Arkansas 31, Louisiana-Monroe 7
LITTLE ROCK – The tape of Saturday night's game will not necessarily play that well in the University of Arkansas offensive meeting rooms despite some gaudy numbers.
But the Razorback defense – which has been much-maligned the past few years – will certainly enjoy its viewing as it just missed pitching the program's first shutout in four years.
Arkansas allowed just 188 yards total yards and a late touchdown in downing the University of Louisiana-Monroe 31-7 Saturday night in front 55,705 at War Memorial Stadium.
"We're 2-0 and that's the main thing," Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said. "I can't say that they (the Arkansas defenders) have surprised me, but I am happy with the way they playing. They are playing fast, we are not making many errors and we have got guys that are running to the ball and hitting.
"Again, when you watch them play they are having fun out there. We are playing a lot of guys so we are getting a lot of experience. I think when you look at the way our defense has played in two games you have got to feel good about it."
The Warhawks – who finished with 116 yards rushing and 72 yards passing – did score with 5:12 left in the game to spoil the shutout. It was the first touchdown this season against the Razorbacks.
It came after over 114 minutes, 48 seconds of action.
"It's good to see them understanding what they're supposed to do, which allowed us to play fast and tackle well and make plays," Petrino said. "We did give up the long drive at the end, but for three and a half quarters, we shut them out and that's a pretty good deal."
The Razorbacks - who open SEC play next week at Georgia (1-1, 0-1) and then host defending national champion Alabama (2-0) on Sept. 25th - impressed first-year ULM head coach Todd Berry.
"We played against an extremely good and well-coached-team in Arkansas," Berry said. "I think the people from Monroe have heard me say this before, when you get a quarterback, you are good on defense and you have a sound kicking game you are going to win some championships.
"I think Arkansas is at that point right now; a great quarterback, strong defensive team, they made some plays and we didn't make enough of them. I felt we played pretty well on defense."
Preseason all-SEC quarterback Ryan Mallett and the Arkansas offense was not up to his or its lofty standards even as it rolled up 499 yards total offense.
Mallett was 28-for-43 passing for 400 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, although he easily could have thrown more during an off-night for the Heisman hopeful.
That said, it was remarkably the third highest passing total in school history, surpassed only by two of his previous efforts last season against Georgia and Troy.
"You have to give their guys credit," Mallett said. "They have a really fast defense. Our guys were winning the one-on-one match-up, but we weren't making big plays. Down 7-0 at halftime is not how we play ball...The defense played great, they really held ULM on the ropes for us and kept us in the game."
Mallett was off after a 7-for-10 first quarter. His receivers dropped some catchable balls and the Razorback offense converted just one of its first nine opportunities on third and fourth down conversions.
"We didn't play the way we want to play in the first half and we certainly didn't covert third downs the way we need to convert third downs," Petrino said. "That's what really hurt us in the first half.
"I was probably stubborn in trying to hit some runs in there instead of just throwing it every down. We probably should have just threw it every down."
Arkansas came up empty on two fourth down tries in its first three possessions with Mallett getting sacked and fumbled once, and then throwing his pick on the other.
"We were in that spot where you either punt it or we are too far for a field goal twice in a row," Petrino said. "We didn't convert them, but I thought we had a chance to."
Wideout Greg Childs had 12 catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns, but did fumble another scoring opportunity away.
"It was a blitz-a-thon out there and he was winning the match-ups," Petrino said. "I thought he played real well except for the fumble."
Childs is a big target that Mallett loves to throw to often.
"They can't cover Childs," Mallett said. "I don't think anyone in the country can cover Greg Childs one-on-one."
It was the second straight game the UA offense had three turnovers.
"At halftime we talked about protecting it up and utilizing the difference between our quick game and taking shots down the field, which we did very well in the second half," Petrino said, "and also about converting third downs - knowing where the sticks are and playing good football in the second half."
The Razorbacks did rev it up late by converting six of their last nine third down conversions and putting up 17 fourth-quarter points.
Those came on true freshman Zach Hocker's 26-yard field goal – the first of his career and the first of the season for Arkansas – and Mallett touchdown passes to Childs (18 yards) and Wingo (35).
"Offensively sometimes you just have to wear them out," Petrino said. "I get the feeling sometimes with our offense they think they are just going to go out and everything good is going to happen right away. You have to wear them out. That is what you do in football."
Mallett agreed that his offense got in too much of a hurry. "We know how we can execute and we know that if we don't we can get frustrated," Mallett said. "You can't do that, especially going into SEC play. That is something we will address Monday." Joe Adams caught three passes for 76 yards and had 82 punt return yards to total 158 all-purpose yards.
"On special teams, I thought we did a good job," Petrino said. "Joe is doing a nice job on punt return. I thought a couple of them were real close to him going the distance. The more we work on that, the closer we will get to having some big returns for him. He is certainly a threat anytime he touches the ball."
Arkansas rushed for 99 yards - 45 of them by starter Broderick Green on 12 carries.
Dennis Johnson had six carries for 23 yards before leaving with a rib injury while Knile Davis (five carries, 22 yards) and Wingo (two carries, 11 yards) also got into the stat book.
Wingo did have one of the game's most electrifying plays when he took a Mallett screen pass, cut back and raced through defenders for a 35-yard score with 3:23 to play in the fourth quarter.
UA starting linebackers Jerry Franklin and Jerico Nelson led the Razorbacks with eight tackles each while reserve Ross Rasner had three of the Razorbacks' nine tackles for lost yardage.
The defense certainly held up its end of the bargain in the first half by limiting ULM to just 58 total yards, only four of which came through the air.
The Warhawks did not have a first down until the second quarter and their quarterback Kolton Browning was just 1-for-6 passing before intermission.
But their defense did come up with either sacks or pressure on Mallett, who completed just 5 of 13 passes in the second quarter.
Arkansas' lone touchdown of the first half came on its second possession of the game.
It was a 7-play, 74-yard drive that took just more than three minutes late in the first quarter.
Mallett and Childs hooked up three times on that drive for 53 yards, including a 19-yard scoring strike.
Hocker's PAT boosted it to 7-0 with 5:48 left in the opening quarter.
Arkansas – which did not punt in its opening game – did send out punter Dylan Breeding for the first time this season in the second quarter.
His 59-yard boot was one of the few highlights of the second quarter for the hosts and he finished the night with 3 punts for a 45.7 yard average.
That was the only scoring until the third quarter when Mallett's 1-yard quarterback sneak with 6:12 showing on the clock.
It was a 7-play, 33-yard drive that came after Breeding's punt was downed at the 1-yard line by freshman Javontee Herndon to pin ULM deep in its own territory.
After recovering a fumble at the ULM 27, Arkansas had another chance to score just seconds later, but Childs fumbled it away at the 14-yard line.
Arkansas rolled up 169 yards in its fourth quarter spurt, something that should give it some confidence as the competition level steps up the next weeks.
"Now we are going to see more of a physical running game at us, which we are excited to see how we do against that," Petrino said.
Nelson is looking forward to the challenge.
"I know that Coach Robinson has some tricks up his sleeve," Nelson said. "We haven't revealed the entire defense ye, but I am sure we will bring out something new in the SEC. We'll find out tomorrow what we are going to do.
"It's very important to win your first SEC game. Right now we are 2-0, you can't go 3-0 without 2-0. We are going to leave here today and get ready to go to Georgia and go 3-0."
Bobby Petrino wasn't pleased with the offense, but had praise for his defense.
Broderick Green had 45 yards on 12 carries.
Cobi Hamilton turns up field for extra yardage.
D. J. Williams works for yards after the catch.
Jerry Franklin shared the tackle lead with Jerico Nelson with eight apiece.
Photos by Marc F. Henning
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