Arkansas might not only have picked up an important road SEC win on Saturday, but may have hastened Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin’s exit out the door.
The visiting Razorbacks whipped the Tigers 41-27 in Jordan Hare Stadium on Saturday while sending Auburn (3-5, 1-4) to its fourth straight loss.
KJ Jefferson was 16 of 24 passing for 234 yards for the winners and tailback Rocket Sanders rushed 16 times for 176 yards and topped the 1,000 yard mark for the season.
Arkansas (5-3, 2-3) had 520 yards total offense and trailed only once at 3-0 in a win that ended a six-game losing streak to an Auburn program that found itself down 38-13 with 7:35 left.
“Just overall, we just made too many mistakes to win a football game,” Harsin said. “We’ve got to, all of us, do a better job of eliminating those. Coaching and plenty of preparation, it all goes back to that.
“We’re playing good football teams. There’s really no advantage there. That bye week went by, we had some guys back a little bit healthier. So, that did help us.
“But overall, we didn’t do have a good enough plan, play well enough to beat a good football team that we know is a good football team.
Harsin is in his second year at Auburn and is now 4-11 against Power 5 teams, including losing 9 of its last 10 games against those foes.
Auburn, who did have 468 yards of total offense, had not lost four games in a row since 2012, but has done twice in as many years under Harsin.
“I don’t think we have a finger on that right now, or we’d change that,” Harsin said.
The only head coaches who coached multiple seasons at Auburn and had a lower winning percentage than Harsin’s 42 percent are Earl Brown (1948-1950) – George Bohler (1928-1929), Carl M. Voyles (1944-1947) and Boozer Pitts (1923-1924, 1927)
That has led to a lot of speculation about Harsin’s job status with several columns being peened about his ouster by Auburn media before and after Saturday’ loss to Arkansas.
“We need a lot more action than just hope and wanting-to,” Harsin said. “…We’re not good enough. We aren’t playing good football.”
Asked about the mood of his team, Harsin got philosophical.
“If it’s not painful when you lose, then you have the wrong people,” Harsin said.
Auburn defensive end Derick Hall said that was not the case.
“These guys truly care and they truly want to win and when you go out and your performance doesn’t speak to who this team is, that hurts a lot,” Hall said.
Arkansas, coming off a 52-35 win at BYU and a bye week like its foe, was more physical than Auburn per Harsin.
“Arkansas was a very good team going into this week,” Harsin said. “Physically, we just got in the area and they did a good job. They ran the ball well, so their kids played hard. They did a good job.
“We were plus-one in the turnover category, which was our emphasis. We take care of the football, and be plus-one in turnovers. That’s positive for us. But overall, stopping the run, and be able to run the ball more effectively.”
It was another game this season where Auburn’s run defense was subpar with the Tigers giving up 290 yards rushing, 220 of those after halftime.
“Yeah, it’s not good,” Harsin said. “I see the same thing you see. It’s not good. … To put your finger on one thing, I think it’s tackling.”
The Razorbacks were successful against Tigers without showing anything new according to Harsin.
“I don’t think we saw anything today that we didn’t see on film from Arkansas,” Harsin said. “…Physically, we just got beat.”
Auburn had closed a 14-3 deficit to 17-13 by halftime and had the ball to open the second half.
The Tigers marched the Razorbacks’ 28, but Jordan Domineck sacked Auburn quarterback Robby Ashford and then Isaiah Nichols blocked Anders Carlson’s 52-yard field goal attempt.
“You’re driving down and have a chance to put points on the board, and sacks kill you,” Harris said. “…There was a chance to put points on and really score.”
Auburn’s Carlson missed one field goal and had another blocked while Arkansas came away with points each of seven times it got into red zone.
Razorback field goal kicker Cam Little was 2 of 2 on the day with makes of 27 and 37 yards as well as being successful on his extra points after five Arkansas touchdowns.
“ They were perfect in the red zone,” Harsin said. “And on special teams, that was an area for us to … we had some opportunities there that didn’t go in our favor. And we’ve got to be better in those areas as well.
“Field position became a factor at some point, or at some points in the game. But a credit to them, and we’ve got to be much better.”
Auburn will travel to Mississippi State next Saturday for a 6:30 p.m. game.
“And so the key for us is to go back and work on Sunday, watch film, and we’ll look at what we must do and how we improve in those areas and things you must do as a staff and as team to get better,” Harsin said.