Roper Honored By SEC
But the junior came close enough, garnering Southeastern Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week honors for his efforts Monday. Roper recorded a career-high 11 knockdown blocks in 68 snaps, graded out at 95.5 percent and earned a perfect 100 on passing plays. The Powder Springs, Ga., native led the way for a ground game that ran for a season-high 297-yards. "I have to credit the guys beside me because they helped me do it," Roper said. "It takes everybody. They help me as much as I help them. That's one thing. You can't just do it by yourself, that's for sure." Roper holds the highest overall grade for an offensive lineman (91.8 percent) this season, even though he has played with a sore back since the 45-30 loss at Florida on Oct. 2. Roper said he spend at least an hour a day in the training room to treat back spasms, but has graded out at 90 percent or higher in eight of nine games. "He has fought through it and has never complained one time," said coach Houston Nutt. "I don't think he has missed a practice. "He has been a very pleasant surprise as far as just how much stronger he's gotten each game and how much better he's gotten with the calls and different looks with defenses. He's really been outstanding." Roper's 11 knockdown blocks tied teammate Robert Felton for the team-high this season. It also was the most by an Arkansas offensive lineman since All-America right tackle Shawn Andrews collected a school record 21 knockdown blocks during Arkansas' 34-31 two-overtime win at Alabama in 2003. "He turned it up," said left guard Stephen Parker. "He had a few (knockdown blocks) they didn't even count. He had a few that were off the film they didn't see. He did real good. He's a warrior. Nothing is going to keep him off the field." Hillis Healthy Any questions Arkansas had about fullback Peyton Hillis' quick return were eased last Saturday. The true freshman churned out 64 yards on a game-high 18 carries and scored his first touchdown since Sept. 25. "To his credit, he has come back," Nutt said. "He's starting to get in a groove." Hillis originally was scheduled to miss 6 to 8 weeks after breaking three transverse processes -- small bones attached to the vertebrae -- during the Florida game. Hillis played sparingly against Georgia on Oct. 23, but Nutt said he'll continue to play a larger role down the stretch because of his strength and versatility. Hillis regained the team lead in touchdowns (7) with his 1-yard plunge in last Saturday's first quarter and is fifth in the SEC in scoring. His workload increased after tailback De'Arrius Howard left the game with a slight concussion. "It's hard for one guy to bring him down," Nutt said. "He runs with such a lean and with such power. He's so strong from the waist down. He runs with the mentality of a big bruising fullback, but he's quicker than that. He has a strong stiff arm and he has good vision. Add all that up, he's just a good back that will, I think, really help you because he can catch the ball. "There's some things you can do with him that create a stress for a defense." Streaking Bulldogs Mississippi State has been resting at the bottom of the SEC Western Division for much of the past four seasons, compiling an 11-33 record under former coach Jackie Sherrill and current coach Sylvester Croom. But the Bulldogs have been even worse against division foes, dropping their past 13 games against the West. In fact, Mississippi State hasn't beaten a divisional team since knocking off state-rival Ole Miss at the end of the 2001 season (36-28). The Bulldogs have dropped their first three games to SEC West opponents this season and have lost five straight against Arkansas. Mississippi State also is searching for its first four-win season since 2000, when the Bulldogs finished 8-4. It also was the last time the Bulldogs won three SEC games. "We didn't get in that shape overnight," Croom said about the program's struggles the past four seasons. "People have to understand, you're not going to get out of the shape you're in overnight. It takes some time." Extra Points Receiver Marcus Monk (32 catches, 501 yards, 6 touchdowns) needs 11 more receptions to move into the top 10 for freshmen in SEC history. South Carolina's Jermale Kelley is currently 10th on the list with 43 catches as a freshman in 1993. ... True freshmen Monk and Hillis now have combined for 13 of Arkansas' 40 touchdowns this season. ... Mississippi State is 111th out of 117 Division I teams in scoring offense (16.6 points) and passing offense (136.3 yards). The Bulldogs also are 106th in total offense (305.7 yards).
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