Jones Makes Quick Exit

Showing he still was at full speed, Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones darted out of the locker room without comment after Saturday's 35-32 loss against South Carolina.

Jones, who missed practice time the past two weeks while nursing a sore groin and hamstring, likely was distraught after throwing a ball up for grabs that was picked off by Coe Simpson at the Arkansas 2.

"He was just trying to make a play," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "If we could just have gotten that play over again, maybe an incomplete (pass), come back and try the next one.

"If it was incomplete, we were playing with a lot of confidence and felt like we could have won the ballgame."

It was one of two Jones interceptions. The senior was just 12 of 24 for 138 yards and a touchdown despite having the best pass protection he's had all season.

With the time off, Jones' legs were fresh as he rushed 111 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.

"He was a little bit off (passing)," Nutt said. "It was probably just missing about a week, trying to get healed and that groin got better, but when you miss, you're timing is a little off."

None of the receivers noticed. Freshman Marcus Monk, who led the team with seven catches for 95 yards and a touchdown, said Jones actually was sharper than usual.

"He had a lot more strength under his ball and was throwing some nice balls," Monk said. "It was just one of those nights. The time off (from practice), you could tell that when he broke on runs and stuff that he was a lot better."

By leaving so quickly, Jones didn't get to hear his teammates rallying behind him.

"I would rather see the ball in Matt's hands when the game is on the line than anybody else on the team," said fullback Brandon Kennedy.

"Matt's always a game-breaker, a baller," said defensive end Jeb Huckeba. "He's the reason that we were in it by breaking some long runs and making some good passes."

Huckeba's last words rang true as Jones answered the call each time the Hogs needed a big third-down conversion or had a busted play.

On third-and-9 in the first quarter, Jones raced 36 yards on to move the ball into the Gamecocks' territory. He capped the drive by spinning out of safety Jamacia Jackson's tackle to complete a seven-yard touchdown run and give the Hogs a 14-7 lead.

After a South Carolina touchdown tied the score, Jones completed a 25-yard pass to Monk to set up a Chris Balseiro field goal. That sent the Razorbacks into the locker room with a 17-14 advantage.

Then, trailing 28-17 in the fourth quarter, Jones piloted two more scoring drives to give the Hogs a 32-28 lead with a little more than three minutes remaining.

"I wouldn't trade him for the world," said tailback De'Arrius Howard. "Any other quarterback in the country, I still wouldn't trade for him. He's helped us win a lot of games and everybody messes up, even NFL quarterbacks.

"He just made a mistake, but he'll bounce back because he always comes back and he knows that we're behind him 110 percent."

Tight end Jared Hicks, who spends a lot of time with Jones away from football, had no doubt that his buddy would rebound.

"Yeah, he'll be fine," Hicks said. "The best thing about him, because he's so laid back, is that this one will be out of his system by (today's) practice."

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