Arkansas snapped a six-game skid against Auburn defeating the Tigers 41-27 on Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
KJ Jefferson, Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, Jadon Haselwood and Matt Landers were key players on offense for the Hogs. Jefferson completed 16 of 24 passes for 234 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed 10 times for 45 yards and two touchdowns. Sam Pittman was pleased with another outstanding game from Jefferson.
“I thought he did pretty good,” Pittman said. “I’m so proud of him. He’s Superman. He’s tough. He’s our leader and he leads well. I’m very happy for him and our football team.”
The Razorbacks started slowly falling behind 3-0 on a 46-yard field goal by Anders Carlson with 5:55 remaining in the first quarter. He had missed one from the same distance after Auburn’s first series on offense. Linebacker Pooh Paul sacked Robby Ashford for a seven-yard loss prior to the missed field goal.
However, on Arkansas’ third possession on offense they drove 75 yards in eight plays to take a 7-3 lead. The Hogs took the lead on a 1-yard run by Jefferson. The big play on the drive was a 29-yard pass from Jefferson to wide receiver Warren Thompson to the Auburn eight.
The Hogs then pushed the lead to 14-3 with 10:27 remaining in the first half. Jefferson scored on a 13-yard run for his second touchdown of the day. The drive was 11 plays and 80 yards. On the drive, Jefferson had three completions to Haselwood. The completions were 20, 5 and 14 yards.
Auburn fought back in the game with Tank Bigsby sprinting 41 yards for a touchdown with 3:43 remaining in the first half to cut Arkansas’ lead to 14-10.
Arkansas immediately struck back though. Jefferson found Landers for a 55-yard completion on first down to the Auburn 10. The Hogs had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Cam Little to go up 17-10 with 2:25 remaining before intermission. Landers, who had a big game at BYU, finished the day with four catches for 115 yards.
Carlson added a 24-yard field goal for Auburn to allow the Tigers to pull within 17-13 at intermission. At that point Pittman expressed concern about the way his team was playing including the Haselwood fumble following a nice 11-yard catch on Arkansas’ second series of the game which led to Carlson’s first field goal of the game.
“We’re up four and I’m glad we’re up but the field goal right before the half, of course we were lucky to stop them on that,” Pittman said. “We’ve got to get our mojo back a little bit on defense. Offensively we’re killing ourselves with penalties and the turnover. We’ve got to play better football. If we do that, we’ll win. But we’ve got to find a way to play better football.”
Pittman challenged his team to win the third quarter and that’s exactly what they did. They outscored Auburn 14-0 in the third quarter to take control of the game. The first touchdown was a 11-yard touchdown pass from Jefferson to Haselwood. The Oklahoma transfer ended the day with five receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown.
The next possession for Arkansas saw them put together a seven-play, 94-yard drive that ended on an outstanding play call from Kendal Briles. The Hogs snapped the ball to freshman running back Rashod Dubinion with Jefferson carrying out a great fake that had Auburn’s defenders going for him. Dubinion went in from the 2-yard line virtually untouched to put the Hogs up 31-13. The big play on the drive was a 76-yard run by Sanders on first down to the Auburn 18. Sanders finished the day with 16 carries for 171 yards. He also added one catch for six yards.
Following an Auburn touchdown to pull within 38-20, Little booted a 37-yard field goal to finish the Hogs scoring on the day. Auburn added a meaningless touchdown with four seconds remaining in the game. Pittman talked about the way his team responded following halftime.
“Well, we haven’t won the third quarter nearly all year,” Pittman said. “We challenged them at halftime, it was a 4-point game, to win the third quarter. And I think they shut them out in the third quarter and maybe scored 14 and put the game away. But just talking about the physicality of the runners, the blockers, all that stuff. I was really pleased out they came out in the second half.”
The Hogs finished the game with 520 yards of offense including 286 on the ground. They were 8 of 14 on third-down conversions. The Razorbacks were perfect in seven trips inside the red zone. The one negative was 10 penalties for 53 yards. Arkansas held Auburn to 468 yards of total offense. Auburn was successful only 11 of 19 times on third down. Auburn passed for 285 yards.
Dwight McGlothern and Latavious Brini each had seven tackles to lead the Hogs defense. Bumper Pool and Khari Johnson were next with six each. Paul and Slusher each had five tackles. Arkansas’ sacks went to Slusher, Paul and Jordan Domineck. Pittman talked about the defensive showing against Auburn.
“We did a lot better today,” Pittman said. “Three plays in the first half crushed us. And then when we had our ones in we played pretty good in the second half. And then obviously we needed to give some of our kids playing time in the second half on offense and defense and when we gave up a couple of scores because of it but that’s irrelevant. The kids got a chance to play in the fourth quarter.”
Arkansas (5-3, 2-3) will step outside the SEC for the final time on Saturday when they play host to Liberty at 3 p.m. and televised on the SEC Network. It will be Arkansas’ first home game since Oct. 1 when they played Alabama. Auburn (3-5, 1-4) now has lost four games in a row. Pittman is pleased to get back to Fayetteville.
“We’ve made two now,” Pittman said. ‘We won at BYU and at Auburn. We’ve talked about it. It’s a big deal for us. We’re not bowl eligible. The next one we have an opportunity to get bowl eligible. That would be a huge deal for us. After that it’s just which one do you go to.”
Liberty has a bye this week. They are 7-1 on the season with the lone loss being a 37-36 heartbreaker to Wake Forest.