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Arkansas edges out Auburn 54-46 in ‘crazy’ four overtime game Saturday

MICHAEL NIZIOLEK

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn quarterback Sean White looks to pass during Saturday's game.
Wade Rackley/Auburn University
Auburn quarterback Sean White looks to pass during Saturday's game. Wade Rackley/Auburn University

Auburn twice had chances to stop Arkansas on fourth downs during overtime, but the Tigers couldn’t come up with the big play and lost 54-46 in four overtimes on Saturday afternoon.

After Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson forced overtime with four seconds left on the clock, the Tigers led in overtime on two separate occasions, but their defense couldn’t keep Arkansas out of the end zone.

The Razorbacks prevailed thanks to a 25-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Allen to Drew Morgan on the opening play of the fourth overtime.

“The momentum shifted a whole lot in this game,” Auburn linebacker Kris Frost said. “It was a constant ebb and flow. This game was crazy. We just had to come up with some more big plays toward the end as a defense, and we didn’t.”

Morgan and Allen also connected for a 6-yard score in the first overtime facing a fourth-and-3.

Kody Walker rushed for Arkansas’ other two overtime touchdowns. His touchdown run in the third overtime came on a fourth down attempt at the 4-yard line.

“We had a couple chances in overtime, there were some good things that happen, but we didn’t make a play when we needed to,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “You have to give them credit, the pressure was on them two, three, four times.”

Auburn relied on Peyton Barber in overtime to get them out of Reynolds Razorback Stadium with a win, and he almost made it happened.

Barber had three of his four touchdowns after regulation, and touched the ball 11 times in 15 plays through the first three overtime periods.

The sophomore immediately put the pressure on Arkansas in the first overtime by going 25 yards to the end zone on three plays. He scored the touchdown on a 2-yard run to make it 31-24.

“Our offensive line just kept pushing, I don’t know if they (Arkansas) got tired, but they got that fire in their eyes,” White said. “In the first couple overtimes, we were just pounding them.

The offensive line was just beating them off the ball, and Peyton was running hard.”

Barber scored from 1 yard out in the third overtime, and White hit Melvin Ray for a 2-point conversion to put the Tigers up 46-38. In the fourth overtime, White hit an open Ricardo Louis in the end zone on second down, but the senior dropped the ball.

 It was his third drop of the game, and team’s seventh overall.

The game ended when Josh Liddell broke up a pass attempt to Louis on fourth down.

While White took a backseat in overtime, he orchestrated a 67-yard drive at the end of regulation to force overtime. He completed three passes to Louis on the drive, two of them for 20 yards or more to set up Carlson’s field goal.

“It was big, a little over a minute with no timeouts, we know we needed the field goal,” White said. “Daniel Carlson just told me get within 60 yards, and I’ll make the field goal.”

Arkansas used a field goal of its own, a 35-yard field goal from Cole Hedlund, to jump in front 24-21 with 1:07 left in the game.

Quarterback Brandon Allen and running back Alex Collins made key plays on their team’s final fourth-quarter drive. Allen converted a third-and-3 on a quarterback keeper, and Collins turned a short screen pass into a 22-yard gain inside Auburn’s 30-yard line.

Auburn needed plays from some unlikely heroes to even have a chance in the fourth quarter.

Fullback Kamryn Pettway’s first catch of his career came at exactly the right time with the Tigers backed up on their side of the field. He caught a short pass in the flat but turned it into a 12-yard gain by lowering his shoulder and going through multiple defenders.

After White hit Melvin Ray and Louis for first downs on back-to-back throws to get Auburn to midfield, he completed a 46-yard bomb to Jason Smith to get the offense down to Arkansas’ 6-yard line.

Smith came into the game with only five catches on the season.

On fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line, starter turned backup Jeremy Johnson came out under center, and ran the ball in the end zone on a sneak to tie the game 21-21 with 6:54 to go.

It was Auburn’s second drive of 90-plus yards in the game, a surprising stat considering how the Tigers spent the majority of the first half in a funk falling behind 14-0.

The scoreboard told the story with a graphic showing Arkansas outgaining the Tigers in total yards 213 to 16 inside of seven minutes to go in the second quarter.

Arkansas looked ready to add to its lead after a third straight three-and-out for Auburn’s offense, and a short 26-yard punt, but a timely interception by Frost provided the Tigers with a spark.

Devaroe Lawrence played a key role in setting up the turnover by pressuring Allen on the play. Allen launched a pass up for grabs in the middle of the field as Lawrence brought him to the ground.

Frost was in position at Arkansas’ 4-yard line for his second career interception.

On the ensuing drive, Auburn put together a 16-play, 96-yard drive. The Tigers needed to convert a pair of third down attempts, and a fourth-and-2 to get on the board.

Kerryon Johnson went for 19 yards on the fourth down play out of the wildcat. He hurdled a defender in space to get down inside the 20-yard line on what was his longest run of the season.

“I saw it was me and the corner, I didn’t feel the safety that close to me and I figured what better move to use to get past somebody than jumping over them,” Johnson said. “I’m lucky I pulled it off, and didn’t come down wrong. I was just trying to get in the end zone.”

In the red zone, White hit Gray King for a 9-yard gain on a third-and-7 to set up a 1-yard touchdown run from Barber.

White was knocked down multiple times on the drive but made key throws to keep Auburn moving forward.

His longest completion on the drive was a 19-yard throw to Ray that pushed Auburn across midfield.

The momentum carried over into the second half when Auburn received the opening kickoff.

It went right back down the field on a 75-yard scoring drive that ended with Smith tying the game 14-14 on a 9-yard touchdown run. White was perfect on the drive going 4 of 4 for 54 yards with two of his completions helping the Tigers convert long third downs.

Arkansas regained the lead at the end of the third quarter behind a 7-yard rushing touchdown from Alex Collins. Collins carried the ball four times on the drive for 21 yards.

The score came shortly after a scary moment involving Arkansas backup running back Rawleigh Williams III, who laid motionless on the field from a hard hit by Rudy Ford on a 1-yard gain.

Frost was called for a facemask penalty on the play that Williams suffered his injury. There was a 15-minute delay as trainers worked to immobilize the freshman on the field.

During the fourth quarter, Arkansas revealed Williams suffered a neck injury but was moving all of his extremities. He was at a local hospital under observation with his family.

The back-and-forth second half was quite the turnaround from a first half that mainly consisted of Arkansas adding to its season highlight reel.

Allen didn’t even wait for late-arriving fans to find their seats before leading the Razorbacks’ offense down the field for a score.

He completed his first three passes for 52 yards, including a pair of long throws to tight end Hunter Henry, to get Arkansas inside the 15-yard line where Dominique Reed scored on an 11-yard run less than four minutes into the game.

The 75-yard drive lasted all of seven plays with Arkansas jumping out to a 7-0 lead.

Auburn’s first drive was much less impressive.

While Malzahn tried to maintain the aggressive play-calling he used last week against Kentucky, he ended up with little to show for it.

Malzahn let White sling it around out of the shotgun. The redshirt freshman looked comfortable zipping balls accurately down field, but Auburn’s receivers dropped three passes.

A personal foul on Arkansas helped get Auburn past midfield, but the Tigers couldn’t take advantage of the penalty.

Ray dropped a pass thrown right at his chest that would have given the Tigers a first down conversion third-and-seven at the Razorbacks’ 40-yard line.

Louis, who had the best game of his career last week, accounted for the other two drops on the offense’s first drive.

Arkansas dominated the first quarter statistically going for 146 yards, and holding on to the ball for 11-plus minutes. The Tigers only ran 15 yards in the quarter, averaging 1.9 yards per play.

“I think we had like 3-run yards after two drives, that’s just unacceptable from us running backs,” Johnson said.

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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