Never headed, Arkansas got the ultimate prize, a comfortable victory, but could not produce an antiseptic effort in a 42-13 college football victory over Division I-AA Weber State before an announced crowd of 52,683 Saturday night at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Arkansas had two turnovers and a half dozen dropped passes ... one of them which would have been a sure touchdown. And, the Hogs also had an 82-yard TD run up the gut wiped out when a flanker jumped the snap away from the play.
The Hogs gave up 427 yards in total offense, but they rested several defensive regulars. Dressing out, but not playing were Tony Bua, Carlos Hall and Corey Harris. All have minor leg injuries and will play next week against South Carolina. Cedric Cobbs did not play because of a sore hamstring. Starting tailback Brandon Holmes sustained a foot strain in the first half. Offensive guard Mark Bokermann limped off the field in the second half.
The Hogs finished with 451 total yards, 322 on the ground. Fred Talley led the UA rushers with 17 carries for 135 yards and one touchdown. Zak Clark was 7 of 15 passing for 100 yards with one TD and one interception. He had one sure TD pass dropped and another long pass that might have gone for six also was dropped.
"It's always good to win," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "We haven't had the taste of victory in a long time. It was a good dose of medicine that the team needed.
"Overall, we are a little disappointed with the first half. We got a little sloppy and dropped some balls that we would normally catch. If Richard Smith and Sparky Hamilton would've caught those passes, we would have felt much better going into the second half.
"The most improvement came from the youth. I was really happy with Matt Jones, Tarvaris Jackson and Decori Birmingham. We got to play a lot of people at a lot of different spots. George Wilson, as always, is steady. Now the offense has some confidence. They feel like they can score now.
"Lawrence Richardson set the tone of the game with his kickoff return. He followed his blocks, hit the crease and flew down the sidelines."
Defensive coordinator John Thompson said he was disappointed in the 19 points allowed and the 427 yards given up by his unit, but was encouraged by the number of young players who saw action.
"We held some guys out and that's no excuse," Thompson said. "We need to get some guys like Justin Scott, Sacha Lancaster, Jason Peters and Jeb Huckeba ready to play. We tried to do that today. That was the good part. The bad part is that we made too many mistakes. Hopefully, they learned something.
"This was a hard week with so many players on the sideline. We thought we would go out there and break (Weber State's) spirit. Obviously, that did not happen."
It didn't take long to learn that Weber State could not match Arkansas' speed. Lawrence Richardson took the opening kickoff at the 2-yard line and went up the gut for a 98-yard return for a touchdown. He veered to the sideline in front of the Arkansas bench and was untouched over the final 60 yards.
Weber State did manage a first down before giving the ball right back to the Hogs in scoring territory. Tyler Gladwell telegraphed his pass over the middle with Ken Hamlin reading his eyes for an easy interception. Hamlin returned the ball 22 yards to the 24-yard line. He would have scored, but Caleb Miller didn't see the last WSU man in time.
The Hogs blocked WSU's seven-man front with ease. Brandon Holmes carried four straight times to cover the 24 yards. Actually, Holmes was in motion on the Hogs' second snap, so the sophomore tailback actually made 29 yards in the TD march. He walked across from the 1-yard line in crisp blocking by the right side. It was 14-0 at 10:21 of the second quarter.
Arkansas gave up another WSU first down on the ground as the Wildcats worked against the Hogs' nickel package with five and six defensive backs. But, Jimmy Beasley sacked Gladwell on a third-and-7 to force the game's first punt.
The Hogs failed on a fourth-and-2 option play at the WSU 13-yard line to come up empty on their second possession. Clark found Talley for 18 on a screen, and Talley made 17 on a draw. Sparky Hamilton cost the Hogs a touchdown when he dropped a Clark pass in the back of the end zone after the quarterback bought some time by scrambling to the sideline. Hamilton did catch a 13-yarder in the drive.
Arkansas' next drive stalled when Clark's try for a slant on third-and-2 was batted down at the line of scrimmage. The Hogs had to start at their own 11-yard line after Marvin Jackson fielded a punt at his own 5-yard line.
The Hogs marched from their own 45 to the WSU 14-yard line where Clark was intercepted in a badly underthrown pass for Wilson in the end zone. It wasn't Clark's fault when the Hogs were three-and-out on their next possession. Smith dropped two balls, both of them deep throws that Clark put on the money.
Weber State moved to the UA 21 on gains of 19 and 10 before three straight incompletions forced a field goal try. Jason Zur's 37-yarder was wide left.
That's when the Hogs woke up for an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown march. Talley had gains of 9 and 22 on draw plays. Clark found George Wilson for 12 , then hit him behind man coverge for the final 33 as Wilson turned his body at the last minute to haul in the Hogs' first TD catch of the season in the back of the end zone. It was 21-0 with 37 seconds left in the half.
The Hogs amassed 227 yards in the first half, better than they did in their first two games combined. They had