Arkansas quiets Auburn in second half
Tyler Wilson continued his ascent into the ranks of college football's best on Saturday night.
The Arkansas quarterback completed 19 straight passes at one point, throwing for 262 yards and accounting for three touchdowns as the No. 10 Razorbacks pulled away in the second half for a 38-14 win over No. 15 Auburn.
Wilson, who spent the last two seasons backing up Ryan Mallett, now with the New England Patriots, threw for a school-record 510 yards last week in a come-from-behind win over Texas A&M. Against the Tigers, the junior finished the first half with 18 straight completions in leading Arkansas (5-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) back from a pair of early deficits.
It was against Auburn last year that Wilson had his first breakout performance, throwing for 332 yards and four touchdowns in three quarters in place of an injured Mallett. That game ended with a fourth-quarter comeback win by the Tigers.
There was no such comeback this time around.
''Obviously, it feels good to win your first SEC game, and yeah, a little bit of revenge,'' Wilson said. ''I don't hold it against them. I felt it was more me than them down there last year, but absolutely happy.''
Wilson threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as the Razorbacks earned their first SEC win of the season, two weeks after being on the receiving end of a 38-14 dismantling at the hands of No. 2 Alabama. His completion streak is the third longest in conference history, behind the mark of 24 by Tennessee's Tee Martin in 1998 and 20 by Mississippi's Kent Austin in 1982.
''It's something we really needed,'' Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. ''We got in a good rhythm, and he did a nice job of getting his feet set and understanding what they were trying to do coverage-wise in the first half.
''I thought our receivers really made a lot of good plays for him and we protected better.''
While Wilson has provided a seamless transition in the post-Mallett era for Arkansas, the same can't be said for the defending national champions.
Auburn (4-2, 2-1) nearly equaled the Razorbacks in total yardage on Saturday (438-395), but starting quarterback Barrett Trotter struggled mightily in the passing game - finishing 6 of 19 passing for 81 yards. The Tigers finished with a total of only 104 passing yards and three interceptions.
Freshman Kiehl Frazier did provide the Tigers a lift at quarterback, but most of his impact came as part of a run game featured 112 yards from Michael Dyer - only 31 after the first quarter - and finished with 291 total yards.
''I think it was pretty obvious what happened tonight,'' Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. ''We did all the classic things that you cannot do to win games on the road. Offensively, we turned the ball over three times. Against a good football team on the road, that certainly is not going to get you wins.''
Frazier had 54 of those rushing yards in limited action, including a 7-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. However, he also threw a pair of second-half interceptions for an Auburn team playing without leading receiver Emory Blake.
Still, his performance was likely enough to continue the clamor from Auburn fans for the freshman to see more time at quarterback.
Arkansas, on the other hands, has no such questions.
After the Razorbacks failed to score in its first two possessions, Wilson led Arkansas on an 8-play, 71-yard touchdown drive to tie it at 7-7. He set up Broderick Green's 6-yard scoring run with consecutive completions of 24 and 22 yards to Dennis Johnson and Joe Adams, respectively.
Wilson later ran for a 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal to tie the game at 14-14. He then capped the first-half scoring with a perfectly thrown pass over Auburn cornerback T'Sharvan Bell and into the hands of Wright to put the Razorbacks up 21-14.
Tramain Thomas had two of Arkansas' three interceptions, helping the Razorbacks hold the Tigers scoreless in the second half. Senior linebacker Jerry Franklin led Arkansas with 15 tackles, while Alonzo Highsmith added 12 and Jerico Nelson 10.
Adams led the Razorbacks in rushing with all of his 92 yards on a touchdown run on Arkansas' first play of the second half. The senior took a pitch from Wilson before hurdling one Auburn defender, finding his way behind the block of tight end Chris Gragg and then exploding down the left sideline to put the Razorbacks up 28-14.
''They blitzed from the opposite side, so it worked out perfect,'' Petrino said. ''It was kind of a play that was good against the blitz, and Joe made a great run.''
Dennis Johnson, who had 97 yards of total offense - 49 receiving and 48 rushing - scored Arkansas' final touchdown on an 18-yard pass from Wilson in the fourth quarter.