quarterback Ryan Mallett and a 100-yard day from senior tailback Michael Smith drove Arkansas to its fourth 40-point day and a 44-23 victory.
The win moved Arkansas to 3-2 on the season, and the win was the first SEC win of the year for the Razorbacks.
It was the first loss of the season for Auburn, who was off to a fast start but now 5-1.
“We got back to balancing the run and pass,” Razorback head coach Bobby Petrino said. “Ryan found some great matchups today. We had some players step up and play.”
The Razorbacks were perfect in the Red Zone with seven scores when reaching inside the Auburn 20 yard line. The Hogs are perfect on the season.
Arkansas scored at will in the first half, holding the Tigers to a mere three points. Auburn momentarily recovered, but Arkansas closed the door quickly with defense in the fourth quarter.
“I’m very proud of our team and our coaches,” Petrino said.”This is our best game to date putting together offense, defense and special teams. We kept ourselves poised when they made a run at us.”
Mallett finished the game with 24 of 37 for 274 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Smith had his first 100-yard day of the year with 18 carries for 145 before leaving the game early.
“We had guys step up and make plays,” Mallett said. “We had guys missing and we had others step up. We have a lot of play makers, we’ve got depth at receivers.”
The Razorbacks dominated every part of the statistics with five yards short of 500 total yards on 82 plays. Arkansas hed an almost 17 minute advantage in time of possession and foiled almost every Tiger offensive possession.
“We had a good plan and a good understanding of what they were going to do,” Petrino said. “The way we were able to take the game away from them. It worked out just about how we wanted to. We wanted to keep their running game from being a factor and get the lead early.”
Auburn won the coin toss and elected to receive. The Tigers quickly discovered it would be the only major decision they would take on the day as a three-and-out set the stage for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas took the game to the Tigers from the kickoff, missing only the opening PAT in an offensive tour de force. A 12-play drive of 73 yards capped by the first of two Broderick Green toudhdown runs gave Arkansas a 6-0 lead.
The Razorback defense completely shut down the high-powered Tiger offense, limiting Auburn to only 28 yards on the first 14 plays. Auburn had three-and-out on three of its first four possessions before sputtering down field in the early second quarter.
Arkansas picked up a touchdown run from Smith of 25 yards to push the lead to 13-0 at the start of the second quarter. A fumble recovered in the air from the Tigers put Arkansas on the Auburn 34 yard line, and two plays later Mallett found Greg Childs for 16 yards. The 20 unanswered points was reminencent of last week’s big win over Texas A&M.
Shifting to a run, Auburn advanced to the 25, but the Hog defense forced a field goal, the only first half points by the Tigers.
While the 37-yarder from Wes Byrum snapped the 20-point opening scoring spree, Mallett took advantage of an Auburn turnover for a two-play drive to make it 27-3 at intermission.
Auburn opened the second half with a drive deep into Razorback territory that looked to give life to the Tigers. But disaster struck at the five yard line as Ben Tate dropped the handoff from Chris Todd, and Jake Bequette covered for the Razorbacks.
Mallett and Smith combined to march the Hogs 95 yards from the fumble recovery, capped by a demonstrative four yard touchdown run by Mallett.
The drive looked like it would end the game and lead Arkansas to the largest margin of victory in the history of the series, surpassing a 42-17 win in 2001.
The Tiger offense revived behind a pair of 60-yard plays. Tate avenged his fumble with a one-yard plunge to cap a 67-yard drive, then went 60 yards on the first play of the next Tiger possession. Auburn went for two and failed, leaving the score 34-16.
Auburn stopped the Razorbacks next possession, and after a 60-yard reverse play from Terrell Zachery set up a three-yard TD run by Onterio McCalebb to trim it the score to 34-23.
The 20 unanswered points by Auburn matched Arkansas’ early surge, but on the ensuing kickoff Razorback kick off returner rambled for a 70-yard return.
Any time it looked like it was going to be close, Dennis changed the game.
Green picked up his second touchdown with a three-yard run to cap the quick 30 yard drive which seemed to take out the Auburn power.
“Momentum looked like it was going to change, but we kept coming,” Petrino said.
“We finished the game strong and got the W,” Mallett added.
The Razorbacks took advantage of turnovers as another Auburn turnover late allowed Alex Tejada to kick a 23-yard field goal.