Ousley Sets Season Highs In Single Game

FAYETTEVILLE -- Some players have career seasons. Carlos Ousley had a career game.

The 6-foot, 186-pound senior receiver from Jacksonville, Fla., had two catches all of last year and five for his career coming into Arkansas' season-opening game against New Mexico State on Saturday.

He eclipsed last year's total on Arkansas' first drive with 3 snags for 20 yards and more than doubled his career total before halftime with 6 for 47.

The 42-7 halftime lead of Arkansas' 63-13 victory against the Aggies would make any further contributions from Ousley unnecessary, but his point had been made.

"I just wanted to come out in the first half and set the tone and let the coaches know they can count on me in crucial situations," he said. "That's all I wanted to do."

Ousley, who transferred from Wake Forest three years ago rather than cut his burgeoning dreadlocks, made the most of his first career start.

Four of his receptions -- two on third down -- moved the chains for first downs and Arkansas scored touchdowns on three of the four possessions he recorded a catch.

"Carlos, if he stays healthy ... is a good hands guy who can make the first guy miss you," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "He has quick feet. I love his hands. He's got to keep being a player for us."

Ousley touched the ball on each of Arkansas' first two plays, first on a five-yard completion from Matt Jones and again on a pitch for three rushing yards after Jones gained eight on an option play.

On third-and-six from the New Mexico State 17, Jones hit Ousley on a tunnel screen and he made the extra yards after the catch for the first down to set up Peyton Hillis' one-yard scoring plunge three plays later.

The answer for Ousley's big night was as simple as chemistry and opportunity.

After three years together, Ousley and Jones have developed the quarterback-receiver connection on a mental level.

"We communicate about what we see on the field," Ousley said. "It's just an eye-to-eye connection when we get on the field. We're really in tune with each other."

Ousley has run countless routes over the last few spring and fall camps while seeing some of the least reward of any Razorback in uniform Saturday night.

Besides battling nagging injuries, Ousley played behind Richard Smith and George Wilson and took a back seat to highly regarded newcomers like Chris Baker and Cedric Washington.

He had 2 catches for 20 yards all last year. In 2002, he had three catches for 80, but showed his playmaking ability by converting two into touchdowns.

The lack of tangible results got Ousley down at times to the point of at least considering another transfer, but those thoughts are in the past now.

"He's a hard worker, definitely," Jones said. "Tonight showed a little bit of how hard he worked to be able to get out there on the field. He's getting better every day."

The inside joke around the Razorbacks this year revolves around a cartoon third-grader Jones came up with named Rodney.

Those clued in to Rodney's magic are on the same with the easy-going Jones, and Ousley is one of them.

"We're really having fun out there," Ousley said. "Me and Matt have the Rodney connection going on. Everyone is feeding off that. We're just following him.

"I think we're going to surprise a lot of people this year."

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