Seniors Go Out On Sour Note

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas senior defensive tackle Arrion Dixon kept his helmet on in the closing minutes, hiding some of the emotions that were swirling around in his head as he hugged teammates on the sideline.

Teammate Marcus Whitmore rested on one knee with his head bowed while the final seconds ticked off the clock. Quarterback Matt Jones watched his career officially end while sitting on a bench next to holder Dowell Loggains. Defensive end Jeb Huckeba held his head up, forcing a smile as he exchanged handshakes.

Arkansas' senior class ran through the gamut of emotions following the season-ending 43-13 loss against LSU in War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock on Friday. The relatively small, 10-member class was hoping to extend the season by advancing to a bowl game this winter. But the seniors had to come to grips with the end of their careers during the final minutes.

"I was just trying to think about, is this really my last time to play for the Hogs?" Huckeba said. "I still haven't realized it yet. I feel like the toughest part will be coming up the next couple weeks. You don't want to sulk about it and be sad.

"I was just trying to think about the positive times that I've had here and look around at the seniors that were with me and talk to the younger guys and encourage them and let them know what they can do next year."

All 10 members of the senior class represented Arkansas during Friday's coin toss and several turned in big plays against the Tigers.

Steven Harris caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Jones to pull Arkansas to within 17-14 in the second quarter. Huckeba, Dixon and Elliott Harris combined to collect 15 tackles and 1 sack.

Whitmore was second on the team with 7 tackles. Right guard Gene Perry did his best to slow LSU's interior linemen during his 11th and final start. Tailback DeCori Birmingham set up Arkansas' first touchdown by returning a kickoff 47 yards.

"I'm more sad than anything," said Birmingham, who described his career as a roller-coaster ride. "Tonight is my last night to play as an Arkansas Razorback. I'm a little sad about it. But you've got to get over it."

Said Dixon: "Those last minutes were tough. Looking at the last time in this stadium, having that Razorback uniform on. It's a little emotional."

Jones finished his illustrious career accounting for 77 touchdowns (53 passing, 24 rushing) and 8,372 yards. Both marks are school records. He also walks away with the Southeastern Conference rushing record for quarterbacks (2,535 yards).

The Ft. Smith native is one of several seniors that will ponder professional football futures in the next few months, hoping to follow in the steps of 2003 draftees like Shawn Andrews, Ahmad Carroll, Caleb Miller and Tony Bua.

Dixon already has received an invitation to play in a senior bowl in Hawaii in January, which will be attended by professional football scouts. Others like Jones, Huckeba, Harris and Birmingham should receive invitations as well.

"It was a wave of emotions, but probably the emotions I've had since I've been here," Harris said about the tears that trickled down his face at the end of the game. "It probably just hit me in the last three minutes. I loved my time here. Good things come for a reason. It also means that it's the beginning for something else."

Touchdown Makers

There weren't many bright spots to pick out of Friday's loss, but freshman fullback Peyton Hillis recorded one of his best days as a Razorback.

Hillis started his second game at fullback and led the Hogs with 66 rushing yards on five carries. He turned in a career-long 42-yard run in the first quarter and scored on a 7-yard pass from Jones.

Hillis led Arkansas with eight touchdowns (6 rushing, 2 receiving) and fell one short of the Arkansas freshman record, set by James Rouse in 1985. Freshman Marcus Monk was tied for second with Jones and De'Arrius Howard, scoring six.

By The Numbers

Arkansas lost its first game in Little Rock since Nov. 15 1997, when Tennessee beat the Hogs 30-22. LSU won its first game in Little Rock since 1996, when it beat Arkansas 17-7 in the regular-season finale.

The 29-point loss was Arkansas' largest margin of defeat since the 51-7 drubbing by Miami in 1987. It also was the second-biggest home loss during Nutt's tenure, behind the 38-7 loss to then-No. 25 Georgia on Sept. 30, 2000.

In addition, Friday's game was the fourth-biggest loss in seven seasons under Nutt. The Hogs lost by 43 points at Tennessee in 2000 (63-20). Arkansas lost by 31 against Georgia in 2000 and at LSU (55-24) last season.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories