Jones Beats Kines Shift

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach Houston Nutt knew former co-worker and current Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines would have something up his sleeve against Razorback quarterback Matt Jones.

Like the Barry Bonds or Ted Williams shift in baseball, Kines, who coached at Arkansas from 1991-94 and with Nutt from 91-92, devised a scheme and forced Jones to beat it.

Kines dedicated a linebacker and a rush end to coming upfield against Jones on nearly every play to take away his running lanes and force him to pitch or find a receiver downfield.

Meanwhile, Alabama defensive backs were jamming Arkansas receivers at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the timing of the offense like no opponent the Razorbacks have played this year.

"You knew coach Kines would come up with something and he did a really good job devising a scheme of sending two guys straight up the field," Nutt said. "Our bootlegs weren't very good because there were always two in (Jones') face. They said, this core group handle the run. We're going to send a backer and an end off the edge."

The scheme worked against Arkansas' passing game, which came into Saturday leading the Southeastern Conference with nearly 300 yards per game.

Jones had one of his more off days throwing, going just 7 of 12 for 122 yards in a field position game with a touchdown and an interception.

One of his completions was a miracle catch off Tide safety Roman Harper's back by Cedric Washington on an underthrown ball, another was picked off by Harper and Jones skipped one ball 10 yards short to an open Carlos Ousley.

Jones took three lost-yardage plays in the first half, but like the great ones always do, he found a way to overcome.

"I thought Matt did an excellent job because it's easy to get frustrated in a game like that," Nutt said.

Jones beat the shift on his trademark six-yard touchdown run in the first quarter when he dropped back and saw Alabama defensive end Chris Turner and Harper coming at him.

He rolled right in a swooping curve all the way back past the 20 trying to get the angle against Turner and got to the sideline after Turner overpursued and took himself out of the play.

Harper had no chance and Jones nearly made a complete circle as he curled back into the end zone.

"Only Matt Jones can do that," Nutt said. "That was a phenomenal run."

Jones' touchdown run gave him sole possession of the Arkansas all-time lead in touchdown responsibility, breaking a tie with former quarterback Clint Stoerner, who passed for 57 and rushed for 5 from 1997-99.

Jones made it 64 (44 passing, 20 rushing) with his 18-yard touchdown to Peyton Hillis at the end of the first half and with at least seven games to go he stands to put the record far out of reach.

Nutt coached Stoerner from 1998-99 as he became the Razorbacks' all-time leader in completions (528), attempts (1023), passing yardage (7,422) and touchdowns.

"I'm proud," Nutt said. "I'm proud we've been fortunate enough to coach both of them. Clint Stoerner has done a lot for our program. I'm proud of Clint and I'm even more proud that Matt, with the help of his teammates, broke that record."

Earning Respect

Arkansas' 27-10 win against previous unbeaten Alabama and its 3-1 record despite replacing 18 starters has started gaining note from the nation's voters in the coaches and Associated Press polls.

After garnering a smattering of votes last week, Arkansas moved up to No. 27 in the AP's "Also receiving votes" section.

Arkansas got 20 votes in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll, good for No. 30.

Building on the momentum from its latest win in the polls will be tough as Arkansas hits the road for the first time this year at Florida next Saturday.

Injuries Improve

Arkansas survived against a first-time quarterback this week with Chris Houston and Michael Coe, two of the Razorbacks top three cornerbacks, hobbled by ankle injuries.

Houston did not play because of an ankle injury suffered last week and Coe turned his left ankle after negating Harper's interception with a pick of his own on Alabama's very next play.

Coe returned after getting a painkilling shot on the sidelines, but true freshman Matterral Richardson had to play 14 snaps in relief of Coe in the second half.

Both Houston and Coe ran after practice Sunday and Nutt expects Houston to be ready to play this week.

Tailback DeCori Birmingham suffered a bruised back in the second quarter and only played two snaps in the second half, but trainer Dean Weber said the injury wasn't serious and Birmingham also ran after practice Sunday.

Starting tight end Jared Hicks and starting defensive tackle Jeremy Harrell both returned to action after sitting out against Louisiana-Monroe. Hicks had one catch for 16 yards and Harrell led Arkansas with 9 tackles.

Congrats, Freshmen

Nutt gave his freshmen class an early promotion Thursday night in his team meeting.

"I told all the freshman there, 'Congratulations. You're not a freshman anymore. You're in SEC ball and you're in this room for a reason. We think you're mature enough and physical to handle it. You can't think or act like a freshman ever again,'" Nutt said. "These guys haven't."

The freshmen responded against Alabama as Hillis scored twice, once to give Arkansas the lead and again to clinch the game late in the fourth quarter.

Receiver Marcus Monk had one catch for 23 yards on Arkansas' touchdown drive before the half to set up Hillis' 18-yard one-handed catch.

Defensive end Marcus Harrison had 6 tackles (one for loss) and a pass break-up.

Punt Game Improves

A week after one of the worst games of his career against Louisiana-Monroe last Saturday, Arkansas sophomore Jacob Skinner improved against Alabama with a 37.7 yard average on 7 punts.

"Much better," Nutt said. "I thought he would. He did a good job pinning them."

Nutt also plans to use some Alabama film to teach his own punt coverage unit a lesson about downing the ball.

Tide gunner Ezekiel Knight had a chance to down a Tide punt inside the Arkansas 5 with nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter, but allowed the ball to keep rolling and he fell down to allow a touchback instead.

Arkansas would march 80 yard to clinch the game on the ensuing drive.

"That's the first thing we'll show today," Nutt said. "You've done a good job. Make them go 97, 98 or 99 yards. Don't wait until it gets to the one-inch line and something happens. You fall down, slip down and it rolls in. That's 20 valuable yards right there."

'Butu Makes Most Of Start

Junior middle linebacker Sam Olajubutu got the starting job when Clarke Moore broke his leg against North Texas in the third game last year.

Now he's earned it. Olajubutu started for the first time since the Alabama game last year and collected 7 tackles and a fumble recovery on a ball jarred loose by fellow linebacker Pierre Brown.

"I've got a lot of confidence in Sam Olajubutu," Nutt said. "He's been just a head-hunter for us. He's on kickoff, he's on punt, he gets a lot of plays on a Saturday.

"Pierre Brown did some good things. But we have to get more production out of that (linebacker) group. We're rotating those guys, but the guy who shows up if you go by plays, is Sam Olajubutu."

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