FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. —Chris Todd flipped a short screen pass to Mario Fannin, and Arkansas' Jerico Nelson was ready. He hit Fannin immediately for a 4-yard loss.
The 17th-ranked Tigers — and their fast-paced, powerful offense — had been stopped in their tracks.
Michael Smith rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown, and the Razorbacks held off a late Auburn rally to hand the Tigers their first loss of the season, 44-23 Saturday. Arkansas — which gave up 52 points on this field less than a month ago — shut down Auburn for most of the game.
"We weren't going to play soft with these guys," Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said.
The Tigers scored three touchdowns during a quick flurry toward the end of the third quarter, but by then the Razorbacks had built a commanding lead.
"They were an undefeated team, getting a lot of hype. They were ranked," Arkansas defensive lineman Jake Bequette said. "Any time a team like that comes into our house, we have to respond."
Arkansas (3-2, 1-2 SEC) started the game by holding the Tigers to their first scoreless quarter of the season. The Razorbacks led 6-0 after one, then broke the game open in the second.
Nelson's big hit came in the second quarter. When he tackled Fannin, their facemasks appeared to become tangled, and Fannin ended up losing his helmet.
Smith gave Arkansas a 13-0 lead with a 25-yard scoring run. Fannin then fumbled away the kickoff, and Ryan Mallett threw a 16-yard pass to Greg Childs for Arkansas' second touchdown in 47 seconds.
At halftime it was 27-3, a surprising score since Auburn (5-1, 2-1) came in averaging 41 points a game.
Arkansas was without wide receiver Joe Adams, who Petrino said had a mild stroke earlier in the week. Adams was held out of the game, although he did wear his jersey. His status going forward is unclear.