Hillis ran onto the Razorback Stadium field with 12:24 left in the first quarter and with the Hogs at the Aggies' 43-yard line. Matt Jones faked to Hillis, then tossed right to DeCori Birmingham for 11 yards. Hillis checked out after that play, but checked back in, getting his first carry – a draw play for four yards – with 10:20 left in the quarter.
A 6-foot-2, 240-pounder from Conway, Hillis ended that first Arkansas drive with a middle-surging 1-yard touchdown leap with 7:57 to go in the quarter.
He scored a 2-yarder in the third and ended with 32 yards on 9 carries.
Hillis also showed toughness (the clocking of Michael Brewer after he tried to advance an incompletion; a 10-yard fourth-quarter run when he carried five Aggies) and athleticism (a left-handed catch of a 10-yard pass that was nullified by a penalty).
"For a first college game, that's a pretty good running back, to be able to take care of the ball for us, run with power," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "He's faster than you think he is.
"He has great hands. I wish he could've kept ... he didn't get credit for that one-hand catch."
Hillis was harder on himself.
"Well, I really believe I got a 6 (out of 10)," he said, "just from my personal opinion and my goals that I set for myself. I felt I could break the next tackle or catch the next ball. So probably in other people's eyes a whole lot better than mine."
DOWN AND OUT
Arkansas weakside linebacker Michael Robinson, who was taken to Washington Regional on Wednesday for a still undetermined illness, missed Saturday's game. He is listed in stable condition.
Robinson, a 6-2, 220-pound junior, is listed as the backup to Marcus Whitmore.
New Mexico State played even more short-handed. Its top-two tailbacks – Tony Joseph and Muammar Ali – were suspended from the game for breaking team rules. Also benched was starting rush end Chris Sneed.
A 5-11, 198-pound sophomore, Joseph ran for 712 yards and 2 touchdowns last season, leading the Aggies with a 5.5-yard average.
Justine Buries took Joseph's place and Travis Jones was inserted for Sneed. Buries managed only 40 yards on 12 carries.
The first thing Nutt wanted to say after the win was dedicating it to Robinson (whose family is in town) and Fayetteville High graduate Matt Siebenmorgan, a 19-year old who died Wednesday night from a blood clot in his heart.
Siebenmorgan was a friend of Nutt's son, Houston III, a junior at FHS.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Siebenmorgan family in Fayetteville," Nutt said. "We thought so much of Matt. We wish them nothing but the best."
Saturday's loss at Arkansas was New Mexico's fifth straight season-opening setback. The last time the Aggies won an opener was against New Mexico Highlands (73-7).
The Aggies have not beaten a Division I team in an opener since New Mexico beat UTEP 45-17 in 1995.
NMSU lost the openers at South Carolina in 2000 and 2002, at Louisville in 2001 and at Texas last season.
On the flip side, Arkansas has won all seven season-openers under Nutt and the Hogs have won 16 of their last 20 openers.
With 63 points against New Mexico State, the Hogs have now scored in 100 consecutive games.
Arkansas has not been shut out since the 28-0 loss at LSU in 1995.
The longest scoring streak in UA history is 125 games (1973-83).
Arkansas junior tight end Jared Hicks (6-6, 271), a starter, sprained his right shoulder while diving for a pass in the end zone on Arkansas' first drive.
Senior backup noseguard Titus Peebles (6-2, 290) suffered a sprained left ankle.
They should both be back at practice early this week.
Hillis A Hit In Opener
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