'Take Real Deep Breaths'

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Arkansas wide receiver Steven Harris will take a deep breath today, moments before the Razorbacks run out of the visitors' tunnel in Florida's Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The senior said it's something he does to calm his nerves when Arkansas is on the road.

It helped during Harris' true freshman season of 2000, when he stood on the field in front of more than 100,000 rabid fans in Tennessee's Neyland Stadium. It has improved his concentration at other hostile places like LSU, Auburn, Alabama and Texas.

"I kind of just take real deep breaths," Harris said. "It slows my heartbeat down and calms me down some so I'm not so nervous."

Harris' younger -- and less experienced -teammates might want to follow his lead today.

There will be more than a few pounding hearts as Arkansas steps away from the cozy environment of home to face No. 16 Florida (2-1, 1-1 in the Southeastern Conference) in front of 90,000 orange- and blue-clad fans in The Swamp. The youthful Razorbacks (3-1, 1-0) earned valuable experience and learned numerous lessons during the four home games, but stare at a brand-new challenge in an important early-season SEC road game.

First-year starting offensive linemen will test their teamwork while being engulfed by deafening noise. Young defensive backs Michael Coe and Darius Vinnett won't have a forgiving crowd behind them. And true freshmen like tailback Peyton Hillis and defensive end Marcus Harrison will be counted on to perform in a big-time, unfamiliar surrounding.

"I think the biggest thing for our guys to go on the road in very hostile places, they don't realize the noise level," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "(In Fayetteville) it's very cozy. They yell for you when you come out for warm-ups and clap for you. Everything is nice and comfortable. When you go on the road, it's very hostile.

"Sometimes standing right next to your teammate you can't even hear what he's saying."

Nutt closed practices this week to help his team concentrate, a ploy that worked well when the Hogs went on the road and stunned then-No. 6 Texas 38-28 last season. He also pumped in Florida's fight song on loud speakers during workouts and stressed the value of listening skills.

Offensive line coach Mike Markuson said the offense will be affected most by the atmosphere and he needs quarterback Matt Jones to use a booming voice under center. Hand signals will be important for offensive linemen as they point out assignments and adjustments. Tailbacks and receivers must ignore the noise and pay attention to audibles at the line of scrimmage.

"We were going on different snap counts (in practice) to adjust to the noise and communicating extra loud," said left guard Stephen Parker. "We haven't played in this kind of noise, really, so we can't really plan for it except to have open ears and make sure you communicate the whole game."

Florida used the home field to its advantage last Saturday, suffocating Kentucky during a 20-3 win as the Wildcats sputtered to just 207 yards.

It was the first of an important four-game homestand for Florida, which has struggled to maintain dominance at home under third-year coach Ron Zook. The Gators are 78-10 in The Swamp since 1990 (third-best in Division I football), but are 10-5 overall and 5-3 against SEC opponents since former coach Steve Spurrier resigned after the 2001 season.

And today's game is a must-win if Florida hopes to keep pace with No. 3 Georgia (3-0, 1-0) and No. 10 Tennessee (3-0, 1-0) in the SEC's Eastern Division standings.

"This is going to be a big game," Zook said. "We need all our fans on their feet hollering."

The last time Nutt took a such young team on the road was in 2001, when several true freshmen got a dose of the SEC in Arkansas' 31-10 loss at Alabama. The Razorbacks are 9-15 in SEC road games under Nutt, but are 5-2 since the 41-38, six-overtime loss at Tennessee in October 2002.

That's why defensive end Jeb Huckeba said experienced Hogs have been passing along their experiences all week.

"(Young players are) going to look to us, the seniors and juniors who have been in bigger games, played at Tennessee, played at LSU, and just kind of see how we react," Huckeba said. "What we want to stress to those guys is we're not going down there to sightsee. We're not going down there to look around at all the pretty girls.

"We're going down there to take care of business."

That would be an enormous accomplishment for the Hogs, whose only other trip to The Swamp was a 56-7 loss during former coach Danny Ford's final season of 1997. But Arkansas arrived in Gainesville Friday afternoon with much more confidence after scoring 21 points during the fourth quarter of last season's narrow 33-28 home loss against the Gators.

A win today would push the Hogs into the Top 25 and keep them undefeated in the SEC Western Division standings. Arkansas also would move into its first bye week with loads of confidence before crucial dates at No. 8 Auburn (Oct. 16) and No. 3 Georgia (Oct. 23).

Harris said nothing would be better than taking a deep breath next week after a big win against the Gators.

"This is huge, especially going into a bye week," Harris said. "You don't want a sour taste going into a bye week. You want to do your best to start off well on the road.

"It's a huge month for us period. This just happens to be the first one."

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