Jones Must Go For Hogs To Hang

FAYETTEVILLE -Early on in Saturday's 38-20 loss at No. 3 Auburn, it was obvious to those in the press box of Jordan-Hare Stadium who cover the Razorbacks that something was wrong, really, really wrong, with Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones.

A genuine limp wasn't detectable until later, but when Jones passed up several opportunities to tuck and run to open outsides, well, that just wasn't natural.

Neither were Jones' stat lines: Four rushes for 63 yards; 12 of 27 passing for 189 yards with 2 touchdowns.

Tigers defensive end Stanley McGlover sacked him for a 9-yard loss in body-slam fashion. Cornerback Carlos Rogers caught Jones after a 54-yard romp, smacking him past the right sideline boundary.

Those things just don't happen unless something's wrong.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt and Jones both insisted the long gallop would've ended in the end zone had the quarterback been healthy. We saw it that way, too. And the Hogs' gameplan changed dramatically as Jones was mostly unable to roll out, forcing him to stay put in the pocket, maybe his least favorite place on earth.

Let's make this clear: Even with a healthy Jones, the outmanned Hogs would not have beaten the Tigers, perhaps the best team in the country. But, clearly, the senior was not his old self.

Turned out, he pulled his groin on Arkansas' first play from scrimmage, an 18-yard completion to Marcus Monk.

Jones said he heard a snap. Might as well have been a crash.

Without Jones, Arkansas has no chance against Southeastern Conference powers. You know it, we know it, the Razorbacks know it and their opponents know it.

"Gosh, (the Hogs) lose every starter on offense but him and they're still in the top 15 in scoring," said Georgia coach Mark Richt. "That's because of him."

Though listed as questionable, Jones' teammates firmly believe he'll be on the Razorback Stadium field this Saturday night when the Hogs try to tackle No. 10 Georgia. They've said so all week as Jones mostly has worked on the stationary bike and some serious rehab.

Jones also expects to play and we'd be shocked if he doesn't.

Then again, were a bit shocked on Wednesday.

Despite the obvious lack of Jones being a long-distance threat last week, it sounded like Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville was in denial when asked when he sensed Jones' vulnerability during this week's SEC football coaches teleconference.

"He didn't look any different to me," Tuberville said. "I mean, he outran everybody (except, of course, Rogers) on our team on his long run. We did not know anything. We saw ... we did not hear anything that he was hurt or had a problem. And, uh, looked like he played well to me.

"He threw the ball well at times and ran the ball well. I never saw anything to give away given the fact that he had a problem.

"So I don't know. I couldn't tell you that."

Say what?

For his part, Richt, too, is downplaying Jones' injury.

"I don't even know what the deal is," he said. "I'm assuming he's going to play.

"What will happen is he'll probably be fine for the game and rested because he hasn't practiced all week.

"That's all we need is a fresh Jones."

That's what the Hogs need against the defensively-loaded Bulldogs. The loss of practice time won't make a huge difference, but the lingering groin injury could, especially for a guy who takes such giant strides.

The only way Arkansas can hang with the Bulldogs is for Jones to go nuts, turning Saturday's matchup into a shootout.

"He's just so unique in college football," Richt said. "He's tall, he's fast, he's elusive.

"The wilder the game gets, the more he seems to have success. He's just a guy you can't stop. You can only hope to slow him down enough to keep them off the board every once in a while."

What if Arkansas has to go with backup quarterback Robert Johnson instead?

"Anything besides Jones would be a blessing, really," Richt said.

Everybody can see that.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories