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Auburn defense changes the game


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Auburn defense changes the game with big strip-sack against Arkansas

By Nubyjas Wilborn | nwilborn@al.com
3-4 minutes

Auburn’s defense shutting out Arkansas in the fourth quarter en route to Saturday’s 38-23 victory on the road makes it easy to forget how the Tigers were trailing in the third quarter.

Arkansas ended the first half with a touchdown to pull within three points following a Bo Nix interception. Nix’s pick was a rare miscue on an otherwise spectacular performance for the signal-caller. Nonetheless, the Razorbacks scored on their first possession of the second half turning the game from Auburn being up 14-3 to being down 17-14 in the third.

Razorback quarterback KJ Jefferson dropped back into the end zone on third-and-15 with 7:39 remaining in the third quarter. Jefferson attempted to evade the pass rush, but Derick Hall was too quick. Hall sacked Jefferson and caused a fumble.

“Derick Hall, that’s a big strip, fumble play,” Harsin told reporters after the win on Saturday. “You score on defense; you have a really good shot of winning the game.”

Hall was into making the tackle; he didn’t realize he created the turnover.

“We knew they were backed up. Before we got into that drive, that was a goal that we had, to keep them backed up and cause a turnover,” Hall told reporters via zoom on Saturday after the game. “So, when that opportunity presented itself, I think I took complete advantage of it. I didn’t think of it as a strip-sack. I thought it was just a regular sack.”

Defensive tackle Marcus Harris recovered the ball. Auburn was back on top 21-17 and would never trail again against Arkansas.

“Then when Marcus got on the ball, I started celebrating that maybe it looks better,” Hall said. “All the hard work we put in just to show it and produce right there, and just to celebrate with each other right there was really cool.”

Zakoby McClain nearly went for the ball. McClain eased up once he noticed Harris was close to making the play.

“It was a good play, good call by coach to use our blitzes on the quarterback and rattle him up,” McClain said after the game. I went in there and stopped their running back from letting the quarterback get out of the pocket. And Derick came around and got the strip-sack, and I went to jump on the ball. I really had it, was sitting on it, but I gave it to my boy Marcus. I love him.”

Nix and the offense scored 17 more points after the fumble. Arkansas only scored seven and none in the fourth. Nix credited the sack by Hall and recovery by Harris as inspiration.

“It was huge. It was obviously the play of the game. I think that our sideline — we had a lot of energy at the beginning,” Nix told reporters. We went down and scored, scored again and then there at the end of the second quarter kind of lost momentum and so that play after they came down and scored, that play was huge.”

“It got us back the lead. Got the field back shortened so they didn’t win field position, and then we just obviously got some fire back to us.”

Auburn is 5-2, 2-1 in SEC after the win. The Tigers are off next week before an October 30 matchup against Ole Miss at Jordan-Hare.

Nubyjas Wilborn covers Auburn for Alabama Media Group.

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