The Arkansas Razorbacks (1-2) suffered a gut-wrenching 30-28 loss to the Auburn Tigers (2-1) Saturday afternoon in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
With 5:29 remaining in the game, Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks completed a 30-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver De’Vion Warren to give the Hogs a 28-27 lead. After a missed 34-yard field goal by Auburn kicker Anders Carlson with 2:38 remaining, Arkansas inherited the ball on its own 20-yard line.
The Razorbacks gained two yards on three plays after the missed field goal, forcing them to punt it back to the Tigers, who had no timeouts, with 2:06 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The game ended in dramatic fashion as the officials ruled a backwards pass by Auburn quarterback Bo Nix intentional grounding, leading to a game-winning 39-yard field goal by Tiger’s kicker Anders Carlson on the next play.
“I was told it wasn’t a backwards pass,” Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said in a postgame Zoom press conference. “I saw a fumble and a spike that went backwards six yards.”
The first quarter was a sloppy one for both teams. Special teams were a disaster early and often for the Hogs, who had a punt blocked in the end zone which the Tigers recovered for the first score of the game.
Auburn managed to find an offensive groove on its first drive of the second quarter, and Nix scored on a 15-yard quarterback-keeper to make the deficit 17 for Arkansas.
On the ensuing Razorback possession, the Hogs drove the ball 65 yards on eight plays and scored on a 4-yard pass from Franks to junior wide receiver Mike Woods. The special teams woes continued for Arkansas as junior punter George Caratan could not handle the snap and the point-after-attempt was unsuccessful.
Two drives later, the Hogs opened with a 44-yard completion from Franks to Warren, who caught a 7-yard touchdown pass five plays later. After an unsuccessful two-point conversion try, the Hogs were down 17-12 with 2:15 remaining in the second quarter.
The Tigers were able to drive down to the Arkansas 8-yard line and kick a field goal late in the quarter to take a 20-12 lead into halftime.
After totaling just one first down in the first quarter, the Hogs recorded eight in the half. Warren kept his momentum going from the Mississippi State game, leading the Hogs with four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown in the half.
Auburn had 14 first downs and 260 total yards in the first two quarters and converted just one of six third downs in the half. They more than tripled their average rush yards per game (65) with 215.
On its first possession of the third quarter, Arkansas was powered by junior running back Trelon Smith, who gained 69 total yards on the drive that resulted in his 5-yard touchdown reception from Franks to cut the Auburn lead to 20-18. That play capped off a 5:30 drive, the longest of the day for either team.
The Tigers got their passing game going early in the fourth quarter as Nix completed a 17-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Anthony Schwartz to give them a 27-18 lead on the first play of the quarter.
Arkansas cut the lead to six with a 23-yard field goal from graduate transfer kicker A.J. Reed on the next possession. After a defensive stop, the Hogs took over on the Auburn 30-yard line. Franks completed an 11-yard pass to Woods on a fourth-and-six play. The very next play resulted in the 30-yard touchdown from Franks to Warren.
In a losing effort, Franks completed 22-30 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns, the most from an Arkansas quarterback since Brandon Allen in 2015. Smith tallied 159 total yards and led the Hogs in rushing with 83 yards.
“[Franks] played tough,” Pittman said. “He just gets better every week and I was really proud of him. I know he’s banged up a little bit, but it would be hard not to be proud of his performance tonight. He did a nice job.”
The Arkansas defense took a step back from its impressive first two weeks, surrendering 446 total yards to the Tigers, 259 of which came on the ground. Schwartz was on the receiving end of 100 of Nix’s 187 yards passing on the night.
Arkansas returns to Fayetteville next Saturday to take on the Ole Miss Rebels at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN 2.