Arkansas' losing streak extends to another week of SEC play.
Auburn junior running-back Tre Mason rushed for 170 yards and four touchdowns to lead the No. 8 Tigers (8-1, 4-1) to a 35-17 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks (3-6, 0-5) Saturday night at Razorback Stadium. The loss is Arkansas' fifth-straight against a ranked Southeastern Conference opponent and sixth-straight overall. No SEC school has played five-straight ranked opponents since the conference expanded in 1992.
"Give credit to Auburn, obviously a good football team," said Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema. "I know our guys have invested a lot the last couple weeks. I cannot argue with the way they prepared, their effort, their attitude."
Arkansas' run defense had no answer for the fast-attacking Auburn offense, led by Mason. The Hogs struggled with the Tigers zone-read offense.
"He is a good running-back, I do not take that away from him," said senior defensive-end Chris Smith. "Some of that was on us, not filling up the gaps."
Arkansas turned the ball over on its first two drives of the game. Back-up quarterback A.J. Derby threw an interception on his first play. He replaced starter Brandon Allen, who was carted off the field with a leg injury. He returned after the training staff stitched up a gash on his shin from where he was cleated. Auburn capitalized on one of those turnovers with a Mason nine-yard touchdown run.
Mason added another four-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers up 14-3.
Arkansas had a chance to cut the lead shortly before halftime. Auburn stuffed Arkansas running-back Jonathan Williams on a fourth-and-goal run at the one-yard line.
"It is a momentum thing," said Arkansas senior fullback Kiero Small. "If we go in and score, the momentum flows our way. They stopped us and the momentum went their way."
Mason started the scoring quickly in the third quarter with a five-yard touchdown run, finishing an 11-play, 65-yard Auburn drive. The Tigers then extended the lead on the next possession to 28-3 with a Nick Marshall 88-yard touchdown pass to receiver Sammie Coates.
Arkansas answered with 14-straight points. Allen found receiver Keon Hatcher for a 13-yard touchdown pass. Kiero Small then rushed for a two-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 28-17.
That momentum shifted back to Auburn. Malzahn''s fast offense struck again. Mason rushed for a 12-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 35-17. That ended the scoring.
"I thought (Texas) A&M was going to be the fastest, but I feel like it was the fastest game in my college career," said Smith. "I feel like the more stops we got, slowed it down."
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen finished 10-for-22 for 112 yards and one touchdown. Sophomore running-back Jonathan Williams added 104 yards on the ground. Freshman running-back Alex Collins rushed for 92 yards.
Quarterback Nick Marshall returned from injury after setting out Auburn's last game. He finished 7-for-8 for 118 yards and one touchdown.
Bielema says "Razorback Nation" should not give up on this young football team.
"I'm trying to be optimistic on where we are at as a program right now," said Bielema. "With three games remaining, I see so many positive things. I know it's frustrating, it's very frustrating for me as a head coach, as an assistant, as a player, as a senior, as a parent, as an alumni, as a fan, as an administrator. I get it, I understand it. It is not like I have not been here before, I know where we need to be."
It was the Tigers first victory over the Hogs since the school's National Championship run season in 2010 when Gus Malzahn was the offense coordinator.
Arkansas returns to action next week, on the road against SEC West rival Ole Miss. Kickoff is at 11:17 a.m. on the SEC Network.