Published Saturday, October 06, 2012
BY JOHN ZENOR
AP SPORTS WRITER
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Auburn's offense couldn't find a spark either from a quarterback change or a defense that was supposedly easy pickings.
The Tigers (1-4, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) committed five turnovers, gave up eight sacks and produced few big plays in Saturday's 24-7 loss to Arkansas. It was a performance that left coach Gene Chizik apologizing to fans who paid for tickets.
"We did all the things that you can't do and win," Chizik said. "You can't turn the ball over five times. We missed big opportunities. Eight sacks. Offensively, one of the most poor performances I've seen in a long time."
Dennis Johnson had a pair of 2-yard touchdown runs for Arkansas (2-4, 1-2 Southeastern Conference), which had been blasted by a combined score of 110-10 in its first two league games.
The defeat left Auburn with "a lot of anger" postgame, tailback Tre Mason said.
"Very emotional in the locker room," Mason said. "It was a tough loss."
The Tigers were left at the bottom of the SEC West after a second-half switch from quarterback Kiehl Frazier, the starter in every game, to Clint Moseley, who hadn't played all season.
Chizik even faced questions about his job security two seasons removed from a national title.
"I'm never concerned about my job security," he said. "I'm very comfortable with myself, working really hard. I plan on being at Auburn next year."
Tyler Wilson completed 20 of 27 passes for 216 yards. The Razorbacks scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull away before Auburn scored again in the final minutes.
Arkansas coach John L. Smith described the performance as "relentless."
"No. 1, it's exciting because this is why you play the game," Smith said. "You want these guys to have success, and you know how hard they work. If you would have seen us practice last week, you would've come off and said `This is not a 1-4 football team.'
"They went out and they worked hard, and they had energy. It's a credit to them and the coaches for keeping them there. We just have to build on that."
Chizik replaced a struggling Frazier with Moseley in the second half, seeking a spark for a sputtering offense. Moseley threw a pair of interceptions in the end zone during the fourth.
Auburn was shut down by the nation's 116th-rated defense until late in the third quarter. Then Moseley found a wide-open Emory Blake, who stretched it across the goal line for a 21-yard touchdown with 33 seconds left in the quarter to make it 10-7.
"We expected to come out there and do way more than we showed," Blake said. "As an offense, it's embarrassing because we felt like we had a chance to put up a lot of points and some big yards."
The Razorbacks then pushed it back to a two-score margin with some trickery. Receiver and former backup quarterback Brandon Mitchell fired a 26-yard touchdown on a reverse pass to Javontee Herndon with 13:30 left.
"It was a clutch moment," receiver Cobi Hamilton said. "We needed that play right there at that time."
Johnson then ran for his second touchdown midway through the fourth. That was too much for Auburn to overcome.
Frazier was 9-of-14 passing for 118 yards with an interception late in the first half with Auburn driving.
Moseley completed 13 of 21 passes for 163 yards with the two picks. The two quarterbacks were sacked four times apiece by a defense that had collected seven sacks in the first five games combined. Chizik said he hadn't settled on a starter against Mississippi next week.
"Coach Chizik said we needed a spark and he put Clint in there to give this offense a spark," Frazier said. "It was his decision. I'm never going to go against him."
Arkansas outgained Auburn 372-321 in total yards but held the Tigers to 40 yards on 32 rushes, thanks largely to the sacks.
Blake did catch 10 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown for an offense missing suspended starting receiver Quan Bray. He also lost a fumble.
Hamilton was mostly held in check, with five catches for 72 yards, all in the first half, after racking up 465 yards in the last two games.
The Tigers had the ball in Arkansas territory five times without scoring before finally getting points on No. 6, and both quarterbacks were swallowed up for big losses to stall drives.
At first, it seemed like more of the same for Arkansas. The Razorbacks cruised down the field on their opening drive and had first-and-goal from the 6. But Zach Hocker bounced a 25-yard field goal off the right post.
Wilson said he couldn't help but think, "Here we go again." That sense of fatalism didn't stick, though.
"I felt like we had a plan this week that put me in a position where I felt we could be really successful," he said. "I was excited about it. The first play out of the gate was a play action, deep throw, hit Cobi, and I thought if we stuck to that and ran the ball like we had been doing on that drive that they were going to be tough stopping us. So I felt good about it even though that happened."
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