Trick Or Treat?

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach Houston Nutt looked at the 2004 schedule before the season began and knew October would be a challenging month.

Trouble was easy to spot when he saw the Hogs' three opponents -- Florida, Auburn and Georgia -- and took a look at his two-deep roster, which was loaded with inexperienced players. Two demoralizing starts -at Florida (a 38-7 deficit) and Auburn (30-0) -and a lengthy list of injuries have made this month a nightmare of sorts.

Now Nutt's hoping the Razorbacks can simply survive until November.

"I appreciate the heart of guys wanting to stay in there and fight when they're a little bit beat up," Nutt said. "We've just got a tough schedule. We knew that this summer when we looked at things, studied and talked about them.

"We knew that this would be the meat-grinder part of the schedule."

The Razorbacks kick off the third -- and, thankfully, final -- leg of the brutal October trifecta at 6:00 tonight when they meet No. 10 Georgia in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. It'll mark Arkansas' third game against a Top-10 opponent this season and third straight outing against a Southeastern Conference team ranked 16th or higher.

Arkansas is off next weekend.

Arkansas is in danger of falling below .500 for the first time since 2001, when it started the season 1-3 before battling back to finish 7-4 and earn a bid to the Cotton Bowl. Even more, the Hogs are close to falling to a glaring 0-5 in October the past two seasons, battered by two losses to Auburn, two more to Florida and one setback against Ole Miss.

"It's not like the past couple years we've played Cupcake City in October," said Arkansas linebacker Pierre Brown. "We're playing a very tough schedule."

The Hogs might have to continue tonight without starting quarterback Matt Jones, whose status is a game-time decision after pulling a groin during last Saturday's 38-20 loss at Auburn. If Jones can't play, redshirt freshman Robert Johnson will earn his first career start after making three brief appearances earlier this season.

The senior's status has been closely monitored all week, but the Hogs have several more injuries that'll test their character -- and depth -- against the Dawgs.

Three veterans -- wide receiver Steven Harris (bruised knee), left tackle Tony Ugoh (kidney stone) and cornerback Michael Coe (bruised thigh) -- will miss their first starts of the season. Nutt is hoping all three are healthy enough to play, but the Hogs have worked hard this week to get sophomore Cedric Washington (receiver), redshirt freshman Robert Felton (left tackle) and true freshman Michael Grant (cornerback) ready to go.

Arkansas also will be playing without starting right tackle Zac Tubbs (broken ankle) and tailback Dedrick Poole (hamstring). Whether fullback Peyton Hillis (lower back) can go will be another game-time call.

"We've gotten a lot of people banged up," said Arkansas fullback Brandon Kennedy, who was icing a bruised hip when he left the training room Wednesday. "I don't like to make excuses, but that's the main reason why our offense has slowed down a little bit.

"But it's frustrating every time you go out and prepare all week and think you did a good job, then go out there and fall short. It's frustrating. We've got to keep on pressing forward and continue what we're doing.

"Hopefully, things will turn around."

It'll take a big turn against the Bulldogs, who play their first of four consecutive road games tonight en route to defining their role, if any, in the SEC and national championship chases. Georgia hasn't played away from Sanford Stadium since its 20-16 win at South Carolina on Sept. 11 and backup quarterback D.J. Shockley said the Bulldogs will have to readjust to playing in hostile environments.

"It's going to be interesting for our team," Shockley said. "We had an offensive team meeting (Monday) and coach (Neil) Callaway asked who had been to Arkansas, and I think only two people raised their hands. We have not been on the road since South Carolina, so it is going to be interesting to see how our team responds.

"It's going to show our true character. It is going to show how well we respond to adversity."

But Georgia has had plenty of road success behind quarterback David Greene.

The fourth-year starter is a remarkable 13-1 on the road in his career, including a 10-1 mark in SEC games. Greene also is 37-9 as Georgia's starter and he set the school record for career wins during last Saturday's 33-3 victory against Vanderbilt.

He needs two more to tie former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning (39-6) for the NCAA Division I all-time wins record.

"David Greene is an excellent quarterback that makes excellent decisions," Nutt said. "He's been there and does a great job leading his team, getting them out of the wrong play, a bad play, and getting them in the right play. That's experience."

Greene led Georgia to its last win against Arkansas, a 30-3 rout in the 2002 SEC Championship Game. The Razorbacks' 27-point loss fell right in line with their history against the Bulldogs since Nutt arrived in 1998.

Georgia is one of two SEC teams Nutt doesn't have a win against (the other is Florida). The Razorbacks haven't even come close, getting outscored by 102-33 combined in the three meetings and losing by an average of 23 points.

Arkansas defensive end Jeb Huckeba said the Razorbacks can't afford another confidence-shaking loss tonight. That's why the seniors gathered the Hogs this week to boost team morale after the consecutive losses at Florida and Auburn.

"We tried to help them through that," Huckeba said. "We also tried to help them keep their confidence up. We're still a good team. The thing about it is, you've got to keep believing you're a good team and play with confidence."

Huckeba said the seniors have hammered that message home all week, telling younger players to keep their heads up because the misery will soon end. Brown said the Hogs have taken a couple of lumps the past two games, but team morale remains high and Arkansas still has plenty of confidence.

The Hogs will need it if they are to avoid another winless October.

"Last year I didn't feel good about it at all because we were a better team than we played in October," Huckeba said. "This year it has started out rough for us. But October's not over yet.

"Hopefully we can rectify some of that this weekend."

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