Let’s be real. For years there’s been an ever-present discontentment with some things when it comes to Auburn’s schedule and certain opponents.
For one, you and I both know that you’ll hear a murmur of uncertainty when an 11 AM kickoff time gets announced. We both know that that murmur gets a little louder when it comes right before or after a huge game, and we know that it reaches a really uncomfortable level when a certain team appears on the opposite sideline.
Arkansas. It’s Arkansas.
Ever since Tommy Tuberville took over, there was this feeling, a whisper, of some sort of weird Ozark curse on Auburn during that game. The Tigers couldn’t seem to beat an always-inferior Razorback team with regularity, and often enough it seemed like it was a heavy-handed defeat in favor of the Hogs.
How much of this is actually true? And has there been proper reverse voodoo to erase this so-called curse? Let’s check it out.
Believe it or not, this may actually have become a thought before Tubs roamed the sidelines. Arkansas entered the SEC in 1992 and promptly lost their first game as a member of the league... to The Citadel. Later on that season, which was Pat Dye’s last, the Hogs tied Auburn 24-24 in Jordan-Hare on Halloween. Pat Dye exited a few weeks later, and Terry Bowden was hired. The Hogs were average over the next couple of years, and Auburn got two wins in the series, but 1995 was when the “curse” really started.
Auburn went to Fayetteville and fell 30-28 to the Hogs, with Madre Hill running the ball FORTY-FIVE TIMES. Patrick Nix connected with Willie Gosha 17 times through the air, but the Razorbacks won the game and the West. That game ended up deciding the division, as Auburn finished second at 5-3, one game back of Arkansas. If Auburn had won, the Tigers would’ve rematched against Florida in the SEC Championship.
Oddly enough, Terry Bowden never lost to Arkansas again, but when his successor stepped in, rumors of the curse ramped up.
Tommy Tuberville was born in Arkansas, played at Southern Arkansas, and got his first coaching job in Arkansas high school football. Throughout his career, it was rumored that he’d love to come home and coach for the Hogs, and later on, we heard that he eschewed recruiting and other responsibilities in favor of duck hunting in Arkansas. His first game against Arkansas was a 34-10 loss. Okay. His second game? A slim 21-19 win in 2000. The next two? Here’s where the curse really begins to take shape.
In 2001, Auburn ran out to a 6-1 record, which included a win over top-ranked Florida in the rain on the Plains. After an overtime win against Louisiana Tech, the Tigers went to Fayetteville to tangle with Arkansas. It was carnage. Despite rolling up 492 yards on offense, the Tigers lost 42-17 on Jefferson Pilot, giving up three straight touchdowns late to lose by 25 points.
A year later, on Jefferson Pilot, Auburn lost again to the Razorbacks. In similar fashion. This time, the Tigers allowed 492 yards to the Hogs, and Fred Talley (is he still running?) rolled up 241 yards on the ground as Arkansas ran for 426 as a team. It was becoming a trend. The morning game on bargain TV wasn’t kind to Auburn, and more often than not it was coming against the Hogs. Once more, if Auburn had beaten Arkansas, they’d have won the West, just like 1995.
Finally in 2003 Auburn broke through. In Fayetteville, against the 7th-ranked Pigs (by far the highest they’d ever been ranked to this point when the two teams met), Auburn shut down their offense and won 10-3. A Karlos Dansby sack at the end clinched it, and Auburn sent a body blow to the Ozarks. Success continued during the best stretch of Tuberville’s career, and Auburn won two more in a row in 2004-05, but curses always find a way to lull you to sleep.
I hate that I posted that video above. But it was necessary.
Auburn was #2 in the nation when Arkansas visited in 2006. Again, it was our favorite morning kickoff time on the Plains, and the Razorbacks were sporting a fancy new high school offensive coordinator named Gus Malzahn. Old met new, and new won in spades as Gus threw everything he had at Tommy Tuberville and Will Muschamp (man, isn’t the SEC incestuous?) and got a 27-10 win on the back of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. They ever ran the dang Reggie Fish play, and I’ve hardly ever been angrier at an Auburn coaching staff for not recognizing what was going on. Guess what the loss resulted in? Another SEC West title for Auburn squandered. Just beat Arkansas. Just beat them, and you go to Atlanta. Instead, the Hogs went and lost to Florida, who Auburn beat later that season.
2008? Loss, but we won’t really count that with a coaching staff on the way out.
2009? We now had Gus on our sideline, but still... a morning loss in Fayetteville as a favorite. This was getting old.
2011? Auburn led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter. They then gave up 31 unanswered points and lost 38-14.
2012? We lost to John L. Smith, and this may have been the moment that you knew the wheels had fallen off long ago. Oh, and it was a morning kickoff.
See my point? Whether you want to blame the Auburn fans who believe in this curse or not, it’s hard to argue with the evidence. More often than you’d like to see, Auburn lost to the Pigs as a favorite, or in the morning, or when they were probably looking ahead, or coming off of a big win. It was absolutely a trend, until now.
True, while Gus Malzahn was offensive coordinator, Auburn went 1-3 against Arkansas, with the one win coming on the back of the greatest college football player ever. When he got the head job, however, things changed completely.
Case in point: 2013...
The only loss that Gus Malzahn has suffered to the Razorbacks has come in the rain in triple overtime in Fayetteville in 2015. There were drops galore, and the Tigers just didn’t play well but ended up making it close in Gus’ worst season on the Plains.
Either way, Gus has made a point not to let the home state team get the better of him. Auburn has beaten Arkansas by nearly 32 points per game in the five wins since 2013, and some of those have been absolutely historic mutilations.
If there was a curse, it’s long since been exorcised. Now, Gus and Chad Morris are friends, so he won’t be rolling up the kind of hatred that he had for Bret Bielema and sending it across the field, but he certainly won’t let the Hogs do what they want this weekend. It may be nearing Halloween, but don’t believe in curses. Believe in Gus’ ability to do what he wants in this series. War Eagle.