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GAME RECRAP: #13 Auburn 30, Arkansas 28

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Poorly Coached Tigers escape Arkansas

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Auburn John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn had a 17-0 lead, ran the ball well, blocked a punt for a touchdown, and still needed a beneficial whistle and a Anders Carlson field goal with 7 seconds remaining to “beat” Arkansas 30-28.

If you told any Auburn fan that Tank Bigsby ran for 146 yards and Bo Nix avoided turnovers, they would probably have assumed this game was a blowout. DJ Williams even added 71 yards at an 8.9 ypc clip. Add in another big special teams play by Jordyn Peters, this time a blocked punt in the endzone that was recovered by Barton Lester for a touchdown, and this game should not have been close. A combination of poor pass defense (10.6 yards per pass, not per completion, per pass), injuries, an unwillingness by officials to understand what holding is, and questionable play-calling nearly doomed Auburn to a catastrophic loss to an Arkansas team that had nothing to lose.

Stats

We probably should have lost

Auburn had 9 drives into Arkansas territory and scored 23 offensive points. That’s barely more than 2.5 points per trip. Let’s break them down:

  1. A drive that started with a nifty run by JJ Pegues out of the wildcat also featured 3 carries for 27 yards by Tank Bigsby. Unfortunately the last one was a 2 yard run on 1st down. Two screen passes that had zero chance of being successful followed. Punt.
  2. DJ Williams busted a 41-yard run and followed it with a 4 yard run. Then Auburn decided to try a push pass to Anthony Schwartz out of the wildcat that gained nothing, and a Tank draw play went nowhere. Auburn settled for a really long Anders Carlson field goal in the wind and rain. Making this one means I can’t be mad at him missing later in the game.
  3. 10 plays. 10 runs. Touchdown. THIS ISN’T HARD.
  4. Bo picks up 17 on the first play to midfield, but two DJ Williams runs net just 5 yards. Third down fails, and Bo shanks the punt. (NOTE: this drive followed an Arkansas touchdown drive and the Razorbacks needed just 6 plays to score another one).
  5. Auburn’s first two plays gain 56 yards to set up 1st and goal. Sadly Seth jumps too early on a fade, Bo can’t get lose on a zone read, and instead of trusting your quarterback to find those tight ends you talked so much about in the preseason, not to mention Seth Williams, you run a sweep to Anthony Schwartz that gains nothing. Another field goal.
  6. Bo converts a 3rd and 8 to Seth, then a 3rd and 5 with his legs. Eventually a Bigsby run sets up Auburn with 2nd and 3 at the Arkansas 31. Then a play-action call results in a sack (after review), and 3rd and long is another sack, this one featuring a 5-man rush with an unblocked linebacker! Auburn punts and Arkansas drives 85 yards in 13 plays for the touchdown.
  7. Auburn’s best drive of the day. Bo finds Schwartz 5 times on 5 targets for 56 yards, with the final 17 converting a 3rd and 10 for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
  8. After the defense finally blows the lead (more on them in a moment), Bo makes two big time throws to get Auburn into the red zone. However, the drive stalls there after Seth can’t quite bring in a pass in the end zone. Anders finally blinks and pushes the field goal attempt to the right. Auburn now needs a stop, but they have three timeouts.
  9. The defense stands tall. Bo checks down to Tank for 8, then Tank converts on third down for 9. Tank gets another 8, but the second down call seems to just move to the middle of the field and loses one. Then we have that play. Anders mercifully hits the game winner.

That Play

It was 100% a “lateral” when Bo tried to spike the ball. I have no idea why Auburn was rushing this play. They had plenty of time if all they were going to do is spike the ball. This is absolutely terrible preparation by Auburn’s coaching staff, and it should have lost them the game.

The officials blew the whistle before anyone recovered the ball. In that scenario, the ball is dead wherever it was. There’s no recourse to overturn the call at that point. It kinda sucks for Arkansas, but thems the breaks. Hogs should have picked up a first down on the previous drive.

The “Defense”

Aren’t you done yet?

318 yards. 4 passing touchdowns. 10.6 yards per completion to Feleipe F’ing Franks. Jaylin Simpson can’t be that good. After missing on their first 5 third down attempts, Arkansas converted 6 of their next 10, and on one of those, they converted on fourth down. The pass rush wilted in the second half as Arkansas realized the officials weren’t going to be aggressive with holding calls (which is a smart move on their part; I’ve said for the last few seasons that Auburn doesn’t push that boundary enough on offense themselves). Arkansas found plenty of gaps throwing to inside receivers, backs, and tight ends. Taking out the end of the first half, these were Arkansas’s drives before they tried to run out the clock:

  • 65 yards in 8 plays. Touchdown
  • 75 yards in 6 plays. Touchdown
  • 85 yards in 13 plays. Touchdown
  • 70 yards in 10 plays. Field Goal
  • 70 yards in 10 plays. Touchdown

That’s 47 plays for 365 yards. 7.8 yards per play. If it weren’t for a botched extra point, which then led to Arkansas chasing points and failing two 2-pt conversions, Auburn would have needed more than a field goal to win at the end. This defense is dealing with a ton of injuries, but they’re just not good right now. Kendal Briles ate Kevin Steele’s lunch after the Hogs dug a 17-0 hole. If this defense does not improve, I don’t see another win on the schedule.

Player of the Game

Tank Bigsby, and it wasn’t close. He finished with 24 touches for 162 yards on offense, and added 26 yards per return on kickoffs. Do you know how many touches he had when Auburn snapped the ball inside Arkansas’s 20 yard line? ONE. ONE CARRY. It honestly boggles the mind. I’m so mad I can’t see straight.

Up Next

A loss, probably. Let’s see...

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