Oct. 13, 2007
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Wes Byrum kicked Auburn right back into the Southeastern Conference title race.
Byrum's 20-yard field goal with 21 seconds remaining gave the No. 22 Tigers a 9-7 victory over Arkansas on Saturday night. It was Byrum's second game-winner in three weeks. The freshman also beat Florida with a 43-yarder as time expired.
"If we feel we can play and win on field goals, we'll play like that on offense," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We can open it up and do some different things, but tonight was one of those where we just wanted to have a few more points than they did."
The Tigers (5-2, 3-1) held Darren McFadden to 43 yards rushing and are now tied for first in the SEC West with LSU and Alabama. Auburn is at LSU next weekend.
Auburn appeared to be in big trouble last month after losses to South Florida and Mississippi State. The Tigers have won four straight since, with Byrum playing a major role. Against Arkansas, he missed two kicks but had a chance to redeem himself.
"I knew I just needed to put myself out of the hole that I dug myself into," Byrum said. "I'm relieved that I did it, but it should have never came down to that."
Arkansas (3-3, 0-3) took a 7-6 lead with 1:36 remaining on Casey Dick's 13-yard touchdown pass to Lucas Miller, but the celebration was brief for the home crowd. The ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, and after the Razorbacks kicked again, Brad Lester returned the ball to the Auburn 47.
The Tigers moved into field goal range on a 30-yard catch-and-run by Robert Dunn to the Arkansas 12.
For a while, it appeared Byrum's foot might account for all the scoring. He kicked a 22-yard field goal in the first quarter and a 38-yarder early in the fourth. He missed from 36 on the final play of the third quarter and from 46 with 4:19 to play.
The second miss led to Arkansas' touchdown. The Razorbacks pulled out all the stops on a 71-yard drive -- both McFadden and wide receiver Robert Johnson threw passes on the possession. The Razorbacks finally went ahead when Dick found Miller on a fade route toward the front of the end zone.
But Lester's 22-yard kick return gave Auburn good field position, and Brandon Cox found Dunn for the longest offensive play by either team. Cox finished 13-of-23 for 101 yards. Ben Tate ran for 91 yards, and Lester added 89 for the Tigers.
Auburn held Arkansas' vaunted running game to 67 yards. The Razorbacks had been averaging 338. McFadden plodded toward Arkansas' career rushing record, finally surpassing Ben Cowins' mark of 3,570 yards in the third quarter. Last year's Heisman Trophy runnerup was held under 100 yards for the first time this season.
"I know this one game doesn't make him any less of a running back," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "He's still a special player."
Nutt has been under increasing pressure around Arkansas -- planes have been spotted towing anti-Nutt banners before the last two games.
"I'm real proud of our defense," Nutt said. "They played like warriors and they kept the offense out of the end zone. You can't ask for anything more."
Byrum opened the scoring on the game's first possession. That drive was aided by a personal foul penalty on Arkansas' Matterral Richardson. The Razorbacks committed 10 penalties for 100 yards.
Arkansas committed two more personal fouls on an Auburn drive in the third quarter. The first was on Matt Hewitt for roughing the passer. Hewitt's hit momentarily knocked Cox out of the game.
Hewitt redeemed himself later in the drive when he recovered Lester's fumble on the Arkansas 6.
Auburn has excelled on the road and won its 15th straight while wearing all-white uniforms. LSU will no doubt be ready next weekend after losing to Kentucky on Saturday, but if Auburn wins that one, Tuberville's team could be favored to go to the SEC title game in Atlanta.
"With this road schedule we've had, it was not looking good a couple of weeks ago," Tuberville said. "I don't know if we are good enough to get to Atlanta or win in Atlanta, but the good thing is we are getting better."