Lester starts game
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Auburn running back Brad Lester started Saturdayís game at Arkansas.
Coaches said earlier this week that Lester would have to win his starting job back from sophomore Ben Tate. Lester ended a six-game suspension last week when he ran for 77 yards and scored twice against Vanderbilt in a backup role to Tate.
Tate started Auburnís first six games of the season, averaging 82 yards rushing an outing. Freshman running back Mario Fannin got a carry before Tate. Tate got his first carry on Auburnís third drive of the game.
The start was Lesterís fourth of his career. The junior was expected to start this season, but a day before the season-opener, he was suspended for lingering academic issues. He also was suspended for Januaryís Cotton Bowl.
Lester got 15 carries in the first half, while Tate had four and Fannin two. The trio combined for 81 yards in the opening two quarters.
Bosley, Blackmon start
Two of Auburnís five injured players started in Saturdayís game.
Center Jason Bosley (knee) and Tray Blackmon (ankle) started, while defensive end Quentin Groves (toes) and linebacker Merrill Johnson (ankle) were dressed out. Safety Aairon Savage (knee) was the lone starter who did not dress out.
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said Wednesday, ďIt doesnít look like weíll get any of those guys back.Ē
Bosley sprained his knee in the second quarter last week in the win over Vanderbilt. Blackmon returned to the lineup in Auburnís win over Florida, playing 26 snaps, but did not dress out last week.
He twisted his ankle in the season-opener.
Savage, who battled an ankle injury early in the season, twisted his knee in the Florida game.
AUís go-to receiver
Receiver Rod Smith seems to be Auburnís go-to receiver. He led receivers with three catches for 11 yards at halftime.
After a slow start, Smith has caught 16 passes for 289 yards over the last four games.
Burns on bench
Arkansas native Kodi Burns did not play a down in the first half against the team he almost joined. A true freshman quarterback at Auburn, Burns chose the Tigers over Arkansas last winter.
After quarterback Brandon Cox tossed six interceptions in the opening three games, Burns replaced the senior, starting against New Mexico State. But Cox won the starting gig back with a good outing off the bench against the Aggies.
Burns has been used sparingly since, coming off the bench and running a predictable quarterback keeper or an option play. Cox completed 7 of 13 passes for 39 yards in his sloppiest outing since the Mississippi State game when he tossed two interceptions in his first two attempts.
Arkansas came into Saturdayís game with a new strategy against the Tigers: pass the ball. The Razorbacks threw the ball just 10 times in last seasonís 27-10 upset over second-ranked Auburn, but Razorbacks quarterback Casey Dick completed 6 of his 11 attempts for 73 yards in the first half and thatís with two drops by Arkansas receivers.
Arkansasí passing offense entered Saturdayís game ranked 105th in the nation, averaging 169 yards a game. The Razorbacks average about 24 attempts a game.
Avoiding the issue
A lack of scoring in the first half meant a lack of kickoffs, which was a good thing for Auburn.
The Tigers kickoff coverage team has struggled, ranking 64th in the nation, while Arkansasí kickoff return squad ranked 10th in the country, led by running back Felix Jones.
Jones came into the game ranked fourth in the nation, averaging 34 yards a return, but the Tigers only kicked off once and the boot was returned by Darren McFadden, who picked up 29 yards.
Auburn entered Saturdayís game having six scoring drives of at least nine plays over the first half of the season. The Tigers continued that trend, marching 61 yards on 14 plays to open the game.
Wes Byrumís 22-yard field goal capped the drive to give Auburn a 3-0 lead. It was the only points of the first half.
Herring travels to game
Auburn freshman Adam Herring was allowed to travel with the team to Arkansas, although he most likely is headed for a redshirt season.
Herringís father, Reggie Herring, is Arkansasí defensive coordinator.
Herring is a native of Springdale, Ark., just a half-hour drive north of Fayetteville.
Grading the Tigers
Decatur Daily Sports Writer Ross Dellenger grades Auburnís performance in Saturdayís 9-7 win over Arkansas, giving the Tigers a letter grade from A+ to F in four categories.
The Tigersí offense has looked better than it did Saturday. Besides the first and last possessions of the game, Auburn struggled to move the ball against the 46th-ranked defense in the nation.
Itís difficult to give this defense anything else but an ďAĒ for a stunning performance, shutting down Arkansasí tailback duo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
Although place-kicker Wes Byrum missed two field goals, he made the one that counted. He made a couple of others, too, that helped lift Auburn.
THE BIG PICTURE:B
After starting 1-2, the Tigers find themselves back in the SEC Western Division race. An improving offense and a stifling defense has them tied atop the SECWesternDivision standings with four games to go.
Best and worst
Best pregame intro: Arkansasí cheerleaders entered the field on a trailer pulled by a pickup. The trailer had two levels. The cheerleaders rode on top, while Arkansasí real hog mascot, Tusk, housed the bottom level, milling around in hay. The trailer drove around the outskirts of the field before unloading.
Best bounce: Arkansas punt returner Jerell Norton muffed a punt in the second quarter. The punt bounced off his chest and then hopped right back into his arms as he fell to the grass.
Best way to show that your offensive line is better: Brandon Cox snuck over center to convert a fourth-and-one from the Arkansas 31-yard line midway through the second quarter. Now thatís saying something.
Worst seats in the house: Aluminum bleachers sit about 200 feet atop Razorback Stadiumís North end zone. The dubious-looking bleachers are actually built on top of the stadium.
Worst way to encourage your team: The Arkansas faithful didnít wait long to boo their team. With more than 11 minutes left in the second quarter, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt called a run play on a third-and-long. Arkansas fans showed their lack of approval for the call by booing loudly.
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