Following a heartbreaking loss in Death Valley, Auburn bounced back Saturday night in Fayetteville, dominating the Razorbacks 52-20 to improve to 6-2 on the season and 4-1 in the SEC.
After a week in which Gus Malzahn and the offensive play calling was under fire, the Tigers offense put up more than 600 yards of total offense in a game that was never in question.
Let’s hand out some grades:
Starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham was sloppy at times against Arkansas. He missed some easy throws and threw one interception on an out-route that was intended for Will Hastings, but did enough to get the win. The sophomore finished 19-of-28 for 218 yards and rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown.
Malik Willis, the second-string freshman quarterback, rushed for 62 yards on two carries and completed his only attempt for four yards.
Ryan Davis, the third-string quarterback and starting wide receiver, was 1 for 1 passing for 62 yards, and had the throw of the night on a trick play to Darius Slayton that went for a touchdown.
Running backs: A
Auburn’s backfield finally showed everyone the one-two punch they are capable of. Both Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway were worthy of game balls Saturday night. The Huntsville native rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, and continued to come through on third-and-short situations. Pettway had his best game of the season rushing for 90 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries. Freshman Devan Barrett also scored his first career touchdown.
Wide receivers: B
Darius Slayton led the team with four receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown, despite dropping what would have been a touchdown in the first quarter. Nate Craig-Myers caught one pass in the first quarter that went for 26 yards, but wasn’t targeted again the rest of the game. Ryan Davis completed a 62-yard touchdown pass to Slayton and had a game-high eight receptions for 63 yards.
Offensive line: A
You can’t complain when your offense totals 629 yards of total offense, 345 of which came on the ground. The O-line created running lanes for Johnson and Pettway all night, despite not having Casey Dunn and losing Darius James with a leg injury midway through the game. The pass protection was also there as the Arkansas defensive line struggled to get any pressure on Stidham.
Defensive line/ Linebackers: A
Arkansas’ offensive line, on the other hand, was no match for Auburn’s front four. The O-line had four holding penalties and the Razorback’s quarterback Cole Kelley was harassed the whole game, and sacked six times. Jeff Holland was the star of the night for the Auburn defense. Holland had three tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. The junior now has 8.0 sacks on the season, which leads the conference. Andrew Williams also added his first sack of the season. New boys T.D. Moultry, Big Kat Bryant and Nick Coe all performed well in their first visit to Fayetteville.
Defensive backs: B-
Overall, Auburn’s secondary was average, it was overshadowed by the Tiger pass rush. Arkansas threw for 163 yards, most of which came with the second team defense in the game. Before the starters were pulled, the Razorbacks only managed six points. Stephen Roberts and Daniel Thomas didn’t look great, but were efficient enough in place of injured starter Tray Matthews. Jeremiah Dinson added one sack before leaving the game with an injury.
Special teams: D
Daniel Carlson made one field goal from 21 yards out. The only other bright spot was Auburn’s punt team fumble recovery that gave Auburn the ball at the Arkansas 41-yard line with 5 minutes left in the first half. For the second straight week Auburn gave up a special teams touchdown. Last week it was the punt return at LSU, this week it was a 100-yard kickoff return. Inexcusable.