Amidst a weekend of chaos in the SEC, the #13 Auburn Tigers (2-1) picked up an important win against a resurgent Arkansas Razorbacks (1-2) team. But it was one that was shrouded in controversy at the end.
With half of a minute to go and Arkansas leading the Tigers 28-27, Auburn signal-caller Bo Nix attempted to spike the ball deep in Arkansas territory. Nix however, fumbled the snap, and in his panic picked up the ball and spiked it backwards. What seemed like an obvious fumble went unnoticed by the referees, who called Nix for intentional grounding, as a spike after a botched snap is illegal.
The play went to review and, for dubious reasons later stated by the SEC, was upheld. A play that should have ended up sealing the win for Arkansas ended up leading to just a loss of down for Auburn. On the next play, kicker Anders Carlson, redeemed an earlier miss with a 39-yard field goal to give Auburn the win.
In the early goings of the game, it didn’t look like Auburn would need a last-second kick to win, as the Tigers jumped out to a 17-0 lead behind a blocked punt TD and strong running from Nix(17/28, 178 yards/1 TD) and Tank Bigsby, who finished with 146 yards on 20 carriers in the pouring rain. Auburn did most of its damage on the ground, running for 259 yards as a team, as Bigsby and D.J Williams both averaged over 7 yards a carry for the game.
While Nix struggled to move the ball through the air in the tough conditions, Arkansas fans finally got to see the version of Feleipe Franks they had hoped would show up in Fayetteville. Despite the early hole, Franks(22/30, 318 yards/4 TDs) led the Razorbacks on back to back TD drives, showing off the skills that earned him the starting job at Florida once upon a time. Franks finished off the drives with TD passes to his two favorite receivers, De’Vion Warren(5 rec/95 yards, 2 TD) and Mike Woods(6 rec/81 yards/1 TD) but a missed XP and failed 2-pt conversion meant a 20-12 halftime deficit.
The teams went back in forth the 2nd half, Arkansas drawing to within 2 after a Franks pass to Trelon Smith and another failed 2-pt attempt, and Auburn answering back with an impressive Anthony Schwartz catch-and-run TD to make it 27-18. Schwartz accounted for a majority of Auburn’s receiving yards, hauling in 10 passes for 100 yards with the 1 score. Seth Williams, who caught 3 passes for 70 yards, was the only other non-running back to catch a pass for Auburn.
Arkansas would rally to take the lead after a field goal and Warren’s 2nd TD catch of the day, which was a 30-yard pass that immediately followed a clutch 4th down conversion from Franks to Mike Woods. On the next drive, Carlson would miss a 34-yard attempt with 2:36. Arkansas was unable to get a 1st down however, and Auburn would get the ball back quickly to set up the final drive of the game.
Despite the tough circumstances of their loss, there is no time to rest for Arkansas, as they have to prepare for a shootout with Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss, while Auburn travels for a matchup with South Carolina.