Tough Enough?

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas tailback De'Arrius Howard promises it wasn't easy.

He and Arkansas' offense garnered national attention last season after the 38-28 win at then-No. 5 Texas, churning out 438 yards and 5 touchdowns. The defense made even more waves, stuffing Texas tailback Cedric Benson (27 yards) and forcing three turnovers with its aggressive play.

But Howard said he left Austin with plenty of bumps and bruises.

"It might've looked easy, but it was some hard work," said Howard after rushing for 35 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. "We just went blow for blow and it just seemed like the ball just bounced our way. There was some hard hitting going on. And (Texas) coach (Mack) Brown said (this week) it's going to be a vicious game.

"There's going to be some more hard hitting (tonight)."

Howard and the Hogs are prepared for another physical encounter with their old rival tonight, when revenge-minded No. 7 Texas storms into Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Arkansas won the first of this two-game series in the trenches, pushing Texas' talented front seven off the ball with its physical line and disrupting its explosive offense with a hard-hitting defense. Led by gritty veterans like linebacker Caleb Miller and left tackle Bo Lacy, the Hogs played smash-mouth football and the tremors from Texas' loss were felt around the country.

The Longhorns were overwhelmed by the blue-collar Hogs, but have vowed to erase the white-collar stigma that has followed them since.

"I think the soft label started getting tossed around after this game last season," said Texas sophomore right tackle Justin Blalock. "So this is a perfect time to show that we are tough.

"We want to prove to ourselves that we can go out and play the way we did last weekend (a 65-0 win against North Texas) against Arkansas, especially since we came up short last season.

"It would be nice to impose our will on them."

The loss forced Brown to re-examine his offense, which managed just 62 yards rushing and averaged 2.1 an attempt. He also wanted to toughen a defense that surrendered 265 rushing yards to the Razorbacks.

Texas has emphasized the running game since spring practice behind Benson, four returning starters on the offensive line and quarterback Vincent Young. The Longhorns have held more full-contact practices, forcing the defense to butt helmets with offensive linemen and tackle 215- and 220-pound running backs with regularity.

"I was concerned that some days we didn't run the ball very well because we were throwing the ball so much," Brown said. "When you're not running the ball well, it's tougher for your defense to be as tough."

Texas looked stronger in its opener, running for 513 yards (the seventh-best total in school history) and 7 touchdowns. The Longhorns forced three turnovers and delivered a shutout under new co-defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, who spent 14 seasons in the NFL.

Now the Longhorns believe they're better prepared for this rematch with Arkansas.

"This is a big game for (Arkansas) and it's a big game for us," said UT linebacker Derrick Johnson, who said his group intends to be a "violent defense."

"They did come down here and beat us last year, so we do have something to prove, to go up there and try to return the favor."

Johnson won't recognize much of Arkansas' offense because the only returning starter is quarterback Matt Jones, who ran for 102 yards and threw for 139 more in last season's game. The Hogs' offensive line was sharp in last week's 63-13 season-opening win against New Mexico State, but the athletic group lacks the experience of last season's veterans.

Starting center Kyle Roper and right tackle Zac Tubbs each played seven snaps against Texas last season in backup roles. Right guard Gene Perry, left guard Stephen Parker and left tackle Tony Ugoh didn't play in that game.

"(Jones is) the only one that truly understands what is getting ready to happen (tonight)," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "Taking nothing away from New Mexico State, but you're getting ready to see an entirely different level of speed.

"Our new guys have had one game and they don't know what they really are getting ready to see."

More than 25 Razorbacks made collegiate debuts against New Mexico State and several will be counted on tonight. True freshmen like defensive end Marcus Harrison, fullback Peyton Hillis and receiver Marcus Monk will get their first dose of the Arkansas-Texas rivalry.

But Howard said the Hogs haven't changed their goal on either side of the ball.

"We're always going to be a smash-mouth, hit-you-in-the mouth-type team," he said. "That's just Arkansas football."

The Hogs should be welcomed by a rabid, record crowd that has purchased more tickets for tonight's game than any other in school history.

The Longhorns have dominated the series in Arkansas, winning 22 of the 28 games played in the state. Texas also is 16-3 all-time in Fayetteville.

It has been 15 years since the last meeting in Razorback Stadium, which the Longhorns won 24-20 in 1989. The last time the Hogs beat the Longhorns in Fayetteville was 1981, when they stunned then-No. 1 Texas 42-11.

"I can't imagine wanting to be anywhere else this Saturday except for Fayetteville playing this game," said Arkansas senior defensive end Jeb Huckeba. "Our fans are going to be ready. They've been looking forward to this game the whole summer, and even last week we tried to keep our focus on New Mexico State.

"Everywhere you walked on campus they were asking about Texas."

The Razorbacks are hoping to add to a three-game winning streak against Texas that includes victories in the 2000 Cotton Bowl (27-6) and in their last Southwest Conference matchup in 1991 (14-13). The last time the Hogs won four in a row in this 75-game series was from 1935-38.

Duplicating that won't be easy against a Texas team motivated by lessons learned after last season's loss.

But the Hogs say, "Bring it on."

"We wish for their best shot," Birmingham said. "We don't want them to take it easy on us or come in here and try to play regular football and get through the game.

"It's going to be a dogfight when they come in here."


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