Toward the end of the third quarter, Auburn scored three touchdowns in about five minutes.
That wasn't enough to prevent a swift fall from the Top 25 — or to give coach Gene Chizik much solace.
The Tigers were held in check by an improving Arkansas defense, and their unbeaten run ended Saturday with a 44-23 loss to the Razorbacks. By Sunday afternoon, Auburn was unranked again after debuting at No. 17 in the previous poll.
"If we're looking for warm and fuzzies ... They didn't quit," Chizik said Sunday. "Nobody quit. Everybody kept playing but it was too little too late. To me, it was the classic, everything-included, you'll-never-win-a-game-on-the-road scenario. Every phase, penalties, turnovers. They didn't quit, we just did all the classic things that allow you to not win."
Michael Smith rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown, and Arkansas jumped out to a 34-3 third-quarter lead. The Tigers (5-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) responded with a three-touchdown flurry, but they were shut out in the fourth quarter as the Razorbacks (3-2, 1-2) held on.
Auburn came in averaging 41 points per game, but the Tigers didn't establish their running game until the second half. By then, they were way behind in large part because of two big turnovers.
Smith gave Arkansas a 13-0 lead with a 25-yard scoring run in the second quarter. Mario Fannin then fumbled away the kickoff, and Ryan Mallett threw a 16-yard pass to Greg Childs for the Razorbacks' second touchdown in 47 seconds.
It was 27-3 at halftime, and Auburn wasted a chance early in the third quarter when Ben Tate fumbled near the Arkansas goal line. The Razorbacks then drove 95 yards for a touchdown.
"They take the drive down there and fumble on the 3," Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said. "That's something they hadn't done before. They're so precise."
Auburn started clicking after that, rushing for 207 yards in the third quarter alone and pulling to 34-23. Dennis Johnson responded with a 70-yard kickoff return, and Broderick Green's 3-yard touchdown run made it 41-23 with 11:22 remaining in the game.
The Tigers didn't come close to scoring again. Quarterback Chris Todd fumbled on fourth-and-1 from the Auburn 32, and although he recovered, the play was as good as a turnover since it went for no gain. On the Tigers' next possession, Todd was sacked and fumbled, and the Razorbacks recovered.
"We had too many mistakes and came out flat," Todd said. "Across the board, myself included, there were times we needed to execute and we didn't do it. ... We had a little spurt there in the second half where we did some things. We just came up a little short."
Tate ran for 184 yards and two touchdowns, but the Tigers were playing from behind pretty much the whole game. The Razorbacks have scored 40 points four times in their second season under coach Bobby Petrino, and they could be dangerous if their defense can hold its own.
Mallett threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns, and Smith gave Arkansas plenty of balance with his best game of the season. The Razorbacks travel to play No. 1 Florida next weekend.
"We wanted to mix it up a little bit on offense," Petrino said. "I think we did that. It's the first time really all season that we've gotten the running game going the way we thought we could, and you could see the impact it had and how it opened things up down the field."
Chizik, meanwhile, called it "a total team loss" for the Tigers. He said he told the players two days before the game that he didn't like their focus in practice.
"We've said there's so much room for improvement needed for our football team to win tough conference games," Chizik said. "We didn't make any improvement Saturday — anywhere. We were just poor all the way around."
Source: AP News