Arkansas, Auburn meet as offenses appear settled
League: NCAA Football
Posted on: 08 Nov, 2023 at 08:17 PM
Credit: Jake Crandall / USA TODAY NETWORK
Two teams mired toward the bottom of the SEC West standings will meet when Auburn hits the road Saturday to take on Arkansas at Fayetteville, Ark.
Auburn (5-4, 2-4 SEC) is fifth in the conference's West standings behind Texas A&M, but the Tigers are one win away from bowl eligibility after knocking off Vanderbilt 31-15 last week.
Arkansas (3-6, 1-5) is tied with Mississippi State for last in the division, but the Razorbacks enter this week with a bit of momentum following a 39-36 overtime win at Florida on Saturday.
After Auburn gave Robby Ashford sporadic playing time at quarterback through the first seven games, head coach Hugh Freeze has settled on Payton Thorne as the starter.
During the Tigers' current two-game winning streak, Thorne has passed for 424 yards and five touchdowns despite throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown against Vanderbilt. Thorne's numbers could be even better if it weren't for dropped passes.
Freeze counted seven dropped passes in the win over Vanderbilt and a couple could have gone for scores. Tigers running back Jarquez Hunter has 327 yards rushing and two touchdowns over the past two games to help carry the offense.
"We've got to focus and be able to finish games and make those catches that put us in third and manageable or first down scenarios," Freeze said.
After opening the season with two wins, Arkansas dropped six straight before its win over Florida. Five of the Razorbacks' defeats were by a touchdown or less, with the worst of the six setbacks a 34-22 loss to Texas A&M at Arlington, Texas.
Veteran Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson passed for 255 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 92 yards and a score to lead Arkansas to its first ever road win at Florida.
Raheim "Rocket" Sanders had 103 yards on 18 carries against the Gators in his best game of the season after being slowed by a knee injury for much of the year.
With Jefferson and Sanders set to move the offense, Auburn's scrappy defense, at 21.7 points-allowed per game, will be tested against a capable offense in what's expected to be an emotional environment.
"Excited to get back home against a team in Auburn that's playing really well," Pittman said.
--Field Level Media