Auburn falls to Arkansas in upset

Published 9:08 pm Saturday, October 11, 2008

AUBURN — Michael Smith and the Arkansas Razorbacks ran all over the No.20-ranked Auburn Tigers to the tune of 25-22 in Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday afternoon.

Smith piled up 176 yards on 35 carries, but his 63-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter is what downed the Tigers.

“He hit a homerun, and that was really great,” Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said. “He played really well all night. He showed a tremendous amount of poise and had a lot of carries.”

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Smith’s big run came on a tired Auburn defense that was on the field for 35 minutes, but Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville did not put the loss on any one unit.

“Defensively we couldn’t get off the field and they (Arkansas) did an excellent job and you can’t take anything away from them, but it was just a tough night and a tough week overall,” Tuberville said. “We struggled in every area. We can look at offense, but it wasn’t just the offense.”

Auburn gained only 193 yards of total offense on 61 plays compared to Arkansas’ 416 total offensive output on 77 plays.

Allowing 416 yards of offense is disheartening for any defense, and Auburn is no exception.

“Everybody is down about this loss, but the only thing we can do is put that one behind us and just keep moving forward,” said sophomore safety and Charles Henderson graduate Zac Etheridge.

Arkansas jumped out to a 3-0 advantage with 6:46 to go in the first quarter. It was the first time the Razorbacks scored in the first quarter all year.

Tristan Davis ignited the home crowd with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff with 6:33 left in the opening quarter. Byrum’s PAT was true for a 7-3 Auburn lead.

“The return before that I shot up inside because that is what I normally do, but this time I stretched it to the outside,” Davis said. “That return was set up from the previous return. We knew we were going to have three on two and our wall.”

It was the first time Auburn returned a kickoff for a touchdown since Brad Lester returned a kickoff 95 yards against Ball State in 2005. It was also the longest return since Tim Carter took one back 100 yards against LSU in 2000.

With the Razorbacks threatening on their next drive freshman Neiko Thorpe picked off a Casey Dick pass and headed the other way 59 yards to the Arkansas 20-yard line. A sideline penalty pushed Auburn back five yards and the Tigers had to settle for a 45-yard field goal from Wes Byrum and Auburn took a 10-3 lead with 12:05 to go in the first half.

Arkansas quickly answered, as Dick quieted the home crowd with a one-yard touchdown run on a fake reverse and draw. Shay Haddock booted the PAT through the uprights and the game was tied at 10-10 with 6:42 to play in the half.

Josh Bynes intercepted a tipped ball on the Arkansas side of the ball and returned it to the 19-yard line.

Byrum added a 36-yard field goal and Auburn took a 13-10 lead with 26 seconds left in the half.

Chris Evans pumped life into the Auburn sideline and the stands when Davis caused a fumble and Evans recovered on the Arkansas 24-yard line.

Chris Todd opened the second half at quarterback after the fumble, but Kodi Burns entered and ran three yards for an Auburn touchdown. Byrum’s PAT was true and Auburn held a 20-10 lead with 12:43 remaining in the third quarter.

A second trick play netted a touchdown for the Razorbacks, as wide out Joe Adams tossed a six-yard touchdown to Dick. Sen’Derrick Marks blocked the PAT attempt and Auburn held onto a 20-16 lead with 3:02 left in the third quarter.

The boo rained from the stands at the end of the third quarter as Todd threw an interception right to Adrian Davis and the Razorbacks took over at the Auburn 23-yard line. Maddox booted a 44-yard field goal to narrow the Auburn lead to 20-19 with 14:07 to play in the game.

Burns reentered the game on the next drive and converted a fourth-and-one from the Auburn 45-yard line for a first down. Tommy Trot went high for a catch on a 33-yard pass from Burns on the next play and Auburn was in business at the Razorback 21, but the drive stalled and Byrum missed a 37-yard field goal attempt.

Smith took his cue on the missed field goal and toted the rock 63 yards for the go-ahead touchdown four plays later and Arkansas grabbed a 25-20 lead.

“We pride ourselves on stopping the run and they got a big play on us,” Etheridge said. “That big play really hurt us. A lot of things happened on that play. A guys slipped on the play, a guy ran into the referee, but that is not something you can blame it on because we just need to make that play. They executed and we didn’t.”

Auburn got a chance to take the lead after forcing a punt with 6:00 to go.

Burns led the Tigers down the field, completing four passes on the drive, before three straight incomplete passes and the Razorbacks got the ball back on downs at their own 5-yard line.

Auburn’s defense stiffened and forced Arkansas to punt, but punter Jeremy Davis ran out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

Auburn fielded the free kick and two plays later Matt Harris intercepted Burns to end Auburn’s chances.