Arkansas 31, North Texas 7 (Final)

Houston Nutt rested Matt Jones in the second half after Hogs throttle Mean Green in second period. Images included.

Style does count for something. Matt Jones knows it. If there's any doubt, try explaining why he got two haircuts in a matter of hours.

 

The Arkansas quarterback got one haircut in midweek, then after further review decided it was not up to his standards, and opted for the buzz cut just one day later.

 

Jones had taken a verbal beating from his parents after the Texas game for his shaggy, blonde locks.

As Roy Wittke, the Arkansas quarterback coach, said after Thursday's workout, mom and dad have the power with Matt, and if they say it needs to be trimmed, then it will be trimmed.

 

"I don't think anyone here (at the UA) could make him cut his hair, but they can," Wittke said.

Well, maybe that's how it works.

 

"If I didn't want to, I don't have to, but both my parents told me and I was tired of it being long," Jones said. "So I just went back to the way it used to be. All my life, I had a buzz, really short. Most of the people who know me remember me for having short hair and I like it. I asked Jared Hicks to cut it off and he got out the clippers."

 

Arkansas fans saw more of Jones' new cut than anything else Saturday night against North Texas since he spent most of the night sitting on the equipment chest with helmet sitting at his side. He played in only five of the Hogs' 13 possessions as the Hogs dispatched of North Texas, 31-7, with a second quarter as stylish as Jones' buzz.

 

"We played pretty good and Ryan (Sorahan) was doing fine," Jones said. "I didn't need to play and I was fine with that."

 

Wittke said there was more to it than that, but admitted that the main objective against the Mean Green was to get a lead, then rest Jones and give Sorahan a few more snaps than he'd gotten in last week's thriller against Texas.

 

"It's a long season," Wittke said. "First, somewhere along the way, we will need Ryan Sorahan. Matt wore down last year because he had to take almost all the snaps the last part of the season. We want him fresh at the end of the year so he can play like he did against Texas last week.

 

"So it was a combination of wanting to get Matt some rest and get Ryan some work."

 

That seemed to be the theme all week as Jones skipped his usual time with the wide receivers. He also rested his shoulder in most of Thursday's passing drills.

 

"Our routine is to have Matt throw the ball hard on Tuesday and Wednesday, then rest his shoulder on Thursday so it will be fresh for the game," Wittke said.

 

Whether or not Jones will play any wideout the rest of the year is open for speculation, but head coach Houston Nutt insists that the Hogs haven't given up on that plan. It may be that Jones' sore hip flexor kept him from running any routes in practice between the Texas and North Texas games.

 

That may be also the reason his number wasn't called on running plays against the Mean Green. Instead, it was his passing that did in North Texas. He completed six of his eight throws for 67 yards. His lone run was a 4-yard scramble that also earned the Hogs another 15 when he was hit late in the UA bench area.

 

Jones engineered a five-play, 47-yard touchdown march after Darren Rogers recovered an onside kick to open the game. After a screen pass and personal foul got the Hogs 15 to start the game, Cedric Cobbs carried four straight times, covering the final 8 yards for the touchdown on a blast over left tackle.

 

It was 7-7 when North Texas raced 65 yards in five plays, fooling the Hogs on a third-and-1 with a bootleg pass from Andrew Smith to tight end Andy Blount for the final 43 yards.

 

"Our backside rover, Jimmy Beasley, took his eyes off the tight end and he got deep," said Bobby Allen, the UA secondary coach. "They had two tight ends in the pattern and Tony (Bua) took the underneath tight end. We knew it was coming and we had worked on that play, but they did a nice job of holding in the tight end and then releasing him late. We got fooled that time. They came with that play all night and we were in the right spots every other time.

 

"I liked the effort and execution of the guys the rest of the night."

 

Indeed, the defense controlled the second quarter, setting up three quick scores to put the game away.

 

Inside linebacker Sam Olajubutu, taking over for the injured Clarke Moore, intercepted a pass. His 10-yard return and a personal foul against NTU gave the Hogs the ball at the 17-yard line. With Sorahan at QB, the Hogs made only 4 yards and settled for David Carlton's field goal and a 10-7 lead at 8:01 of the second quarter clock.

 

Marvin Jackson's 11-yard punt return left the Hogs just 46 yards to go on their next try. Sorahan got most of it with a 39-yard strike to George Wilson on a post. It took the Hogs four times to pound it on for the final 7 yards with De'Arrius Howard powering over the left side for the final yard on fourth down. It was 17-7 at  the 4:01 mark.

 

Three plays later, Olajubutu knocked the ball from QB Andrew Smith and Desmond Sims recovered at the NTU 26-yard line. Jones returned at QB and on the first play, he found George Wilson on the left sideline and the senior wideout found a block to dance into the end zone.

 

Michael Robinson knocked th ball loose on the kickoff and the Hogs covered it at the NTU 28. Jones found Jason Peters for 23 yards down the middle of the field and Cobbs went the final six yards over left tackle for a two-play, 28-yard drive that completed the scoring with 1:21 left in the half.

 

The Hogs got their 24 points in the second quarter by going only 4, 46, 26 and 28 yards and needed only 12 plays.

 

The Hogs made it to midfield on their first try of the second half and punted. They failed on downs on their next two tries, both on fourth-and-2, first at NTU's 34 and 42. By then, it was obvious that the Mean Green was no real threat. The Hogs knocked Smith out of the game with a series of hard hits, and backup Scott Hall never hurt them. North Texas did keep the ball for an eight-minute 17-play drive, but failed on downs at the UA 29 on the next to last play of the third quarter.

 

The Hogs spent most of the second half looking at different combinations along the line of scrimmage, resting the front liners.

 

The only real excitement came at the end when Mark Pierce tried to run over NTU's star nose tackle, 5-9, 315-pound Brandon "Booger" Kennedy, to the delight of the starting offensive line resting on the sideline.

 

"He's a good player, but I think we did pretty good against him," said Mike Markuson, UA line coach. "He made some plays. You don't keep a guy like that from doing some things. But we didn't turn him loose and we made some yards at him, I think. I thought our guys did well against him, but that's without seeing the film."

 

Guard Mark Bokermann knows what Markuson will see.

 

"We didn't block them every time because they are pretty good on defense up front, really good," Bokermann said. "I think we did okay and we did alright against Kennedy, but he is a really good player and he is strong and has some nice spin moves. You'd think you had him cut off and you'd be stepping to where he was going, and he'd spin all the way across you and he'd be by you. We had help all night to stop that move.

 

"I do know that Dan Doughty did good against him. Dan had him by himself some of the time and (Kennedy) didn't hurt us.

 

"I know he and the rest of their front played really hard and they had talent."

Markuson said it should be clear that teams like North Texas, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Marshall can play with anyone in the top 25.

 

"We knew what we were facing tonight," Markuson said. "These guys can beat you. You better come to the realization that Division I is Division I and expect these teams to play your butts off.

 

"The good thing is that we played a good, clean game and had it under control. I am happy with what our guys did tonight against a quality opponent."

 

Houston Nutt said the same thing, pointing to another no turnover performance. He was also pleased that the Hogs were called for only two penalties (20 yards), while North Texas was flagged nine times (88 yards).

 

"That's winning football," Nutt said. "We have really stressed cutting down on penalties. I'm proud of our guys. We protected the ball, too."

 

Officially, the Hogs were not credited for any fumbles, but the stat keepers missed one by Cedric Cobbs that Jared Hicks covered.

 

Cobbs was solid the rest of the night. He gained 104 yards on 20 carries for his third straight time over the century mark.

 

The Hogs made 326 yards, averaging 5.3 per snap. The Mean Green made just 197 with an average of 3.6.

If there was any concern afterwards, it was on the injury front. The most serious might be Moore's knee sprain, if that's all it is. He'll be checked on Monday for ligament damage. He is likely to miss several games.

 

Defensive tackle Chase Pressley sustained a sprained ankle that could cause him to miss a game or two.

Lawrence Richardson, starting cornerback, was unable to play after sustaining a high ankle sprain against Texas. He tested it in warmups and couldn't cut.

 

"It's not getting any better," Richardson said. "I'm worried. It really hurts."

 

Trainer Dean Weber said, "It is better, but he's at a position where you have to stop and go and cut and you pretty much need to be 100 percent to be able to play. It's a slow process, but he's getting better."

 

If there was a silver lining to Moore's injury, it was the spectacular performance by Olajubutu, the sophomore fireplug from LaGrange, Ga. Olajubutu, called "Butu" by teammates, came up with two turnovers and was solid at the point of attack. Linebacker coach Dave Wommack did not sound surprised.

 

"He's been coming," Wommack said. "He's been our backup since two-a-days. I don't know why, but it was never changed on the official two-deep chart, but he's been the No. 2 guy there behind Clarke. He really played well tonight."

 

Nutt said, "Everyone needs to rise up the way Sam did tonight. He made plays and they were big plays."

It was obvious that the head coach was pleased with the performance.

 

"I'm really proud," he said. "I'm happy to be 3-0. North Texas is a well-coached team. It's easy to see why they won the Sun Belt and beat Cincinnati in a bowl game."

 

The Hogs played before 55,825, the fourth-largest crowd ever at War Memorial Stadium. It was a tight sellout with many fans left outside without tickets. Nutt thought the atmosphere was fantastic.

 

"The team walk (from the bus to the stadium) in Little Rock is the best," Nutt said. "The way fans get here so early is great. You don't know what that does for our players. We really appreciate the crowd."

Brandon Holmes said, "Our fans really excite us here in Little Rock. It's a lot of fun."

 

Nutt also appreciates the continued solid play of special teams. North Texas has a reputation of creating havoc on special teams. Obviously, the Mean Green tried some of their usual tricks with the onside kick to open the game.

 

"I loved the energy of our special teams," Nutt said. "North Texas has so many different looks on their kicking teams. They really try to block kicks. We were able to create turnovers in special teams and that set up two scores."

 

They'll need to be clicking on all cylinders in a week when the Hogs travel to Alabama. Linebacker Caleb Miller thinks the Hogs will return to the magic level they hit at Texas.

 

"You never can get as excited about a game as you can when you play a game like we did last week, but we did our best tonight and came out ahead against a good team," Miller said. "The bottom line is that we won in spite of our performance and picked up another win.

 

"We play Alabama in seven days, and our defensive confidence is increasing. It will be nice to get a swagger out there."







Jacob Skinner hits a punt against the Mean Green.





Sam Olajubutu sprints down field on the kickoff.





Houston Nutt prepares to lead the Hogs onto the field at War Memorial Stadium against North Texas.





As usual, Arkansas fans were jacked up at War Memorial Stadium.





Cedric Cobbs powers against the Mean Green defense.



Photos by Tom Ewart


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