Elimination Saturday

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas right guard Gene Perry, who will play his final game in Reynolds Razorback Stadium today, can't take another frustrating loss.

The Starkville, Miss., native said last Saturday's 35-32 heartbreaker at South Carolina was enough. The prospects of adding to Arkansas' four-game losing skid against Ole Miss on Senior Day would be more than Perry's prepared to handle.

"I can't take one of those again," Perry said. "I can't take no more losing. A man can only take so much. I'm all the way up to my neck. If I go on with the losing, I'm going to be drowning. I'm just sick with it. The coaches are sick with it.

"We've got to do something about it and put an end to this losing streak."

The Razorbacks have no other choice if they intend to win six games and become bowl eligible for a school-record seventh consecutive season.

Arkansas (3-5, 1-4 in Southeastern Conference) meets Ole Miss (3-5, 2-3) in a do-or-die game that'll keep the winner's bowl hopes intact and knock the loser out of the postseason picture. This afternoon's Auburn-Georgia game may have enormous implications on the national scene, but the Hogs and the Rebels say they have plenty to play.

"I think both teams know the schedule that's left, the records, what's at stake," said seventh-year Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, who is trying to keep his perfect postseason streak alive. "I think this will be a big-time ballgame. I really do. Very competitive. Both teams fighting real hard because this is the biggest game of the year for both of us."

Nutt tried to boost his team's psyche at the beginning of the week by pulling players into the team meeting room and delivering a passionate pep talk three days after the devastating loss to the Gamecocks. Senior Jeb Huckeba said the speech had nothing to do with the Rebels, but re-adjusted Arkansas' state of mind before it stepped back onto the practice field.

Huckeba will be one of 13 seniors honored today during a pregame ceremony, joining teammates like Perry, quarterback Matt Jones, defensive tackle Arrion Dixon, tailback DeCori Birmingham and receiver Steven Harris. Huckeba said the Senior Day festivities should motivate the Hogs, but the realization that the loser will be eliminated from the bowl picture and finish with a sub-.500 record provides even more inspiration.

"We can really do something special with our last three games," Huckeba said. "This is where it starts, against a very good football team. We're kind of in the same situation. We're both 3-5, both solid football teams. But just hadn't won the games we needed to. They're going to come fighting with all they've got, too.

"But we really feel like we got something special started this week. We're treating it like a new season again. I feel like everybody's attitude is going to be positive and we're going to go into it and get a win."

The Razorbacks are 2-2 in here this season, including two losses against top-10 opponents Texas (22-20) and Georgia (20-14).

Ole Miss is 1-2 on the road with setbacks at Wyoming (37-32) and Alabama (28-7). The Rebels are 1-6 in Fayetteville, including the 48-28 loss in 2002.

But Ole Miss is looking ahead, not back.

"We need to win out to reach a bowl game and that is our team goal right now," said Ole Miss sophomore quarterback Ethan Flatt. "If we were able to win out our last three games and reach a bowl, I think that carries so much momentum into next year and makes us a better team."

Flatt has started six games and is part of a three-quarterback rotation that includes junior Michael Spurlock and redshirt freshman Robert Lane. It's no secret that Ole Miss has fallen short of the success it reached during the Eli Manning era, which concluded last season's first 10-win campaign since 1971.

The Rebels opened the 2004 season 1-3, but the rocky start has given way to steady improvement the past few weeks. Ole Miss played well in consecutive losses to SEC division leaders Tennessee (21-17) and Auburn (35-14).

But the Rebels still haven't won a game in 28 days because of two bye weeks.

"It's an unusual feeling," said Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe, who expects to see a higher intensity level from both teams because of what's at stake. "We've had a much better record coming into this time of year. I think it does create a sense of urgency. When they know their back's against the wall, there's no running from it.

"We have to take the challenge head-on. It's going to take every effort and energy we can muster to come away with a win."

Ole Miss is trying to avoid its first losing season since 1996, when it finished 5-6.

The last time the Razorbacks endured a five-game losing streak was in 1997, when Danny Ford's team opened with a 3-1 record, lost five in a row and finished 4-7. It also was the last time Arkansas finished under .500 and failed to reach a bowl. Nutt took over for the fired Ford the next season.

Arkansas free safety Vickiel Vaughn said the Hogs don't intend to follow the same path of that 1997 bunch.

"This game will be more about pride than anything else," Vaughn said. "Our backs are back against the wall. How will we respond?

"At this point of the year, you've got to come play. You can't have any doubt about anything out there now."

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