State of the Hogs: Davis Bolts
FAYETTEVILLE Garrick McGee had heard the talk.
"It had been, our running backs are struggling and that our backs were not getting it done," the Arkansas offensive coordinator said.
Knile Davis got it done Saturday against Ole Miss. The self described "bionic man," the Razorback with plates and screws in his foot and scars on his shoulders, blistered the Rebels for 176 yards on 22 carries. He had touchdown runs -- in order -- of 2, 71 and 22 yards to help the Razorbacks survive through two lightning delays for a 38-24 victory at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
"Naw, I hadn't heard any of that," Davis said. "I just have been concentrating on my keys, my tracks and following my blocks. That's what I did today."
Did he ever. And the Hogs did block.
The offensive line blocked, said Bobby Petrino, Arkansas head coach. So did Van Stumon. The 260-pound fullback kicked out the linebacker on some of those runs. The tight ends got the seals, too. Alvin Bailey, freshman offensive guard, did some damage, too.
Petrino noted the Hogs didn't plan to give Davis so many carries. The order on the depth chart had it Davis, Ronnie Wingo and then Broderick Green. But when Davis got it rolling, the decision got easy.
"Knile was the hot back so we went with him," Petrino said. "Ronnie got some carries in the first half. Broderick was just number three today and we kept giving it to Knile with the way he was playing."
"We got physical up front," Davis said. "That's the talk I heard from the offensive line in the huddle. DeMarcus Love did some leading in the huddle and those guys really blocked."
McGee said, "We had some guys go down with injuries, so we put it on the offensive line in the second half. Those guys really did a nice job of blocking. They took the pressure off the quarterback with the way they handled things up front."
Tight end D. J. Williams said it was the focus all week. He recalled the way the Hogs got handled last year in a 30-17 loss at Ole Miss. The Hogs had 22 rushes for just 45 yards. The long run on the day was an 18-yarder.
"They were more physical than we were last year," Williams said. "We talked about that this week. Our mindset was we were going to be more aggressive and attack their defense with our running game. We did that.
"Knile Davis looked like a great player today. We had seen that in practice. But he was a different guy today. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. He kicked it in.
"I've been telling him all he needed was a breakout day. He exploded today.
"I've worried a little about him because we go to our room in the hotel on Friday night and play a little cards. I've been pounding him. I thought maybe I needed to back off of him on Friday nights so he'd get some confidence. He ought to have plenty now after the way he played today."
The Rebels started the day talking about pounding the Hogs.
"Yeah, No. 57 (nose guard Jerrell Powe) was really doing the talking in the first half," Williams said. "He was going on and on, talking to Ryan (Mallett) and our offensive line about what they were going to do. Not one of our guys backed down from him. I liked that.
"We had seen on film that they had a physical defense. But our guys got after them today. Hey, I got a chance to watch some of our guys up front on a few replays. The blocking was really good. I have to compliment our offensive line. They got them today."
The blocking was good, much improved against a good Ole Miss front. But the big difference was the way Davis finished runs. His cuts and sprints to daylight were special.
"The game plan was to attack the safeties," Davis said. "We wanted a win against their safeties in the run game. I saw a lot of daylight on some of them and then tried to outrun them to the end zone."
The Hogs used Stumon more in two-back sets.
"Stu is a big guy and has always played good in front of me, but I'd never seen him block like that before," Davis said. "He was knocking guys around. He was really physical."
Seriously, he hadn't heard any criticism of the running backs?
"Nothing," he said. "As far as pressure to play better, I probably always put pressure on myself. The idea is to take it off the quarterback. I think maybe we did that a little bit today.
"I'm going to be a little sore today after that many carries, but it's going to be a good sore. I just am glad that I could help the team. What I was trying to do was just make it look like practice."
Defensive end Jake Bequette said that's exactly what Davis did.
"That was a heckuva game," Bequette said. "I've seen him do it before, but not in a game. Today he stepped up. He was prime time today. It's always been in practice before today.
"Really, you knew he could do it. He's always been physical and fast in practice. He's a 400-pound bench guy in the weight room, just a freak. He's an effort guy and very talented. It was fun to watch him. When you have a guy make plays like he did today, it brings a lot of energy to everyone. It helps the line. It helps all of us."
Bequette, who made six tackles, made some plays to bring some energy. He forced a fumble on a sack of Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. It followed a week when he was blanked on the tackle chart -- along with a few other Razorbacks who chased Auburn's Cam Newton.
"Today wasn't like playing against Cam Newton," Bequette said. "We gave up some passing plays, but we did better against the run game. We had to respond after last week as far as playing the run. For the most part, we did.
"I didn't think we were aggressive enough last week. We were today. Last week we got caught trying to get up the field too much and that gave Newton too much room and time. We were more focused today. We tried to get after them."
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