Arkansas rolled past Auburn 41-27 on Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium to win over the Tigers for the first time since 2015.
Sam Pittman was pleased to get Arkansas’ second road win in a row.
“Well, we’re so excited to go on the road two times in-a-row now and win on the road,” Pittman said. “It’s hard to win. It doesn’t matter where you go, it’s hard to win on the road. Especially with quality teams, and obviously Auburn and the SEC and those things, the thing about Auburn, they fought to the finish. Obviously scored right there at the end of the game and those things, but I’m really proud of our kids, how they competed, especially proud of winning the third quarter.”
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. Pittman praised Jefferson once again for his play on the field and leadership.
“Yeah, I mean, he just extends plays when really there’s no way that he can,” Pittman said. “He’s so big that they can’t get him down. And strong. That was a big, big play in the game, but I’m really proud of him. He’s taken over the leadership of the team more and more each week. He had a heck of a game, he takes care of the ball.”
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 Sam 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.
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 and now has rushed 156 times for 1,041 yards and seven touchdowns.
“I think we wore them down, to be honest with you,” Pittman said of the second half rushing success. “Our guys are in great shape up front. They play well together once they figure out what guys are doing against them. And we went back to our bread and butter, we went back to inside-outside zone, ran a little bit of counter against them, but we went with what we do.
“Our backs got lathered up a little bit and seemed to break a few more tackles. Of course, you always have that one explosive play by Rocket. It seems like every week he has one of those that he takes off on, and he had one of those again today.”
Sanders talked about topping 1,000 yards rushing with four games still remaining in the regular season.
“Definitely that was the goal for me,” Sanders said. “I just want to say shoutout to the offensive line. The receivers as well for the blocking outside and with the quarterback as well. But it feels good. I definitely want to shoutout to God. But I’ve got more goals to go. I’ve got more to go, achieve.”
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.
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. It was Arkansas’ first win in Jordan-Hare Stadium in 10 years.
“It means everything,” Pittman said. “Auburn’s a good football program. Means everything. To beat Auburn, I mean, they’re Auburn. They’re a good football team. Last time we beat them, I believe, was in ‘15 in overtime. It was my last year at Arkansas, but, other teams have, I know they haven’t won as many games as they have in the past, but they’ve played teams close. They’ve had some good games with some good football programs. To come in here, it means everything. It means a lot. I think now we’ve beaten every West team since I’ve been here besides Bama. So, we need to get that one off – we need to do that.”
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.
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. Jefferson feels the season is back on track now.
“It is,” Jefferson said. “We’ve all bought into the process just knowing we need to go on this run. Be able to create history like we did today, being able to snap the losing streak versus Auburn. So we’re able to create history, write our own story and keep moving forward. Keep this program on track.”
Liberty is 7-1 on the season with the lone loss a 37-36 decision to Wake Forest. They have a bye this week.