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October 13, 2007

Defense leads Auburn to big SEC West win

Wes Byrum kicked his second game-winning field goal in three weeks, this one from 20 yards with 21 seconds remaining to give No. 22 Auburn a 9-7 victory over Arkansas on Saturday night.

Byrum, a freshman, kicked a 43-yard field goal as time expired two weekends ago for a 20-17 win over Florida. This kick was much easier, but no less crucial. The Tigers (5-2, 3-1) are now tied for first in the SEC West with Alabama and LSU. Auburn is at LSU next week.

The Tigers held Darren McFadden to 43 yards rushing, the first time all season he's been under 100.

Arkansas (3-3, 0-3) took a 7-6 lead with 1:36 remaining on Casey Dick's 13-yard touchdown pass to Lucas Miller, but the celebration was brief for the home crowd. The ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, and after the Razorbacks kicked again, Brad Lester returned the ball to the Auburn 47.

The Tigers moved into field goal range on a 30-yard catch-and-run by Robert Dunn to the Arkansas 12.

For a while, it appeared Byrum's foot might account for all the scoring. He kicked a 22-yard field goal in the first quarter and a 38-yarder early in the fourth. But he missed two field goals as well, including a 46-yarder with 4:19 to play that gave the Razorbacks another chance.

Arkansas pulled out all the stops on a 71-yard drive -- both McFadden and wide receiver Robert Johnson threw passes on the drive. The Razorbacks finally went ahead when Dick found Miller on a fade route toward the front of the end zone.

But Lester's 22-yard kick return gave Auburn good field position, and Brandon Cox found Dunn for the longest offensive play by either team on the night. Cox finished 13-of-23 for 101 yards. Ben Tate ran for 91 yards, and Lester added 89 for the Tigers.

Auburn held Arkansas' vaunted running game to 67 yards -- the Razorbacks had been averaging 338. The Tigers have won four straight since startling losses to South Florida and Mississippi State last month.

McFadden plodded toward Arkansas' career rushing record, finally surpassing Ben Cowins' mark of 3,570 yards in the third quarter.

Byrum opened the scoring on the game's first possession. That drive was aided by a personal foul penalty on Arkansas' Matterral Richardson. The Razorbacks committed 10 penalties for 100 yards.

Arkansas committed two more personal fouls on an Auburn drive in the third quarter. The first was on Matt Hewitt for roughing the passer -- Hewitt's hit momentarily knocked Cox out of the game.

Hewitt redeemed himself later in the drive when he recovered Lester's fumble on the Arkansas 6.

Auburn has excelled on the road and won its 15th straight while wearing all-white uniforms. Next week might be the biggest road test of them all - a date with an LSU team hoping to bounce back Saturday's loss to Kentucky.


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