The bye week allowed Arkansas to trot out some new wrinkles with its offense and a healthier 260-pound tailback against Auburn.
Redshirt junior Kody Walker (6-3, 260) - who had missed the last four games with an hand injury - was one of the stars in the late stages of the Razorbacks’ 54-46 win in four overtimes.
Walker finished with 8 carries for 32 yards with two touchdowns - one that allowed the game to continue on a do-or-die 4th and 2 in the third overtime - as well as a two-point conversion pass for the final points of the game.
“I kind of got thrown in there and there wasn’t really anytime to sit back and feel your way,” Walker said after Tuesday’s practice. “My number was called and I had to step up in a big way so that is what had to happen.
“It definitely gives me confidence after all these injuries and that was something I need. It definitely gives me confidence going forward.”
“It was awesome and the fans deserved that. We have been through a lot this season and past seasons and stuff like that. They definitely deserved that and I think it was an excellent game and the best game that I have been a part of.”
He gave Arkansas starting quarterback Brandon Allen - who was 10-of-14 for 102 yards passing in the fourth quarter and overtimes - a hand with the heavy lifting late.
“Kody stepped up,” Allen said. “He is an experienced guy and he may not have gotten as many reps as he wants, but he is going to get a lot more now.
“He has gotten a lot of games under his belt in the time he has been here and he has played in a lot of big games. Him stepping in and doing what he did was really not surprising to anyone here. He will continue to do a great job.”
The win was also a big one for Allen, who finally broke through to lead his team to a close win and admitted it was a relief.
“Kind of,” Allen said. “We hadn’t done that all year and even the last year a little bit so finishing a really close game, especially offensively and the way we answered every time they scored, I was really proud of that.
“We clicked when we really needed to and that’s something that we haven’t had. It was really nice to see.”
Former Arkansas quarterback and current Razorback tight ends coach Barry Lunney, Jr., felt great for Allen.
“I think that was probably my first reaction about the win was how good I felt for him,” Lunney said. “I certainly appreciate and understand the position and in particular playing it here.
“To be honest with you, our careers have some similar parallels through the time I played and the time he played…To watch him lead our team to a win at Tennessee and ultimately the game the other day, we couldn’t have got it done without the plays that he made.
“We just couldn’t have and he rose up to the challenge and played a fantastic game.
“I felt great for all of our guys because they all work hard and they all grind. I felt good for myself and that was rewarding. I think everybody felt the appreciation for him getting it done like that the way he did. It couldn’t have happened to a better kid.”
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Walker and Alex Collins are listed as co-starters at tailback this week with Arkansas running back coach Jemal Singleton.
“He (Walker) has got really good feet for a man of his size and I think that is one of the things that makes him so effective at the tailback position,” Singleton said. “He can get downhill and make a cut and I don’t know many guys that want to tackle a 260-pound running back.”
Collins had 25 carries for 105 yards, but also had two fumbles.
“Alex has got to get better,” Singleton said. “He can’t put the ball on the ground two times in one game. You look at those errors and when it happened at it could have cost us. He has got to work on that.”
Singleton noted that with the loss of Rawleigh Williams to injury that Denzel Evans is third team and redshirt freshman Juan Day now ready to play some snaps as well.
“He (Day) has got to continue to play, continue to practice and continue to get better,” Singleton said. “Really it is a trust factor right now with the coaching staff, trust that he knows what to do and when to do it.”
Sophomore walkon Chris Jones stepped in at fullback last week with starter Kendrick Jackson injured.
“He played well,” Walker said. “He has been here awhile and been in the mix and he has learned the playbook. I thought he played well sand threw some good blocks out there.
“Chris is a hard worker and is always in his playbook and always asking questions and so it really didn’t surprise me.”
Jones - who played 21 snaps - and Jackson will battle for reps this week in practice.
“The biggest thing that he helped with was that he took some reps away from our tight ends that have had to play the fullback position a lot of times,” Singleton said.
“If he had graded out better, probably, but there are still a lot of things that he has to do,” Singleton said. “…He has got to keep coming on and Kendrick is back this week and he is going to be pushing him.”
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Arkansas wide receivers coach Michael Smith notes that his crew was happy with the way they performed on Saturday with Drew Morgan, Dominique Reed and Damon Mitchell all providing big plays in the win.
“Especially because we got the victory,” Smith said. “Our number was called a little bit more this past weekend. I’m really happy with the way the guys played. When we’re getting involved with the offensive side of the ball, we’re always going to have a happy room.”
The group will add in sophomore Jared Cornelius, who is now healthy from a broken arm earlier this season.
“He (Cornelius) went out and practiced, took a bunch of reps today,” Smith said. “I expect him to go out and start on Saturday. Of course we’re going to have some precautions because we don’t want to get him hurt in practice, but he’s full go.”
The position is down one with redshirt freshman Jojo Robinson suspended and no longer with the team.
“I’m very disappointed,” Smith said. “It’s like being a parent when your children fail. I’m disappointed because I failed. It’s a situation where I hope Jojo matures and understands that with some of the things he’s done there’s consequences and he grows up. I wish him all the luck in the world. I’ll help him out in any way I can because he’s one of my guys.”