AUBURN, Ala. — It hadn’t been five minutes since the clock hit all zeroes inside Jordan-Hare Stadium when the tweets started.
Using a combination of hashtags, all caps and even some emojis, several of Auburn’s players punctuated their 56-3 rout of No. 17 Arkansas on Twitter with a single message — don’t step on the AU.
DONT STEP ON THE AU!!!!!
— Kerryon Johnson (@AyeyoKEJO) October 23, 2016
— Big Savage (@Uno_Kam) October 23, 2016
NEVER STEP ON THE AU!!!!!!!!!
— carl lawson (@carllawson14) October 23, 2016
Don't step on the AU?✌?️
— WB1_SVGSZN (@WoodyB_1) October 23, 2016
Never Step on that AU!!!! Put some Respect on it ? #WarEagle
— TriggaTray (@Trigga_Tray28) October 23, 2016
The meaning behind the tweet storm came hours before kickoff between Auburn and Arkansas on Saturday evening. After Tiger Walk, Auburn players headed toward the field for their usual prayer circle around the giant interlocking AU logo on the middle of Pat Dye Field.
But a good number of Arkansas players didn’t want that to happen. They stood in the middle of the logo, sparking some heated verbal exchanges between themselves and the Tigers:
“That’s low-key disrespectful to stand on our logo,” linebacker Tre’ Williams said after the game. “We just tried to let them know that they needed to get off of our logo. That is our time to give God praise and they were really messing that up, so we let them know.”
Arkansas defensive tackle Taiwan Johnson told SEC Country’s Jason Kersey the situation was a misunderstanding that got out of hand.
“Every pregame we have a little captain’s walk where we talk in the middle of the field, and I guess Auburn didn’t really like it,” Johnson told Kersey. “We were on their logo. We tried to defuse the situation, but it escalated, so we just got out of the way.”
Auburn prayer circle before the Clemson game pic.twitter.com/idnWhhnbiO
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) September 3, 2016
The prayer circle has been a long-running tradition for Auburn in the last several seasons. Head coach Gus Malzahn said this was the first time the Tigers ever had any issue with another team about it before the game.
“We’ve never had that happen before in our prayer circle,” Malzahn said.
While Malzahn downplayed the motivational effect the stand-off had on the record-breaking rout during his press conference, his players didn’t at all.
“We just thought it was disrespect,” center Austin Golson said. “We’ve never gone to anybody else’s home field and stepped on (their logo) like that while they were out there. That added a little fuel to our fire.”
That extra motivation was evident on the Auburn sideline from the opening kickoff Saturday evening. The celebrations on the defensive side of the ball had an additional energy.
Auburn has not been fired up like this all year. What a way to start the second half of the season.
— Lauren Shute (@LShute13) October 22, 2016
A 78-yard touchdown run by true freshman receiver Eli Stove on Auburn’s first offensive snap of the game became the perfect introduction to what was about to happen inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“We were already amped up for this game because of the loss last year, and that was just fuel to the fire,” cornerback Carlton Davis said. “It made us work harder.”
The AU logo is held in a special regard for Auburn’s football program, no matter where it is. The Tigers have one in the middle of their locker room at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and it’s roped off all the way around — quite similar to the human circle Auburn makes with the one on the field.
“We take pride in our AU, man,” linebacker Deshaun Davis said. “Even in our locker room, no one steps on the AU. It’s a ring around the locker room. We feel the same way about it on the field. We’re creating that ring when we get there.”
Auburn’s players got the ultimate revenge in the end by posting the program’s biggest-ever win over a ranked opponent. The Tigers went so far as to break the previous record by two whole touchdowns.
While Malzahn’s players said they were plenty motivated before the game — especially considering they lost to that same Arkansas team in four overtimes a season ago — the extra boost pushed them to make history.
“If the one thing we ask is for them to not step on it, we just hope the opponents wouldn’t do that,” White said. “And they just didn’t really care. So we just said that we’ll come out in the game and just handle it there.
“I think we did a good job of that.”