David Pollack is the best defensive end in the Southeastern Conference, perhaps the nation. To no one's surprise, Georgia's scorpion pass rusher was too fast, too strong and too quick for Arkansas on Saturday night.
However, the Razorbacks had a chance against the Bulldogs because ends Jeb Huckeba and Marcus Harrison proved to be close to his equal as playmakers for three quarters.
Huckeba (12 tackles, three sacks, caused fumble, two quarterback hurries) and Harrison (five tackles, 18-yard fumble return for a touchdown) were matching Pollack punch for punch until Matt Jones' left leg gave out with just over nine minutes to play.
Questionable because of a strained groin muscle, Jones felt his hamstring cramp, too, when he was caught on a cornerback blitz by DeMario Minter and stripped from the side by Pollack. With Jones out, the Hogs were no threat the rest of the way.
Most in the UA locker room felt the Hogs would have had the Bulldogs' number with a healthy Jones. They thought his weakened left leg was the difference in a 20-14 loss in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Bizarre as it might sound on a night when the Hogs gave up 513 total yards, it was the defense that gave them a chance. As Jones said when he came by Huckeba's locker for a hand slap after a trip to the training room, "You balled, man, way to ball."
Huckeba was a landslide winner of the Crip Hall Award, given to the outstanding senior in the homecoming game. How could you vote for anyone else?
"They told me I won it," Huckeba said.
Then he leaned over to a writer and whispered, "What is it?"
After hearing the award (named for the Secretary of State who died in office) explained, Huckeba explained how he wiggled free for his best game as a Razorbacks player.
"We changed the way we came at the quarterback," Huckeba said. "I learned some new moves this week, but it was more about taking the edge instead of going right at the blockers. Even if you are going against a great quarterback, if you get in their face something good is going to happen."
Huckeba and Harrison said defensive line coach Tracy Rocker spotted a weakness in Georgia's pass blocking sets. He told his charges they were top heavy.
"Coach Rocker is the best," Huckeba said. "He told us to read their hats and to take the edge and not run straight at their numbers. He said we'd get by them. We kept at that all night. That sounds simple, but that's the approach we took and it did work some."
It worked on Huckeba's sack and strip of quarterback David Greene for a fumble just before halftime. Harrison scooped it and found a burst to find the end zone for the first time since scoring eight two-point conversions as a high school junior.
"I didn't know for sure who knocked it loose," Harrison said. "But it was a white blur and that had to be Jeb. He was flying tonight. Man, he was just flying."
That fits Pollack, too. As UA offensive line coach Mike Markuson said, "If he's not the best in the country, I want to see him. He was a one-man wrecking crew tonight in my opinion."
It didn't help that the Hogs were starting a pair of redshirt freshmen at the two offensive tackle slots. Matt Gilbow was making his second start at right tackle. Robert Felton, taking over for the ill Tony Ugoh, was making his first start at left tackle.
"Our guys fought their rear ends off, they really did," Markuson said. "They were switching Pollack from side to side, testing them both. He runs a freaking 4.5! He made some plays, but our guys got him some, too.
"I thought Felton stepped up and became a player tonight. He'd played guard until this week and I'm proud of him. He was a different player this week and I think he's come of age."
Pollack is something to watch. He can put on a show even against seasoned seniors. The good news is that it now appears the Hogs have some ends capable of putting on a bit of a show, too.
UGA Defensive End Overshadowed By Huckeba
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