State of the Hogs: No Need to Pass

The Hogs -- even Ryan Mallett -- found plenty of running room against the Miners.

Make no mistake, this is still a pass-happy offense under Bobby Petrino. The Arkansas coach is known for his sophisticated throwing game, the crossing patterns and the vertical routes.

He'll scheme passes to the tight ends and backs. There are the wheel routes to fullbacks. There are bootlegs, screens and drag routes. The check downs are all there.

That's what fans want to see. That's what shows up on the highlight tapes.

Now, the Hogs have a running game, too.

If anyone hasn't seen it, DeMarcus Love made sure to point it out after a 58-21 thumping of Texas-El Paso when the Hogs ran for 326 yards, 75 more yards than they made passing.

"The media has been busy pointing out our running game this season, but I think we've shown that we do have a running game," said Love, the senior offensive tackle. "We've been working on it and getting better.

"I know a lot of people like to see the ball in the air, but personally, as an offensive lineman, I like to run it. That gives me the most fun, to block the running game. That was fun tonight to run it like that, especially in my last game in this stadium."

Love even liked it when Mr. Pass, quarterback Ryan Mallett, took off on a bootleg for a 14-yard touchdown run. But he took off some style points for the finish.

"I think he thought he was going to dive into the end zone and he kind of stumbled in. We are going to give him some problems for that."

Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee gave Mallett credit for much of his work on the night. Mallett completed 19 of 26 passes, five of them for touchdowns. He was responsible for six TDS, tying the school record set by Madre Hill in 1995.

"He's practiced the right way, really focused of late," McGee said. "He's looking at the defense and doing what's called for on each play. When he's like that, he's awfully tough to stop.

"But the rest of our offense is playing well around him. Everyone. We play a lot of guys and they are all executing. When we run it the way we have lately, that really helps Ryan. When a quarterback can lean on a run game, it makes him so much better."

McGee liked his running, too.

"He did a good job of seeing what they were doing," McGee said. "They had everyone in man so it was cleaned out. They held up D. J. Williams, so he didn't have that. He did what he's supposed to do, run it.

"Well, it was pretty good except at the end. He looked like he was getting ready to dive and then decided he better not because he might get a penalty. You don't jump if no one is there."

Will there be some jokes made of the last couple of yards?

"Probably," McGee said. "Probably."

Williams wasn't putting down his quarterback.

"I liked it," he said. "I thought he might come to me, but my man had me pretty good. I turned back to him to see if the ball was coming and saw that look in his eyes, so I just turned around and blocked."

Mallett might have something else in his eyes besides a look at the start. A captain throughout his sophomore and junior seasons, he's always been at the coin toss, never through the "A" to start the game. He asked Petrino for a chance to fix that.

"We were in the locker room talking about going through the 'A' and Coach Petrino came through," Mallett said. "I just went to him and asked. I told him I wanted to do that and wanted to see if Jake Bequette could do the talking at the coin toss this time.

"It was pretty emotional. I had to calm myself down after that. I'd always wanted to do that."

There were questions about whether or not Mallett asked for that because it could be his last game in the stadium, too.

"That's not what I was thinking about," he said. "I haven't even thought about that yet. I'll do that after the season, think about that. It didn't enter my mind. I just wanted to run through the 'A.' That's all."

The emotion was running high, but Mallett said he was a little disappointed when he came out.

"I thought it would be packed for the seniors and the crowd wasn't too big," Mallett said. "I wanted that for the seniors tonight to have it full."

There wasn't much else that went wrong, except a couple of early touchdowns from the Miners.

"We weren't aggressive enough at the start from the defense, so we called a few more blitzes to get the tempo up," Petrino said. "We are doing pretty well with our special teams, but our kickoff team is still a work in progress."

The tempo changed after a few running plays, too. Perhaps the Miners thought they had to stop the pass first.

"We are trying to disguise what we are," McGee said. "Everyone thinks we are a passing team, but what we really want is to be a running team.

"Our players have bought in. The offensive line has been fantastic, but our backs understand the running game, too. Knile Davis was the first to figure it out. He sees the front and knows how we are going to block them now. He knows the soft spot. Tonight, our other backs, Broderick Green and Ronnie Wingo, saw it, too. They found the soft spots.

"It's about chemistry. It's about the way we practice and then the way we execute in the game. I think our coaches have done a nice job, too, the entire offensive staff."

Petrino said the results in the running game are an 11-man effort.

"It's a combination of a lot of things," Petrino said. "I think it's getting the right calls made in the run game. I didn't think the offensive line was striking you early, but they are now. They are playing with great effort now.

"Our running backs are doing a nice job of hitting the holes and making cuts and then the wide receivers are doing a nice job down field with their blocking.

"As a group, we are just playing better. We are running it better."

The passing game hasn't gone away, though. Mallett didn't miss many throws against the Miners -- maybe two, according to his coach.

"Other than a couple, he was on the money tonight," Petrino said, "and he was very good, very accurate in the red zone. And I thought he made a great run for the touchdown when they were locked up in man and they blitzed from the other side."

The offense has exploded in the last month, putting 229 points on the scoreboard in its last five outings.

"We started the year wanting to put on a show and we definitely talked about scoring points and we didn't do it," McGee said. "So we quit talking about points and went back to what you should concentrate on, executing. When you execute play after play after play, the points come. That's what we did.

"Our focus was doing it one week at a time. Our goal is to be a better team after the next seven days. That's what we talked about this last week, getting seven days down the road and becoming a better team. I think we did that.

"It's a grind. We do grind in practice. There is an old coaching adage that you can lose a game in practice, but you can't win a game in practice. So you still have to come out and play the game. The only way you get measured in this game is the way you play the game. We are playing well right now.

"I thought we attacked practice, but we still had to perform in this game. Everyone knows this was a trap game. We had this game in front of two big-time games (with Mississippi State and LSU) the next two weeks. But we performed well.

"I think it's a tribute to our coaching staff and the chemistry of this team."

They mixed up the right chemistry in the running game. That will probably be the key in those two big-time games to end the season.

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