FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Bo Nix was itching to get back on the field after struggling in a loss to Florida in his last start for No. 11 Auburn.
The problem was the wait took two weeks as the Tigers had a bye following the 24-13 loss.
Nix didn’t waste much time moving on, throwing three touchdown passes including two in the span of 22 seconds in the third quarter as the Tigers routed Arkansas 51-10 Saturday. The true freshman also ran for a touchdown as the Tigers completely dominated this Southeastern Conference contest.
“It’s fun being out on the field with guys like Sal (Canella), Eli (Stove) and Will (Hastings), guys that can get open if they are over there covering the other two (Seth Williams and Anthony Swartz),” Nix said. “Everybody is just starting to come along.”
Nix hit Seth Williams down the right sideline on a 48-yard pass with 4:19 left in the third quarter, then after an Auburn interception, Nix connected with Anthony Schwartz on a 15-yard scoring strike to give the Tigers (6-1, 3-1 SEC) some breathing room after Arkansas had closed to within 17-3
“It was really important,” Nix said of the third quarter surge. “We didn’t finish off the first half very well. We moved the ball, we just couldn’t score. The second half we came out and threw the ball around and it was very good.”
Nix finished the day completing 12-of-17 passes for 176 yards and touchdown strikes of 48, 28 and 15 yards including a pair to Williams.
Auburn, now 9-0 under coach Gus Malzahn coming off a bye week, scored two touchdowns on its first six offensive snaps to take a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. On the third play of the game, Auburn defensive end Marlon Davidson stripped Arkansas quarterback Ben Hicks of the ball and the Tigers quickly capitalized with Nix scoring on a keeper from the 4.
Davidson dominated the Arkansas offensive line the entire afternoon, finishing with 3 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.
The Tigers needed just three plays again after a short Arkansas punt as Kam Martin dashed 52 yards on first down, then Shaun Shivers bounced around the left side on a 9-yard scoring run and a 14-0 lead with 10:48 still left in the first quarter.
After the opening fireworks, the Tigers went quiet offensively. Auburn’s defense still made plenty of noise. Auburn held the Razorbacks (2-5, 0-4) without a first down until 43 seconds remained in the first quarter. Arkansas finally put together a lengthy drive toward the end of the first half, but Connor Limpert‘s 44-yard field goal attempt at the end of the half hooked wide right.
“I thought Bo did an outstanding job in the second half,” Malzahn said. “I think he was 8-for-8 or 7-for-7. He did a good job throwing the football. That was nice to see. In the second half he really looked comfortable. I think when he hit that one to Seth, I think it opened everything up and he played really good after that.”
Arkansas finally got on the scoreboard in the third quarter on a drive aided by two major penalties. Limbert’s 28-yard field goal pulled the Razorbacks within 17-3. It also seemed to wake the Tigers up. Auburn answered swiftly, handing Arkansas its 15th consecutive SEC loss.
Nix was 12-of-17 passing for 176 yards for the Tigers, and Williams caught four passes for 90 yards.
Auburn seemed to put the 24-13 loss to Florida before its bye week in the rearview mirror. The two quick first-quarter touchdowns were more than enough for the Tigers, although Nix had consistency issues for a lot of the first half.
The Tigers only had 170 yards of total offense at halftime with 52 of that on Martin’s long run. Auburn also went three-and-out on its first possession of the second half before torching the Razorbacks on the back-to-back scoring passes to lock down the win.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Davidson set the tone early for the Tigers when he caved in the left side of the Arkansas offensive line and reached up to smack the ball away from Hicks on the game’s third play. Auburn recovered the fumble and three plays later Nix kept the ball over the left side and scored easily with 12:38 left in the first quarter.
A RECORD, THEN A MISS
Auburn set an NCAA record for most consecutive extra-points at 304 following the touchdown pass to Schwartz. Kicker Anders Carlson drilled the record-setting PAT, and then promptly missed the next one.
What happened on the miss?
“Coming toward it, I saw laces back and just didn’t drive through it like I should have,” Carlson said.
“Our guys came out ready to play right off the bat,” Malzahn said. “Offensively we got off to a good start, but kind of fizzled in the second quarter. (Arkansas) got after us. They stopped us on the third and one. It was a stupid call to come back and call the same play, but give them credit. They were getting after it early.”
WHAT WAS THAT?
“Not the result we were looking for,” said Arkansas coach Chad Morris. “We’d actually been working on that for a couple weeks. I thought at the time we needed something to get us kick started. I knew we were going to have to try to steal a possession somewhere. . We were looking for anything to try to get a spark on that.
“We were going to let the rush come and just a touch-pass over the top, like a basketball shot.”
Auburn: The Tigers travel to No. 2 LSU. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks are on the road at No. 1 Alabama for a 6 p.m. kickoff.