Rapid Reaction: Auburn hangs on for bizarre and controversial win over Arkansas
It was windy. It was wet. It far from pretty, but Auburn did what it had to do to return to the winning column.
Behind the best rushing performance the Tigers have had against an SEC opponent in nearly a year, Auburn and Tank Bigsby escaped with a last-second, bounce-back 30-28 victory over visiting Arkansas on Saturday.
Auburn rushed for 259 yards as a team, led by Bigsby’s 146 yards on 20 carries. Entering Week 3, Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris’ offense had failed to rush for over 100 yards in a single game.
Perhaps rushing out of pure necessity due to the less-than-ideal weather conditions, Auburn jumped out to an early 7-0 lead thanks to a blocked punt in Arkansas’ own end zone.
0⃣ to 💯 real quickpic.twitter.com/JSidfFbOq5
— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) October 10, 2020
The block allowed for patience from the Auburn offense with its run game as the team eclipsed its rushing total against Georgia (39 yards) in less than 2 drives against the Razorbacks. The Tigers carried the ball on 17 of their final 20 plays of the first half.
Despite Auburn’s dominance rushing the ball, Feleipe Franks and running back Trelon Smith kept Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks within striking distance. Smith made his first career start with Arkansas running back Rakeem Boyd not making the trip due to injury.
Franks threw for 302 yards and 4 touchdown passes leading the Hogs back from a 17-point hole to a 20-18 deficit but missed passes on two Arkansas 2-point conversion attempts. The Hogs missed the extra point kick on their first touchdown.
Auburn and Bo Nix opened things up a little more in the second half with more passing plays, as Nix continued to target wide receiver Anthony Schwartz more than any other wideout this season, but was ultimately held to little success as the sophomore QB continued to face pressure.
Nix put together his best series as a passer in a drive that ended with a touchdown to open the 4th quarter. He completed all 7 of his throws for 72 yards, including 5 by way of Schwartz who capped off the drive with a 17-yard score to push Auburn back to a 2-score lead.
The Razorbacks stormed back to take the lead late in the 4th with an 11-play, 70-yard drive that ended with a 30-yd touchdown from Franks to De’Vion Warren, giving Arkansas a slim 28-27 lead with over 5 minutes remaining.
Nix found Seth Williams for a 32-yard gain to set up what should have been an easy 34-yard field goal for Anders Carlson, but the junior kicker pushed the kick right.
After forcing Arkansas to a quick 3-and-out, the Tigers had one final drive to set up the potential game-winner, and relied heavily on Bigsby to set them up. A controversial intentional-grounding call forced a 39-yard kick by Carlson to sneak in and win the game.
This is 100% a fumble
Bo Nix spikes the ball backwards, behind him, whatever. It’s a backwards pass. pic.twitter.com/hoTOdVFTcz
— i Reporter Liam 🦖 (@Blutman27) October 10, 2020