Jones Running Wild

It's hard to believe Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones can set new standards in the final month of his career.

After all, it seems the senior has accomplished everything imaginable en route to 8,028 yards, 74 touchdowns and a lengthy list of memorable moments since 2001. But Jones slipped into uncharted territory during the Hogs' 35-3 win against Ole Miss, recording his first back-to-back 100-yard rushing games as well as the longest run of his career (a 72-yard touchdown). "I didn't realize that," admitted coach Houston Nutt. But Nutt would like to see the 6-foot-6, 237-pound Jones add to the best rushing stretch of his career during Saturday's critical game at Mississippi State. Jones, who was slowed by hamstring and groin injuries against Auburn and Georgia, has 15 carries for 237 yards and 2 touchdowns the past two weeks. He leads Arkansas with 625 rushing yards, which is 227 more than the Razorbacks' second-leading rusher, De'Arrius Howard. Jones is on pace to become the first quarterback to lead Arkansas in rushing since Greg Thomas in 1986 (461 yards). Even more, he's averaging an NCAA-best 9.2 yards an attempt. Michigan State's Drew Stanton is second, averaging 7.2 yards a carry. "He's doing a great job," Nutt added. "When you have a team that depends on him, that's the thing, we put so much burden on him. We make him do so many things. In order for us to score what we're scoring (32.2 points), we put a lot of that on him." Jones is 10th in the SEC in rushing and 82 yards shy of breaking Arkansas' single-season rushing mark for quarterbacks. Of course, that's a record he snapped as a freshman (592 yards) and has rewritten every year (614 in 2002, 707 in 2003). He had 111 rushing yards against South Carolina, but also ran into criticism after throwing two careless interceptions in the second half. Teammate DeCori Birmingham said the mistakes didn't carry over last Saturday, when Jones ran for 126 yards and accounted for three touchdowns (1 rushing, 2 passing). It was his eighth career, 100-yard rushing game. "Matt's a gamer," Birmingham said. "He's going to show up for you every game. Everybody makes mistakes. With him, it's just about how you react to next week. He came out and practiced hard for us (last) week. "Everything he did reflected on his performance (Saturday)." Jones missed Sunday's practice with a strained right hamstring, but believes he'll be on the practice field today. He'll try to run wild against Mississippi State, which hasn't had much success in three games against Jones and the Hogs. Jones is averaging 69.7 yards against the Bulldogs, including a career-best 131 during Arkansas' 24-21 win in 2001. His 45-yard run late in the fourth quarter set up the game-winning touchdown. Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom knows what it's like to prepare for a quarterback that is dangerous on the run. He coached at Alabama in the early 1980s when the Crimson Tide had to prepare for Mississippi State quarterback John Bond. Jones broke Bond's SEC career rushing record for quarterbacks earlier this season. "I think Matt's a whole lot faster than John, so that's going to be even more of a problem," Croom said. "He's one of those rare guys that can run the option and throw the ball down the field as well. He's big and fast. It's going to be a real problem preparing for him. We've got to come up with something. "I don't know if you can shut the guy down. You just hope you can minimize his effect and hopefully stop him from getting some huge, big plays."

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