Nov. 2, 2013
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema shake hands after Saturday's game (Todd Van Emst photo)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Redshirt freshman JaViere Mitchell didn't even expect to be in the game on defense, much less make two game-turning plays in Auburn's 35-17 victory over Arkansas at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Mitchell, a reserve linebacker, had been in on 11 tackles, most on special teams or in mopup duty, over the course of the season. But when Arkansas got a first down at Auburn's 4-yard line late in the second quarter, Mitchell got the call from defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson.
On first down, running back Alex Collins took a direct snap from center and gained 1 yard. On second down, quarterback Brandon Allen passed to Kiero Small, who was stopped at the 1 by cornerback Chris Davis. Then Mitchell took over.
On third down, he stopped running back Jonathan Williams for no gain. On fourth down, he nailed him for a 1-yard loss and Auburn took over and took a 14-3 lead to halftime.
"Our coaches made a decision to put me on the field," Mitchell said. "I'm grateful for that. I'm especially proud of my teammates for putting me in position to make that play. We are taught to look at our keys. One of our keys told me to go in that direction, and there the ball was."
After Arkansas cut a 7-0 Auburn led to 7-3 early in the second quarter, head coach Bret Bielema called for an onsides kick. It was Mitchell who corralled it and put Auburn in position to drive for its second touchdown.
"Our coaches teach us to watch the ball and to make sure we are prepared for anything," Mitchell said. "That's what I did. I watched the ball and reacted to it."
Swinging gate play swings Arkansas' way
Facing fourth-and-3 at the Auburn 9 in the final seconds of the third quarter, Arkansas turned to a Gus Malzahn play - the swinging gate. And it worked for a first down at the 2. That led to Arkansas' final touchdown.
No doubt, Bielema took some satisfaction in successfully executing the play. The swinging gate formation Auburn frequently uses on extra points was a source of controversy after Bielema said parts of it were not included on video provided to Arkansas.
Malzahn took it in good humor after the game.
"It was pretty good," Malzahn said. "I mean, I almost called time out and I was kind of kicking myself that I didn't call time out before. It was a well-executed play. They can run the football. I mean, they've got some good running backs, some good linemen."
Tigers take advantage of opportunities
Arkansas ran 74 plays to Auburn's 55 and had the ball for 34:14 to Auburn's 25:46. Those numbers probably kept the Tigers from putting even bigger numbers on the scoreboard.
"They definitely controlled the ball," Malzahn said. "They kept it away from our offense. That was tough. We were a little impatient there, but we were able to run the football."
Jeremy Johnson throws one strike
Freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson made good on his only pass Saturday, hitting Sammie Coates with a 15-yard strike on Auburn's third touchdown drive. Johnson played two plays before Marshall returned.
Marshall's pass to Coates longest of the season
Quarterback Nick Marshall's 88-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Coates in the third quarter was Auburn's longest of the season, the third longest in Auburn history and the longest since Cam Newton hit Emory Blake with a 94-yard pass against Louisiana-Monroe in 2010.
Coates broke the 100-yard barrier for the fourth time this season, three of those against SEC opponents.
Tennessee falls hard at Missouri
Tennessee, Auburn's opponent next Saturday, fell 31-3 at Missouri. The Vols lost their second consecutive road game. In their last home game, they stunned South Carolina 23-21.
Next Saturday's game at Neyland Stadium kicks off at 11 a.m. on ESPN.