Running Game Gets Rolling

Despite losing 35-32 at South Carolina on Saturday, Arkansas established consistency in its running game for the first time in six weeks.



Led by tailback De'Arrius Howard and some balanced offensive line play, the Razorbacks averaged 5.5 yards per rushing attempt. They gained 247 yards on 45 carries, including a pair of touchdowns.

It's the highest output on the ground since they picked up 289 yards on 44 attempts (6.6 yards per run) during a 49-20 win against Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 17.

They were solid in a 27-10 win against Alabama on Sept. 25 as well, gaining 211 yards on 49 carries (4.3).

"I really felt like, as far as running the football, this was probably our best effort," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "You just felt like you could call anything. A zone, power, an isolation play or an option. You just felt like there was going to be a hat on a hat.

"You're seeing a back hit it up in (the hole) and it's a great feeling. I think they gained a lot of confidence."

While praising the offensive line, Nutt also gave a lot of credit to Howard, a 6-foot, 228-pound bruiser who didn't have a carry in a 20-14 loss against Georgia two weeks ago.

"De'Arrius has really had two good weeks of practice since the day he didn't play," Nutt said. "When you get your opportunity, you've got to do something with it and he did."

Howard averaged 4.3 yards per touch with 21 carries for 93 yards. It was his seven-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that gave the Razorbacks a 32-28 lead with 3:24 remaining.

During that last Hogs' scoring drive, Howard's number was called on six of nine plays and the junior answered with 41 yards.

"We knew that this would be his type of game," Nutt said. "We knew, No. 1 that he's not a fumbler. He takes such good care of the ball and we put an emphasis on that this week. We knew in between the tackles, no one is stronger and no one is better."

After the game, Howard shifted credit for his performance to the offensive line's ability to open up gaping holes. He also pointed out the lead blocking of fullback Brandon Kennedy.

"They worked their tails off the last two weeks and it showed," Howard said. "I tip my hat to those guys."

Because it was the eighth game of the season, Kennedy said the offensive line -- which returned no starters -- is just starting to come together.

"We're deep in the season now, so everybody is starting to jell," Kennedy said. "The backs were running harder than ever and everything was just down hill.

"Hopefully, we can keep it going."



Mailing It In

Every Monday morning after a Saturday game, Nutt sends an officiating report to Bobby Gaston, the head of Southeastern Conference officials.

Sunday morning, Nutt said his report may be a little longer, especially when he breaks down a fumbled first quarter kickoff that was nullified because of an inadvertent whistle.

"Probably a good two or three sentences (on that play)," Nutt said. "There's not much room on those papers."

The whistle came in the split second neither team had possession as the ball went through South Carolina's Brian Brownlee's hands and bounced right into Arkansas' Michael Grant's, resulting in a rekick. It would have given the Hogs possession inside the USC 25 and an opportunity to build on a 7-0 lead.

"We sky kick right in the sun and that was the plan to keep it away from (Troy Williamson), he's so dangerous," Nutt said. " Then, they fumble that. It's a fumble and Michael Grant recovers it perfectly and that's going to be 14-0 with the way we felt like we could run the ball."

Nutt also plans to point out several holding penalties on the handwritten report, which also includes film clips of examples during Saturday's game.

"We got more holding calls then we've ever got and I'm still trying to find two or three of those guys," Nutt said. "After you lose, it's a little bit of frustration that builds in and you can't blame it on officiating.

"Even after all that, we still had chances to win the game."

Arkansas was penalized seven times for 55 yards. Two were for illegal formations and two were for holding.

South Carolina had eight penalties for 59 yards, including two personal fouls and three incidental face masks.



Pocket Full Of Kryptonite

Nutt said he's talked with quarterback Matt Jones about not feeling like he has to be Superman on every play.

Jones completed 12 of 24 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown while also rushing 10 times for 110 yards and a touchdown.

"He's just forcing a couple of things," Nutt said. " That's one thing you worry about with a guy that feels like he's got the weight of the team on his shoulders."

The senior tossed a pair of interceptions Saturday, including one on first down in the final minute when the Hogs at the ball at USC's 45.

"He knew he made a mistake ... we had plenty of time," Nutt said. "They were deep of the deepest and had a lot of guys back. I wish he would have just run it or dumped it and he knows that. Nobody hurts more than he does.

"Just take care of the ball for us and what that means, is don't force it, don't be afraid to dump the ball off, don't be afraid run out of bounds every so often or throw it away.

"And that's what's hard for a playmaker, because they always want to make a play."



Points Of Pressure

With a 17-14 lead, momentum was on Arkansas' side until a third quarter fumble by true freshman Peyton Hillis was scooped up by Ko Simpson and returned 57 yards for a touchdown.

"He felt like he let everybody down," Nutt said. "It's something that he's going to have to learn from."

Nutt said it goes back to why the coaching staff emphasizes the "three points of pressure" when running the ball.

"That ball cannot ever come out of that rib cage in this league, especially in between the tackles because they will rip it out," Nutt said. "These guys bench press 400-500 pounds, so it's not high school. In high school, you could stiff arm them and maybe carry it a couple of times like Walter Payton and nobody could probably even get it out.

"But in this league, they're taught to do that every single play. If somebody has you wrapped up, there's somebody coming with a fist to knock that ball out from behind you, so it's a real lesson."

Hillis gained 17 yards on six carries with only one rushing attempt coming after the fumble.



Defensive Changes

Arkansas defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said the Hogs will make personnel changes before Saturday's game against Ole Miss. But Wommack declined to specify how many switches he'll make and which players might slide up or down the depth chart after Sunday's practice.

His maligned unit surrendered 370 yards, doing a better job of eliminating big plays and slowing South Carolina's passing attack. But mounds of missed tackles and an inability to stop the Gamecocks late in the game added to the Hogs' frustrations.

"You'll see them out here (Tuesday)," Wommack said about the changes. "We've just got to be more consistent at some spots than we've been. You kind of get in that situation where if you are pressing, you're looking for this, you're looking for that.

"There's some areas that we think we can be better at. We're going to give some guys chances to do that."



Felton Solid

After switching from left guard to left tackle already this season, Robert Felton was solid in his first start at right tackle Saturday.

"He did really well and I was really proud of him," Nutt said. "From the guy getting move around, boy he blocked well and did good.

"He really only lost his man, maybe one time on (pass) protection, but other than that, he did a good job."

Felton, a redshirt freshman, started at left tackle against Georgia and began the preseason at left guard before suffering a knee injury.

Matt Gilbow, who started the past two games at right tackle after starter Zac Tubbs went down with a season-ending ankle injury, did not play Saturday.



Injury Report

For the first time in weeks, Arkansas had no injuries to report after Saturday's game.

Even tight end Jared Hicks' oft-injured shoulder stayed in place when he caught a three-yard pass in the flat in the first quarter. Cornerback Michael Coe dressed but did not play because of multiple deep thigh bruises on his right leg.

Only two Razorbacks did not suit up Saturday. They were tailback Dedrick Poole (hamstring) and receiver David Thompson (groin).

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