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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Final: Auburn 65, Arkansas 43

Well, I don't think I've ever covered a game quite that crazy. Not even last season's Outback Bowl. Here's how tomorrow's game story starts:
AUBURN, Ala. — Injured, exhausted and exposed, the Auburn defense looked overmatched Saturday, giving up 43 points and 566 yards to an impressive Arkansas offense.

Somehow, that defensive group was also the difference in the game.

The No. 7 Tigers forced turnovers on three straight fourth-quarter possessions, each leading to a touchdown to turn a tightly-contested track meet into, strangely, a runaway 65-43 win against No. 12 Arkansas before a sellout Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd.

"I sound like a broken record, but we refuse to lose," Auburn quarterback Cam Newton said. "The closer the game gets, the closer the team gets."

It was the most points Auburn (7-0, 4-0 SEC) had ever scored in an SEC game, topping the 63 it put up in a win against Florida in 1970.

The Tigers, who should move up in the national polls following losses by Nebraska and Ohio State, remain one of two unbeaten teams in the SEC. The other is another imperfect unbeaten: LSU, which comes to Jordan-Hare Stadium next Saturday with the Western Division lead at stake.

"We know we didn't play well all night," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "For all of the things that we didn't do well as a team, we beat an extremely good football team tonight. That's the bottom line."
I've already missed all of Wisconsin's upset of Ohio State tonight with all the stuff I had to write, so I'll try to sum things up quickly:
  • Newton? What can you say? He added to his SEC rushing lead by carrying it 25 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns. He added 140 passing yards and another score. He's a bona fide Heisman contender and is now starting to draw comparisons to Tim Tebow. "The Heisman Trophy? You can throw that out the window," he said. "The Tebow comparison, I'll take that any day. Tebow's an excellent player, an excellent leader, an excellent individual. So to be compared to somebody like that. I'll take that. But we're two different players, two different people. Tebow is Tim Tebow, and I'm just Cam Newton."
  • Great Newton stat: He's played seven games and already has four of Auburn's top-50 single-game rushes performances.
  • The other Heisman contender didn't get a chance to show his stuff. Ryan Mallett left with a concussion after taking a hard hit from Nick Fairley in the second quarter. "To me it's just a normal hit I put on any quarterback," Fairley said. "It just so happened he landed awkward on something."
  • Arkansas didn't miss a step with Mallett's backup. Sophomore Tyler Wilson, who got plenty of reps in the spring when Mallett had a foot injury, threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns as a replacement, shredding an Auburn defense ranked ranked 91st nationally against the pass.
  • Tigers defensive coordinator Ted Roof has experienced something similar in the past. "One year we knocked the guy at Clemson out and in comes a guy named Woody Dantzler," the former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator said. "So yeah, I've had experience with backup quarterbacks."
  • Obviously, the game turned with the three turnovers Auburn forced late. Zac Etheridge scooped up a fumble and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown to give the Tigers some breathing room. Josh Bynes intercepted passes on two straight drives to seal the win. "I felt like once we got the fumble, that just turned the momentum over and strengthened our defense, gave us a little bit of confidence out there," linebacker Craig Stevens said. "You know, we were able to turn one turnover into two, two into three. I just felt like that helped get the ball rolling for us."
  • Bynes has taken some guff from teammates for dropping some sure interceptions earlier this year, but he has three of Auburn's six picks this season and seven for his career. "Oh my goodness," Newton said. "We need to try him at tight end."
  • Not the best day for Auburn's defense, which gave up a ton of passing yards, but Chizik was impressed with how the group persevered. "We try not to let how we play be based on the circumstances around us," he said. "You can be playing very poorly, but if you let that beat you twice then you are going to have a problem. We just felt like if we kept playing, kept playing and just keep chopping wood, something eventually has to happen good."
  • Combined, the SEC's top two offenses put up and 108 points, the most ever in a regulation SEC games, and 1,033 yards. The wild game prompted a similar question to many players: have you ever played in a game quite like this? Newton flipped the query around: "The question is, have y'all ever seen a game like that?"
  • Auburn ran for for 330 yards on 49 carries, the fourth time this year they've topped 300 yards on the ground. Three of those have been against SEC opponents. "The honor goes to the offensive line," Newton said, rattling off the lineman's names one-by-one. "Those guys come in every single day, don't complain, don't do nothing but their job and ever since they took that challenge early in the season, they really haven't looked back."
  • Auburn went 9-for-9 on its red zone opportunities, coming away with six touchdowns and three field goals. "I think it is probably one of the most important things that an offense can do," Chizik said. "Going 9-for-9 down there is pretty special. It is hard to do. I think our guys have a lot of confidence down there."
  • Big special teams day for Auburn, which got blocked punt from Antonio Goodwin, a 99-yard kick return that nearly went for a touchdown by Onterio McCalebb and great kickoff coverage all around. "They were spectacular," Chizik said.
  • Not sure what to make of safety Aairon Savage's injury. He went down with an apparent ankle injury in the fourth quarter. Chizik did not have a status update on him after the game, but any leg injury is a concern for a player who has missed two full seasons with ACL and Achilles' injuries. "We will know more tomorrow, but it breaks my heart," Chizik said. "When I went out on the field and he is laying there and he is crying and he has tears in his eyes, that hurts me. This guy has done everything we've asked him to do to come back and be a football player at Auburn because he loves Auburn and he loves football, and that hurts."
  • Offensive leaders:
  • RB Mario Fannin: 14 carries, 60 yards, 1 TD, 3 catches, 36 yards
  • RB Mike Dyer: 6 carries, 53 yards, 1 TD
  • McCalebb: 4 carries, 29 yards, 1 TD
  • Defensive leaders:
  • Stevens: 12 tackles, 1 FF
  • CB Neiko Thorpe: 10 tckles, 1 pass breakup
  • Fairley: 8 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 QBH
  • Bynes: 8 tackles, 2 INT, 1 QBH
  • DT Mike Blanc: 3 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 QBH
  • Last quote goes to Chizik: "This football team amazes me in different ways every week. That was an extremely good football team tonight, and I guess it was another way that we found how to win a game."


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Andy. Good job, as always.

Clint Richardson said...

Great job AB. Sorry you missed the Badger's huge win. As for Aaron's injury, Rod on the radio said that he was carted off the field on a stretcher. His mom and I'm guessing sister were on the sidelines with him. I hated to see him go down. He's had a tough couple of years.

Moose said...

Good stuff Andy. You are the man. If you had told me before the game that Arkansas was going to score 43 I would have started making plans to do something else, haha. This AU football team is amazing in a lot of ways. I hate that the game had some dubious calls. Oh well. Great work Andy. Thanks for all of your coverage. You sacrifice a lot of time so we can have extra information.

War Eagle! Beat LSU!

MikeP said...

Great coverage Andy and great win Tigers!

AUsome04 said...

Great job AB as usual. I like the Badgers more today than I usually do. They've played us straight up the past two times.

That was an excellent column by Guerry Clegg by the way. WDE


Probably the best Offensive plays I have seen in years. But I would focus on Recruiting a pass defense for upcoming years. 550 plus yards wow. But there was no D on both sides. Mark May on ESPN has Auburn #1 and like me, dising BOISE as playing NO ONE

AUsome mom said...

Thanks for your great info as usual! I am so excited to be an Auburn fan. I don't remember a year where my family has had more fun during these games. They will stop your heart and warm your soul. It is GREAT to be an Auburn Tiger!!!

easyedwin said...