Youth Served For Razorbacks

FAYETTEVILLE -- On a night when no fewer than 25 players made their Razorback debuts, it was only fitting that one of them would make the play of the game.

Having built a 28-0 lead just three minutes into the second quarter, helped by touchdowns from true freshman Peyton Hillis and redshirt freshman Chris Houston, it was time for redshirt freshman quarterback Robert Johnson to make a splash of his own.

After a Kyle Dickerson run of three yards and the first incompletion of Johnson's career, Arkansas was facing third-and-seven from its own 26 when coach Houston Nutt called a timeout.

He gave Johnson a draw play to Dedrick Poole out of the shotgun formation, but the strongside linebacker dropped down and forced Johnson to make a decision.

Seeing the defense in Cover-2 zone, Johnson checked into a vertical route for sophomore Chris Baker, who had just 4 catches for 57 yards in 2003.

Then the linebacker dropped back, showing his bluff, but it was too late to check back into the draw.

It didn't matter.

Johnson threaded the gap between the corner and safety perfectly to Baker along the east sideline.

New Mexico State safety Matt Griebel broke on the play, but missed Baker badly as he reeled in the catch.

"Chris ran a good route and caught it in stride," Johnson said. "Once he catches it, he can ride out."

Ride out he did and Baker made the play even longer than 74 official yards as he wove across the field just outside the reach of some pursuing Aggies before finally crossing the goal line.

"How about that for his first (touchdown) pass in college?" Nutt beamed after the game. "He checks at the line of scrimmage and what was beautiful was he put the ball in the window on the sideline and then Chris Baker made it look easy.

"I think this will give Robert Johnson a lot, a lot of confidence."

Griebel was matter of fact about the play.

"I took a bad angle and he just ran by me," he said. "It was as simple as that. Not complicated."

Baker saw it coming.

"I knew before the year was over me and Robert would connect on something long because that's all we worked on this summer was long, deep passes," he said. "I'm more comfortable playing, and I feel like I should be one of the go-to guys and I'm ready."

After struggling early in camp with his accuracy, Johnson was often a picture of pinpoint control Saturday night.

His second touchdown of the game also came out of the shotgun, and Nutt said it was another good read by Johnson to find Cedric Washington as his second outlet on a 19-yard catch-and-run to put Arkansas up 56-7.

He was 5 of 8 for 132 yards and the two scores.

"It's been my dream," Johnson said of his first Razorback game. "It was unbelievable for me. I felt comfortable with the check and the offensive line picked it up. You give our receivers the ball and they can make anything happen."

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