Defense Sets Early Tone

FAYETTEVILLE -- Michael Coe threw both hands onto his helmet as if he'd gave up the winning play in a bowl game.

The Hogs' sophomore cornerback had just got burned by New Mexico State receiver Paul Dombroski on a 29-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Buck Pierce with just over two minutes remaining in the second quarter.

Coe was upset because it was one of the few mistakes the Razorbacks' defense made in the first half of Saturday's 63-13 win against the Aggies in front of 70,114 in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

"I just hate for something to happen like that," said Coe, who made his first career start. "They faked the reverse, so I stayed home, checked the tight end and started sinking. When the ball was thrown, it just felt like I was running in mud ... Like I couldn't catch up."

Coe was mostly smiles after the game, but still was scratching his head about the touchdown.

"I just know I can play better" said Coe, who had a career-high four tackles. "If I was where I was supposed to be like I was coached, then he probably would have thrown it right to me.

"But I learned from it, and that's all I can do."

A fired-up Marcus Whitmore set the tone on the opening series. The senior linebacker first leveled NMS tailback Buries at the line of scrimmage on second down. On the next play, he teamed up with nose guard Jeremy Harrell to sack Pierce for a three-yard loss and force a punt.

Apparently, Whitmore took a local sports broadcast to heart. It included interviews with Aggies players who were calling last season's 48-20 Arkansas win a "fluke" while adding that the Hogs were "not that good of a team."

"They were on TV talking a lot of trash about us this week," Whitmore said. "You don't come into somebody else's house like that."

Before the touchdown, the Aggies tallied only three yards (negative-14 yards rushing and 17-yards passing) through their first five possessions. With the Aggies' top two tailbacks sidelined with injuries, they ended up with 216 yards and nearly half the total came after Arkansas began substituting late in the second quarter.

"We felt like if we could come out there and jump on them quick, they would lay down just like they did," Whitmore said. "I looked a couple of them in the eyes and after the first couple of plays; I don't think they wanted anymore of us."

The Aggies started 0-for-5 on third-down conversions and didn't pick up a first down until late in the first half. The biggest series-ending stops were Arrion Dixon forcing and recovering a fumble and a tag-team tackle behind the line of scrimmage by Marcus Harrison and Clarke Moore after John Jackson -- blitzing from the weak side -- forced Buries inside on a play which was designed to go the outside.

"I knew the ball was coming that way because I read the fullback," Jackson said. "He was looking over towards the outside gap, so I just tried to step up and forced (Buries) inside, or make the tackle if we went outside."

The dominance continued early in the second half when safety Lerinezo Robinson jumped on a bobbled pitch from Pierce to Nathan Nuttle for one of the Hogs' three fumble recoveries. It gave Arkansas the ball at the NMS 42, and six plays later, Robert Johnson's 19-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Washington made it 56-7.

But an eight-play, 63-yard scoring drive by NMS midway through the third troubled defensive coordinator Dave Wommack.

"It looked like we've got a lot of things to work on," Wommack said. "But there were some good things out there, too, that we'll just try to build on like the surge from the defensive line.

"They did a nice job of controlling the line of scrimmage."

The Hogs made eight stops behind the line -- including four sacks -- led by senior defensive linemen Dixon and Jeb Huckeba, who combined for four tackles for a loss.

It was a quite an improvement after last year's defense had just 14 sacks in 12 games.

"I felt like our pressure was a lot better than last year," Huckeba said. "We're starting to come together as a defensive line and getting closer while learning how to play better as a unit.

"We just had a good time out there. There was a lot of plays out there to be made and, for the most part, we made them."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories