Observations: Arkansas 41, Auburn 27
The offense can't consistently finish drives, and the defense can't consistently finish tackles. And now the Tigers are two games below .500.
QB Robby Ashford (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)
Even the positive developments didn’t matter in the end.
Auburn didn’t turn the ball over Saturday against Arkansas. Robby Ashford had the best performance of his young career, going 24-33 (72.7%) passing for 285 yards (8.64 YPA). Tank Bigsby averaged 5.7 yards per carry, and the Tigers’ offense as a whole averaged that same amount, once you take out sacks.
Out of context, an offensive performance like that might lead you to believe that Auburn was very competitive with Arkansas — or perhaps a winner, since the game was being played inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Instead, Auburn lost by two touchdowns. It was down by two scores early in the second quarter and returned there midway through the third quarter. It was down by three scores for most of the second half and needed two garbage-time touchdown drives to get it to a 41-27 loss.
The Tigers have now lost 10 of their last 13 games under Bryan Harsin. The last Auburn coach to have that bad of a 13-game stretch? Earl Brown, who tied two of his final three games in 1950 and went 0-10 in 1951.
Shug Jordan became Auburn’s head coach in 1952, and the stadium is half-named after him. Like Brown, Harsin’s tenure might end soon. Auburn is widely reported to be closing in on Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen to its permanent vacancy. The seat is only getting hotter for Harsin, who — by his own admission — doesn’t have an answer for why he’s gone from 6-2 to 3-10 on the Plains.
“Yeah, I don’t think we have a finger on that right now,” Harsin said. “Otherwise, we’d change it.”
A season of regression continues to head that way. A defense that was once the strength of the team, even last year under Harsin, has allowed 40-plus points in four different games now — a new all-time high for Auburn in a single season. (There are still four games left, too.) Auburn has now allowed more than 1,000 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns in the last three games alone.
The offensive positives, coming against one of the SEC’s worst defenses, weren’t consistent. Auburn needed a 41-yard touchdown run from Bigsby to fully capitalize on a scoring opportunity. Half of its 12 drives Saturday traveled fewer than 23 yards. More than half of its points came when the game was already well in hand for Arkansas.
It’s more of the same old stuff from Auburn under Harsin — an offense that’s too boom or (mostly) bust and a defense that has steadily gotten worse. The special teams were even rough, too, with Auburn finishing with an EPA of -7.3 in that category.
“We had too many mistakes to win a football game,” Harsin said. “So all of us, we’ve got to do a better job of eliminating those. Coaching, playing, preparation — it all goes back to that when you’re playing good football teams.”
By Harsin’s definition, Auburn has at least three more good football teams left to play in 2022. And it will have to beat at least two of them in order to prevent missing a bowl game for the first time in a decade.