Hogs Vs. Florida Head-To-Head


Matt Jones rushed for 60 yards against the Crimson Tide and needs 123 more to break former Mississippi State quarterback John Bond's SEC rushing record for quarterbacks. Jones is Arkansas' second-leading rusher (245) and is 10th in the SEC.

Senior DeCori Birmingham, junior De'Arrius Howard and freshman Peyton Hillis have combined for 112 carries, 546 yards and 9 touchdowns. Birmingham has missed practice time this week because of a bruised back, but is expected to be healthy and in Arkansas' starting lineup today.

Florida tailback Ciatrick Fason became the first Gator to rush for more than 200 yards in a game since Oct. 1, 1989, when Emmitt Smith ran for a school-record 316 yards. The 6-foot, 212-pound Fason churned out 210 yards against Kentucky and the strong, explosive back leads the SEC in rushing (132 yards a game).

The Gators also have plenty of help in sophomore DeShawn Wynn, who rushed for 540 yards and 7 touchdowns last season, and sophomore Skyler Thornton. But keeping both backs happy in reserve roles isn't easy for coach Ron Zook.


Florida leads the SEC in passing offense (265.7 yards) even though the Gators lost their top three receivers from 2002. Sophomore quarterback Chris Leak continues to mature and has completed 63 of 99 passes for 791 yards, 7 TDs and 4 INTs.

O.J. Small (18 catches, 204 yards, 2 touchdowns) is Leak's favorite target and leads the SEC in catches a game (6). Sophomore Andre Caldwell (8 catches, 84 yards) and Fason (5-53) set career highs against Kentucky. Sophomore Chad Jackson has 39-, 65-, and 81-yard receptions in three games.

Arkansas' passing offense cooled off against the Tide and Jones set season lows by completing 7 of 12 passes for 122 yards. But the senior is second in the SEC in passing yards a game (209.5) and is third in passing efficiency (160.5 rating).

Sophomore Cedric Washington, freshman Marcus Monk and senior Steven Harris were the only wideouts with receptions last week, catching 4 balls for 82 yards. Harris (11-232-2) and junior Carlos Ousley (9-102) return to their home state and hope to get back on track against the Gators.


Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack was impressed with Alabama's enormous offensive line, but four of Florida's five starters stand at least 6-foot-6. Florida is led by center Mike Degory, an Outland Trophy and Rimington Trophy candidate, who has started every game of his career (29).

Sophomores Ray McDonald and Marcus Thomas were pressed into action last season because of graduations, but anchor Florida's defensive line. McDonald is tied with linebacker Channing Crowder for the team lead in tackles for losses (3 1/2). Joe Cohen and Jeremy Mincey are first-year starters at defensive end.

Arkansas nose guard Jeremy Harrell earned SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors after collecting a career-high 9 tackles against Alabama. Defensive ends Jeb Huckeba and Marcus Harrison combined for 10 stops, including 1 1/2 for losses.

The Tide recorded three sacks against the Hogs, but Jones took the blame after holding the ball too long. Arkansas' offensive line, led by left tackle Tony Ugoh, has been impressive, but will be challenged on the road in its fifth game.


Cornerback Darius Vinnett and linebacker John Johnson were impressive as gunners on Arkansas' punt team last week, holding Alabama to 12 yards on 4 returns. The Tide didn't have much more success on kickoff returns (2 for 39 yards).

Punter Jacob Skinner booted a season-best 46-yarder against Alabama, but still averaged just 37.3 yards an attempt and is at 35.9 after four games. Place kicker Chris Balseiro missed the second extra point of his career in the fourth quarter, but has made 21 of 22 extra points and 2 of 3 field goals.

Zook defended Florida place kicker Matt Leach after the senior's sluggish start. Leach if 2 of 5 on field goals, shanked a 21-yarder against Tennessee, missed a 47-yard attempt against Kentucky and had a 40-yarder blocked. But Leach has made 61 consecutive extra points.

Cornerback Vernell Brown is the SEC's second-best punt returner (11.6 yards) and recorded a career-long, 43-yarder against the Wildcats. Sophomore punter Eric Wilbur averages 40.6 yards an attempt.


Arkansas hits the road for the first time and will be introduced to "The Swamp," a stadium regarded as one of the loudest in the country. The Gators are 78-10 at home since 1990 and 60-1 against unranked opponents. The only unranked team to knock off Florida in "The Swamp" was Ole Miss, 20-17, last season.

Florida isn't invincible at home anymore, dropping five of its last 13 games since Zook replaced former coach Steve Spurrier in 2002. Even more, the Gators are 4-3 in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in SEC home games the past two seasons.

But no Arkansas player has ventured into "The Swamp" and only a handful have played important roles in big road games. The Hogs have won five times in their past seven road trips under Houston Nutt. The last time a young Arkansas team went on the road for the first time ended with a 31-10 loss at Alabama in 2001.

Florida leads the all-time series 4-1 and has outscored Arkansas by an average of 41-11 since the Hogs joined the SEC. But last year's game in Fayetteville was the closest in that span, with Florida holding on in the final minutes for a 33-28 win.


Arkansas' only other trip to "The Swamp," an ugly 56-7 loss in 1997, including Bo Carroll's touchdown on the opening kickoff and Spurrier's Fun 'N' Gun offense running circles around the overwhelmed Hogs. But these aren't the same Gators under Zook, who owns an 18-11 record in his third season. Eight of Florida's past 16 games have been decided in the final two minutes of play.

The Saturday after Kentucky has been "trap week" for the Gators, who are 1-4 against SEC Western Division opponents in the game following the Wildcats since 1999. Two of those losses have come at home, including the 40-34 overtime loss to Alabama in 1999 and last season's frustrating, 20-17 slip up against Ole Miss.

Jones has handled hostile crowds at Tennessee, Auburn and LSU with ease and could make this game interesting. But his offensive line hasn't and will cause a handful of problems against a swarming Florida defense. The Hogs will come close to an enormous win, but Leak, Fason and the Gators' offense will have just enough firepower to send Arkansas back to Fayetteville with another tough loss.

LB Sam Olajubutu (5-foot-9, 224 pounds • junior) vs. RB Ciatrick Fason (6-foot, 212 pounds • junior)

Olajubutu earned the start against Alabama and recorded a team-high seven solo tackles. The junior leads Arkansas with 18 solo tackles this season and will be counted on to corral Fason before he slips through holes and makes big plays.

The quick and powerful Fason carried the Florida offense against Kentucky, rushing for 210 yards, adding 43 receiving yards and scoring two touchdowns. He recorded the fourth-best rushing day in school history and wants more against the Hogs.

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