September 23, 2018 / 3:19 AM / 22 days ago

Defense, special teams lead No. 9 Auburn over Arkansas

Another lackluster offensive performance by No. 9 Auburn was overshadowed by outstanding defense and special teams Saturday night, propelling the Tigers to a 34-3 victory over visiting Arkansas at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The Tigers blocked two punts, had two long punt returns, returned a fumble recovery to set up an easy field goal, and added a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Noah Igbinoghene in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, the defense dominated Arkansas (1-3, 0-1 SEC), holding the Razorbacks to 290 total yards and one field goal.

Arkansas’ defense kept the game reasonably close for a while, limiting the Tigers to 160 yards through the first three quarters before running out of gas.

Ryan Davis set the tone for Auburn (3-1, 1-1) early in the game when he returned an Arkansas punt 48 yards to the 27-yard line to set up Auburn’s first touchdown, a 5-yard run by JaTarvious “Boobie” Whitlow.

Igbinoghene forced a fumble, which safety Daniel Thomas scooped up and returned to the Arkansas 2. The offense couldn’t take advantage of the good fortune, but Anders Carlson added a chip shot field goal to make it 10-0.

Auburn’s second touchdown of the first half was set up by another big special teams play. Jordyn Peters, who earlier had partially blocked a punt, cleanly blocked another punt, and K.J. Britt returned it to the Arkansas 9. The offense still struggled, but a facemask penalty on third down gave Auburn a reprieve.

Quarterback Jarrett Stidham scored on a 4-yard run.

Auburn almost added more points near the end of the half, again without the aid of the offense. Javaris Davis intercepted Ty Storey’s pass and returned it 80 yards — weaving and darting and reversing his field once — for an apparent touchdown. But the score was nullified on an illegal block in the back penalty.

Even so, Auburn had to consider itself fortunate to be up 17-0 despite mustering only 135 yards of total offense, 42 of that coming on one pass play to Anthony Schwartz.

A curious decision by Auburn coach Gus Malzahn to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the 8-yard line backfired as Whitlow was stuffed for a loss of one.

—Field Level Media

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