Recap: Auburn vs. Arkansas
Auburn, AL (SportsNetwork.com) - Nick Marshall came off the bench to run for a tie-breaking touchdown in the third quarter, beginning a streak of 24 unanswered points that helped sixth-ranked Auburn pull away for a 45-21 victory over Arkansas at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Marshall, the starting quarterback on the Tigers' 2013 SEC champion and BCS runner-up team, sat out the entire first half as a suspension for a marijuana possession citation over the summer. In his place, Jeremy Johnson threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns in an impressive two quarters of action.
Jeremy Whitehead came through with a pivotal 33-yard interception return touchdown later in the third quarter, leading an Auburn defense that held the Razorbacks to no points and 61 total yards in a second half that saw an hour and 27-minute delay due to a severe thunderstorm.
"I'm proud of the way our guys responded the second half," Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn said. "Our defense made the adjustments. We started playing physical football. That really made a big difference in the game. We talked all preseason about balance, we really thought that was a big key tonight."
Cameron Artis-Payne rushed for a career-best 177 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries for Auburn (1-0, 1-0 SEC), while D'haquille Williams racked up 154 yards and a score on nine receptions in the win.
Johnson completed 12-of-16 passes, with Marshall finishing 4-of-6 for 50 yards.
Brandon Allen went 18-of-31 for 175 yards and two touchdowns with the one key interception for Arkansas (0-1, 0-1). A.J. Derby ended with four catches for 40 yards and a score, while Alex Collins ran for 68 yards on 10 attempts in the loss.
Auburn's high-powered offense didn't miss a beat with Johnson at the controls, piling up 311 total yards in the first half while producing several huge plays in the passing game. Marshall still made his presence felt early, engineering a 9-play, 78-yard touchdown drive to begin the third quarter that snapped a 21-21 tie.
The playmaking quarterback heaved a long third-down pass that Melvin Ray snared for a 28-yard gain into Arkansas territory, then later ripped off a 19- yard touchdown run on a well-blocked read option to send the Tigers back in front.
Auburn's defense rose up from there, causing the Razorbacks to punt on their two subsequent possessions. The next one ended in disaster for Arkansas, as Allen was hit by a blitzing Robenson Therezie to induce a wobbly throw that Whitehead grabbed in the air and weaved his way into the end zone for a 35-21 Tigers' lead with 2:39 remaining in the third quarter.
"I think the big swing was when (Allen) got hit as he was throwing the ball there," said Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema. "Those are big plays that we've got to have, especially playing a team like Auburn."
The lengthy weather delay came right after Auburn's Daniel Carlson knocked home a 45-yard field goal with 9:55 left to play. The Razorbacks continued to sputter following the stoppage, mustering just a single first down the rest of the way.
Corey Grant accounted for Auburn's final score with a 3-yard run with 3:15 to go, wrapping an 8-play series in which all 85 yards came on the ground.
The Tigers, the top rushing team in FBS last season, ended with 302 yards via the run and 595 total.
Johnson did do plenty of damage through the air in his second career start, though. The sophomore hit Ray down the left sideline on Auburn's opening drive, with the big wideout shaking free of a tackle en route to a 49-yard touchdown that began the scoring.
Arkansas countered by moving 75 yards in just six plays, highlighted by consecutive runs by Collins for 20 and 21 yards that put the ball inside the Auburn 15. Two snaps later, Allen found a wide-open Hunter Henry in the corner of the end zone for a 14-yard score midway through the first quarter.
The Tigers quickly answered, however. Johnson connected with tight end C.J. Uzomah for a 26-yard gain on the ensuing series to set up Artis-Payne's 1-yard touchdown plunge that put Auburn back ahead.
"Jeremy did an outstanding job. The way he handled himself was really nice," said Malzahn.
Auburn's defense then forced a punt and Johnson continued to carve up Arkansas' secondary. Williams hauled in a deep strike for a 62-yard gain on the third play of the following possession, then powered his away across the goal line for an 18-yard touchdown catch for a 21-7 Tigers' advantage 1:40 into the second quarter.
Allen got the Razorbacks right back in it, though, going 4-for-4 on a 6-play, 75-yard sequence the quarterback finished with a well-placed 17-yard touchdown pass to Derby.
After Auburn had a rare three-and-out on its next drive, Arkansas' offense continued to move the ball at will. The Razorbacks churned out 93 yards in 10 plays, with Allen keeping the chains moving with a 14-yard delivery to Demetrius Wilson on third down that was followed by an 18-yard catch by Derby into the red zone. Jonathan Williams capped the march with a 6-yard run that forged a 21-21 tie with 4:28 left in the half.Game Notes
Auburn cornerback Jonathan Mincy also did not start the game due to a
suspension for a marijuana citation ... Grant added 87 yards on 10 carries ...
Fourteen of the last 18 games of the series have been decided by 17 or more
points, including Auburn's 35-17 win in Fayetteville last season ... Bielema
was handed his first loss in nine season-opening games as a head coach, while
the Razorbacks had won seven straight lid-lifters coming in ... Arkansas
hadn't opened a season with a league game since facing Texas in a Southwest
Conference clash in 1980.