Arkansas out for revenge against Auburn

Two years ago, Arkansas entered its matchup with Auburn as the No. 7 team in the nation - its highest ranking under coach Houston Nutt. The Razorbacks haven't been the same since losing that game 10-3.

"It was a tough loss, man," said linebacker Sam Olajubutu, a redshirt freshman in 2003. "We were undefeated."

That loss started a three-game slide that knocked Arkansas out of The Associated Press Top 25, and the team hasn't returned. Since losing to Auburn, the Razorbacks have gone 12-12. Before that game, they were 43-23 under Nutt.

On Saturday night, Arkansas hosts No. 21 Auburn, and this time, the Razorbacks hope their momentum will change in the opposite direction.

"Confidence is high right now," quarterback Robert Johnson said. "We're going to ride that into Saturday's game against Auburn."

The Razorbacks (2-3, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 44-15 win over Louisiana-Monroe last weekend, but a loss to the Tigers (4-1, 2-0 SEC) would put their postseason hopes in serious jeopardy.

Auburn went 13-0 last season and finished No. 2, beating Arkansas 38-20 in the process. But the Tigers lost quarterback Jason Campbell and running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown - all of whom were picked in the first round of the NFL draft.

"They had a lot more talent last year," Olajubutu said Monday. "They still have talent this year, but it was different."

Nutt isn't about to underestimate Auburn, however.

"They play great defense," he said. "With an offense that looks like it's getting better every week."

Arkansas has struggled before under Nutt, only to rally and advance to the postseason. In 2001, the Razorbacks won six straight after starting 1-3. In 2000, they lost four straight to fall to 4-5, but won their final two regular-season games.

Johnson said Nutt has again remained optimistic.

"He's always in a positive mood," Johnson said. "Telling us to keep our heads up. ... You believe in him."

Auburn will become the final SEC team to play a road game this week. The Tigers have won four straight since a 23-14 season-opening loss to Georgia Tech. Auburn beat South Carolina 48-7 on Oct. 1, then had a week off. Coach Tommy Tuberville isn't concerned that his team hasn't been tested enough.

"I'd like to beat everybody like we beat South Carolina," Tuberville said. "But you're not going to play that good every week."

This week, Auburn opened as a seven-point favorite over Arkansas, but Olajubutu remembers 2003, the last time his team hosted the Tigers. Arkansas had high hopes before that game after starting 4-0 with wins at Texas and Alabama. But the Razorbacks had two long runs negated by holding penalties and lost.

"We fought hard, they fought hard," said Olajubutu, who had 11 tackles in that game. "We just didn't come out with a win."

Nutt remembers the game, too, although his history lesson for his team has more to do with Arkansas' place in its division. The Razorbacks have advanced to the SEC title game twice out of the West - in 1995 and 2002. They had two league losses in '95 and three in '02.

"Anything can happen in the wild, wild West. That's the biggest theme," Nutt said. "So many times, two losses in the West have gotten you to the championship game.