Howard Powers Hogs Running Game

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- His No. 26 jersey was covered in grass stains and a few specks of blood when De'Arrius Howard received a postgame hug from Madre Hill.

"That's what a back has got to do," said Hill, the former Razorbacks tailback and current graduate assistant. "That right there, that's how you do it."

Howard rushed for a career-high 125 yards on 29 carries with a touchdown during Arkansas' 24-21 win against Mississippi State at Davis Wade Stadium Saturday.

"I challenged him before the game," Hill said. "I said, ‘Step up and be the back that I know you can be. He looked at me and just nodded so I said, ‘Nah man ... Be the back that you can be!'

"And he showed everybody (Saturday) what he can do."

Howard said Hill's pregame pep talk consisted more than just simple words of encouragement.

"He just told me to stay low and keep my feet going," Howard said. "He told me to try to have a game like I did my (redshirt freshman) year here. This is the place where I had my first 100-yard game."

Indeed, Howard rushed for his previous career-best of 121 yards here two years ago and it didn't take the junior long to get rolling here again Saturday as he gained 18 yards on his first carry.

"I looked at (Hogs fullback) Brandon Kennedy after that and said ‘It's going to be all day long,'" Howard said.

Kennedy, whose lead blocking opened up gaping holes, seemed more excited than Howard to learn that his teammate went over the century mark.

"He went over 100? Whoo, that's awesome!" Kennedy said. "Ever since the South Carolina game, he has just got his swagger back. I don't know what happened that game or what went on in his head, but ever since then, he just has that confidence where he knows what he's going to do every time he touches it."

Since not getting a carry in a 20-14 home loss to Georgia, Howard has caught fire. He rushed 21 times for 93 yards and a touchdown in a 35-32 loss at South Carolina and, last week, he gained 52 yards on only nine carries in a 35-3 blowout against Ole Miss.

"After talking with (Arkansas) coach (Houston) Nutt, I had to step my game up," Howard said. "Coach told me I wasn't running hard, so I told him the next time he'd have to drag me off the field and I think I've stepped up and taken it to another level ever since then."

Howard said confidence has been the main difference in his improvement. He credited the offensive line as well as the blocking of Kennedy, fullback Farod Jackson and tight ends Jared Hicks and Mason Templeton with his play Saturday.

"Our main thing was just to make them like it. We pounded and pounded and pounded them and that's what happen. The offensive line kept telling coach Markuson, ‘Let's power,' and that's what we did."

Against multiple defensive fronts, the offensive line more than held its own as it was able to stick to assignments control gaps all game. The linemen shifted the credit back to Howard.

"He was running like a bulldozer," said right guard Gene Perry. "All we would do when we would get the play, we'd tell him to believe in us and just read off our blocks.

" And that's exactly what he was doing and why he was able to find all those holes to run through."

The only thing keeping Howard from being completely satisfied with his performance was the fact he failed to reach the end zone on two runs he felt like he should have scored on. The last was on the game's final play when he came up a yard short of the goal line after a 32-yard run, his longest of the day.

"On the first one, I tripped and fell," Howard said. "And the other one, that late in the game, my main job was to try to lock the ball up (and not fumble). I didn't want to take a chance on stiff arming them or nothing.

"Because whether I got in (the end zone) or not, the game already was history ."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories