AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Noah Igbinoghene scored on a 96-yard kickoff return, and a partially blocked punt by Jordyn Peters set up another touchdown as big plays on special teams on special teams helped No. 9 Auburn beat Arkansas 34-3 on Saturday night.
Freshman JaTarvious Whitlow ran for two touchdowns as Auburn (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) regrouped after last week’s last-second loss to No. 6 LSU. The Tigers were far from dominant on offense as Jarrett Stidham passed for only 134 yards.
Auburn was held to 91 yards rushing. Whitlow ran for 49 yards, including a 15-yarder for a touchdown midway through the final quarter that was the team’s longest run of the night. Whitlow had a 5-yard scoring run in the first quarter.
Auburn led only 10-0 late in the first half when Peters partially blocked a punt by Reid Bauer. K.J. Britt returned the ball to the Arkansas 9, setting up Stidham’s 4-yard scoring run.
Rakeem Boyd had eight carries for 66 yards, but the Razorbacks (1-3, 0-1) had few offensive highlights. By the final quarter, the back of Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey’s white jersey was stained green, evidence of repeated hits from an Auburn defense which had good pressure despite recording no sacks.
The kickoff return by Igbinoghene was a decisive answer to a 10-play field-goal drive to open the second half for the Razorbacks’ only points. Arkansas consumed two of its three timeouts before settling for Conner Limpert’s 29-yard field goal, cutting Auburn’s lead to 17-3.
One week after Cole Kelley threw four interceptions in a loss to North Texas, Storey returned as the starting quarterback. The Razorbacks’ offensive woes continued. Kelly made spot appearances for quarterback runs designed to take advantage of his 6-foot-7, 258-pound frame, but each time Storey returned the following play.
Auburn cornerback Javaris Davis intercepted a pass by Storey late in the first half and ran 57 yards for an apparent touchdown that was negated by a penalty for an illegal block in the back during the return.
Anders Carlson was wide left on a 51-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the half. Carlson was wide right on a 54-yard attempt in the first quarter but connected from 18 and 43 yards.
The theft by Davis was the only interception of the game for Arkansas following seven interceptions by three quarterbacks in its first three games.
Arkansas: A series of mistakes and penalties — including for 12 men on the field, illegal substitution and illegal formation — helped keep the Razorbacks scoreless in the first half. The mistakes became more difficult to overcome when added to the breakdowns on special teams.
Auburn: The big surprise was poor pass protection for Stidham. When Stidham couldn’t establish a passing game, the offense became too one-dimensional. Whitlow, coming off back-to-back 100-yard games, had no run longer than xx yards. The Tigers were averaging 235 yards rushing through their first three games.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks will play Texas A&M in the Southwest Classic in Arlington, Texas on Saturday.
Auburn: The Tigers will play their fourth straight home game when they play Southern Miss on Saturday.