FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Auburn clinched bowl eligibility Saturday behind four touchdowns from Payton Thorne and a defense that held Arkansas to 255 yards in a 48-10 win.
The Tigers led 14-0 after the game’s first two series thanks to a 75-yard opening drive capped by a 12-yard run by Thorne. Arkansas punted on its first drive and Keionte Scott returned it 74 yards for another touchdown.
The Auburn defense never allowed the Razorbacks, coming off a season-high in yards against Florida, to find rhythm. Arkansas needed five drives before it avoided a three-and-out. It had just 110 yards of total offense at halftime and its three points came after Dwight McGlothern’s interception allowed Arkansas to start its fourth series at the Auburn 20.
Auburn scored another touchdown on its opening drive of the second half when Thorne found Ja’Varrius Johnson against Arkansas’ blown coverage for a 14-yard score. The Tigers tacked on another score on the first play of their next drive on an 11-yard Thorne touchdown pass to Rivaldo Fairweather.
By that point, the boos that were so prevalent in the opening half-hour had morphed to apathy as about half the stadium had already cleared.
Auburn gained 354 yards rushing with Thorne picking up 88 and a touchdown. He finished 12 of 20 passing for 163 yards and three touchdowns.
Arkansas’ KJ Jefferson was pulled in the fourth quarter for Jacolby Criswell. Criswell went for a 60-yard run on his first possession and capped the drive with a 11-yard touchdown pass to Isaac TeSlaa with 14:35 left.
Jefferson finished 10 for 16 passing for 110 yards with another 50 on the ground. He was also sacked five times.
Auburn has not finished a season with more than six wins since 2019 and with two games to play, including one against New Mexico State, the Tigers appear to be headed for their best season since.
Arkansas’ season went from disappointment to disaster in a hurry. The Razorbacks had earned bowl berths in each of coach Sam Pittman’s previous three years, but frustration has already led to the replacement of offensive coordinator Dan Enos and could put Pittman on tenuous ground at season’s end.
Auburn is back at home against New Mexico State on Saturday.
Arkansas will host Florida International on Saturday.