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Auburn football fans greet their team moments after the Tigers edged Arkansas 9-7 in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday night.
AP photo by Danny Johnston
Auburn football fans greet their team moments after the Tigers edged Arkansas 9-7 in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday night.

Tigers
get their kicks

Freshman’s 3 field goals, tough defense a winning formula for AU

By Ross Dellenger
sports@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Once again, Wes Byrum stunned a visiting crowd.

Auburn’s true freshman kicker made his second game-winning field goal in nearly as many weeks, hitting a 20-yarder with 21 seconds left to give No. 22 Auburn a 9-7 win over Arkansas.

Byrum made a 43-yard game-winning field goal against then-No. 4 Florida on Sept. 30 that started the Tigers’ hot streak. After beginning the season 1-2, Auburn (5-2) has reeled off four straight victories to move into a tie atop the SEC Western Division.

“We’ve got a good football team,” Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said afterward. “I don’t know if we’re good enough yet to get to Atlanta or win in Atlanta.”

Auburn wide receiver Rod Smith, left, can’t get away from Arkansas defender Michael Grant in the first quarter of Auburn’s 9-7 win in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday night.
AP photo by Danny Johnston
Auburn wide receiver Rod Smith, left, can’t get away from Arkansas defender Michael Grant in the first quarter of Auburn’s 9-7 win in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday night.
An image familiar to Gator fans, Byrum, responsible for all of Auburn’s points, pumped his fist and raced toward the visiting sideline as his kick split the uprights. Players stormed the East corner of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, leaping into the awaiting arms of a gang of Auburn faithful.

The boisterous orange-clad fans began chanting “LSU, LSU, LSU.” The Tigers travel to Baton Rouge, La., to take on Louisiana State next week in a game that could decide who goes to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.

With LSU’s loss to Kentucky on Saturday, Auburn, LSU and Alabama are tied for the lead in the SEC West with 3-1 division records.

“We’ll have a huge challenge next week,” Tuberville said. “I know those boys down in Baton Rouge are going to be awfully mad after what happened to them today.”

The Razorbacks (3-3) nearly pulled off an improbable comeback. Trailing 6-0, Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick hit receiver Lucas Miller from 13 yards out with 1:36 remaining to tie the game at 6.

Alex Tejada’s extra point was good, and Arkansas had its first lead of the game.

Arkansas’ ensuing kickoff sailed out of bounds. After a 5-yard penalty was tacked on, the Razorbacks re-kicked into the awaiting arms of running back Brad Lester, who returned the kick to the Auburn 46-yard line.

The Tigers started their final drive with 1:28 left.

Cox hit receiver Robert Dunn for a 30-yard gain down to the Arkansas 12 with fewer than 40 seconds to go. Three plays later, Tuberville sent Byrum onto the field for the fifth time. Before making the game-winner, the 18-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., had missed twice and made a pair.

“Offensively, we struggled,” said Cox, who finished 13-of-23 passing for 101 yards. “We moved the ball well, but we didn’t finish. There at the end, we picked it up and made something happen.”

The Tigers’ offense found themselves deep in Razorback territory four times, but never got into the end zone, settling for a Byrum miss or make and then turning it over once. Byrum, who is now 11-of-15 for the season, capped an opening 14-play drive with a 22-yard field goal.

Auburn threw away a scoring opportunity in the third quarter, when Lester fumbled inside the Arkansas 10-yard line. Lester, who ended a six-game suspension last week, started for the Tigers, finishing with 89 yards on 21 carries.

Auburn senior quarterback Brandon Cox’s numbers weren’t great,  but he led Auburn on three-scoring drives.
AP photo by Todd Van Emst
Auburn senior quarterback Brandon Cox’s numbers weren’t great, but he led Auburn on three-scoring drives.
Auburn wasted another scoring opportunity late in the third quarter when Byrum missed from 36.

Ben Tate had six straight carries early in the fourth quarter to move the Tigers into Arkansas territory again, but Cox’s third-down pass fell incomplete, forcing Byrum to come out again. He drilled a 38-yarder to make the lead 6-0 with 10:11 left.

Auburn forced a three-and-out on Arkansas’ next possession.

The Tigers again moved down the field on a string of carries by Tate, but again they were stopped on third down. Byrum’s 46-yard attempt never came close, gliding well right with 4:19 to go.

Arkansas took over and marched down field for its only score of the game.

“I thought that would be enough to win the game,” said Nutt, whose team fell to 0-3 in the SEC.

Arkansas came into the game with the eighth-ranked offense in the nation, averaging more than 500 yards a contest. They finished with 193 total yards.

Running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, who came in averaging a combined 280 rushing yards a game, left the stadium with just 95 yards. McFadden had 43 in the first game this year in which he was held below 100.

“Defensively, we can’t get much better than we did against Florida on the road and Arkansas on the road,” Tuberville said.

After Byrum’s field goal, Arkansas began its final drive at its own 32-yard line with 15 seconds remaining. Dick heaved a pass into the air on second down. It was tipped at the Auburn 35-yard-line and intercepted by Decatur High grad Jerraud Powers.

But with the win came more bad injury news for Auburn.

With a little more than six minutes left in the third quarter, starting left tackle Ryan Pugh went down, clutching his ankle.

He laid on the field for several minutes as Auburn’s offense gathered for a prayer.

Pugh hobbled onto a medical cart, giving a thumbs up to the Auburn sideline as he rode away. Later, it was announced that Pugh sprained his left ankle. He did not return to the game.

Tuberville characterized Pugh’s injury after the game as a “bad bruise on his shin.”

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