58 Is Enough

FAYETTEVILLE -- Peyton Hillis had nine touchdown runs of 55 yards or more during his senior year at Conway High last season.

He rushed for 2,631 yards, 29 touchdowns and averaged more than 10 yards per carry.

He broke 100 yards in all 12 of the Wampus Cats' games and blew up for 384 rushing yards against Russellville.

None of those games were more impressive than his 58 yards of offense against Alabama.

Hillis made five of the biggest plays of the game in Arkansas' 27-10 win against Alabama and one of his biggest was on a play where he didn't even touch the ball.

Hillis rushed 10 times for 34 yards and the Razorbacks' game-clinching touchdown from 7 yards out on second-and-goal down with three minutes to play.

He caught 2 passes for 24 yards, including a beautiful one-handed snare in double-coverage for the go-ahead 18-yard touchdown to cap a 84-yard drive in the closing moments of the first half to put the Hogs up 14-10.

Hillis cleared out Alabama safety Roman Harper for Matt Jones' 50-yard run in the fourth quarter, then converted a do-or-die fourth-and-1 from the Tide 15 and a third-and-1 from the 5 to set up his eventual touchdown to put Arkansas up 20-10.

"I've never had a game like that," Hillis said. "The coaches know what they're doing. They put me in situations today where I could help the team out. If I get 58 yards and we win the game, I'll do that every game."

Arkansas scored on its first possession against Alabama, partly helped by an incredible catch by Cedric Washington to snare the ball off Roman Harper's body before it touched the ground.

After that, Arkansas moved the ball just 21 yards on its next five possessions and fell behind 10-7.

Then along came Hillis just before halftime.

Behind 37 yards from DeCori Birmingham and an 18-yard completion from Jones to Marcus Monk, Arkansas was at the Alabama 18 with time running out.

Jones rolled out and saw Hillis freelancing down the sideline behind Alabama linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

He lofted it softly over Ryans' head and Hillis reached out with one hand to reel it in before taking a shot from safety Charlie Peprah in the end zone.

"I knew I was two steps inside in the end zone so I just stopped," Hillis said. "I saw the ball come in the window and just pulled it in with one hand. I'm kind of amazed that I caught it."

Hills didn't budge on Peprah's hit, and Arkansas took the lead back for good.

"That guy right there, he is great," said Arkansas right guard Gene Perry. "That's all I can say. If he hadn't caught that touchdown, I would have killed him, you know what I'm saying?

"He always seems to come through. Peyton is just a truck. He rolls over anything that tries to get in his way."

Jones called him a horse.

"Everytime I see people go up and hit him, it seems like the defense bounces off," Jones said. "He made a great catch. That corner hit him and Peyton didn't go anywhere. He's just a big, strong kid."

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt called him "phenomenal."

"Great concentration because he knows he's going to get hit," Nutt said. "But he's a tough guy. He's really beyond his years in maturity as far as a physical, physical freshman. His hands are outstanding."

Hillis' touchdown run to clinch the game was just as impressive as he hit the "A" gap and was met by a pair of linebackers who still haven't learned about the need to wrap up the meaty freshman.

"I hit them, they stood me up, but they didn't really grab a hold of me," he said. "So I spun off and got in the end zone."

Hillis really wanted the ball on fourth-and-1 from the Alabama 47, but Nutt made the smart move and punted over his freshman's objections.

"I guess I learned to trust the coaches today," Hillis said. "It's a great feeling. I was real excited to come out here and play. We're 1-0 in the SEC and that's what matters."

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