Mason lifts No. 8 Auburn over Arkansas 35-17
Gus Malzahn did his best to hide any emotion about his return
home, referring to it as ”a business trip.”
Tre Mason made sure No. 8 Auburn handled its business for its
first-year coach on Saturday, rushing for four touchdowns as the
Tigers (8-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) rolled to a 35-17 win
For the Tigers, the win was their fifth straight, another
shining moment in what’s been a remarkable turnaround season
following last year’s 3-9 disaster.
For Malzahn, it was a signature moment in a career born and
largely bred as a high school coach in Arkansas. It came in front
of a large group of friends and family, and it came at the expense
of the school the Fort Smith, Ark., native once briefly suited up
for as a walk-on and later served as its offensive coordinator.
”Just to be completely honest, it’s just about getting our
eighth win,” Malzahn said. ”I’ve got a lot of friends, a lot of
family and this is a special place, but you separate that and
you’ve got a job to do.
”I’m very proud of our team coming in here and getting the
The win for Auburn came largely behind the running of Mason, who
finished with 168 yards rushing and sent the reeling Razorbacks
(3-6, 0-5) to their sixth straight loss.
It’s the longest losing streak for Arkansas since a seven-game
stretch in 1990, and it extended the longest losing streak of
first-year coach Bret Bielema’s career as a head coach.
Jonathan Williams had 104 yards rushing and Alex Collins add 92
on the ground for the Razorbacks, who were unable to overcome three
turnovers and an early injury to quarterback Brandon Allen that led
to backup AJ Derby briefly playing – resulting in two
”It’s frustrating for me as a head coach, as an assistant, a
player, a parent, an administrator, alumni and fan,” Bielema said.
”I get it; I understand it.
”… I know where we need to be. We are not there yet.”
While Mason stole the spotlight on the field with touchdown runs
of 9, 4, 5 and 12 yards, it was the two coaches whose budding
rivalry served as the primary story line entering the game – and
even at parts during it.
The two engaged in a bit of back and forth regarding player
safety in a hurry-up offense this summer, and Bielema stoked the
fire earlier this week by accusing Auburn of being less-than
forthcoming in game video it shared with the Razorbacks.
Bielema and Malzahn briefly shook hands before the game, but it
was Mason who quickly turned into the center of attention – leading
a Tigers’ offense that finished with 233 yards rushing.
Mason’s third touchdown put Auburn up 28-3 to open the second
half, helping secure Malzahn’s first win in four tries at Arkansas.
The former high school coach in the state was 0-3 in Fayetteville
as an opposing assistant coach with Tulsa and the Tigers, but he
left with a convincing win after his first trip home as a head
Auburn’s Nick Marshall, returning from a shoulder injury,
accounted for 177 yards of total offense, including an 88-yard
touchdown throw to Sammie Coates.
”Coming back to this state, it was going to be big for
(Malzahn),” Coates said. ”He was looking forward … So it was
big for us to come out here and do this for coach Malzahn.
”He’s a great coach. We play for him and paly for each other
The Tigers were 3-9 last season under former coach Gene Chizik,
but they’ve found renewed belief under Malzahn.
Arkansas, meanwhile, has struggled mightily under its first-year
coach, falling to 0-5 in the SEC for just the second time since
joining the conference in 1992. The Razorbacks have lost six games
in a row – lately in convincing fashion.
Zach Hocker’s 34-yard field goal in the second quarter closed
Auburn’s lead to 7-3, and it was Arkansas’ first points since the
opening quarter against South Carolina on Oct. 12. The points
snapped a streak in which the Razorbacks had been outscored
The Razorbacks did close to within 28-17 early in the fourth
quarter after a 2-yard touchdown run by Kiero Small, but even the
rally wasn’t without a show of gamesmanship by Bielema , who said
the Tigers had cut out the swinging gate portion of a point-after
attempt on the shared video.
Small’s touchdown came after Arkansas converted a fourth down,
using a play in which the Razorbacks lined up for the first time
this season in a swinging gate formation.
Even the subtle shot across the field wasn’t enough for Arkansas
to overcome Mason, who responded shortly afterward with his fourth
touchdown run, a 12-yard score that put the Tigers up 35-17.
”You guys read too much into that,” Bielema said.
Regardless if the call was a shot at Malzahn or not, the
Arkansas native continued to downplay any rivalry between himself
and Bielema after the game. He was more focused on how far Auburn
has come this season, and where it’s headed.
”We just feel very blessed to be 8-1,” Malzahn said. ”Just
proud of this team; they’ve come a long way and just need to keep