Quarterback Cole Barthel completed five of eight passes and benefitted from a spectacular one-handed catch by Cedric Logan for 24 yards, but Barthel also threw an interception Michael Coe returned 92 yards for a touchdown for some of the highlights in the Fan Appreciation Day scrimmage.
An estimated 9,500 fans piled into the west stands at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on a mild night after thunderstorms knocked out power around northwest Arkansas earlier in the afternoon.
Head coach Houston Nutt withheld many of his key players on both sides of the ball. Instead, he turned things over to backups and freshmen in hopes of finding depth before the season opener in two weeks against Missouri State.
Quarterback Robert Johnson, bothered by a sore groin muscle, did not practice. Multi-purpose back Peyton Hillis was not at the scrimmage after spending two days throwing up because of a stomach virus. On defense, coordinator Reggie Herring did not play starting linebackers Pierre Brown and Sam Olajubutu, defensive tackle Marcus Harrison and defensive end Desmond Sims. End Anthony Brown and safety Vickiel Vaughn both got only five plays each.
"I'm a little paranoid right now," Herring said. "We just can't afford to lose those players. I think when we have all 11 of ours starters out there, we are probably pretty good, but we won't know that until the first game. I just can't afford to risk them in a situation like tonight. There are a lot of others coaches across America feeling the same way."
It was a night to watch freshmen tailbacks Darren McFadden (10 carries, 79 yards) and Felix Jones (10 carries, 34 yards) plow through the second and third team linebackers.
"I've been telling everyone for the last week about these two backs," Nutt said. "We had the ball on the ground too much and we'll spend some time on that this week, but you can see that these guys can play. Felix gets north when he sees a crease. Darren is very good and fast in the open field."
Most of McFadden's yards came on a pair of option plays when he was alone for the first 20 yards when the quarterbacks drew the outside defender. McFadden had a 32-yard scamper for the big play of the game on the ground. Jones squirted through the left side on the lead draw for 18 yards for his big play.
Jones fumbled once when he was stripped as he went over right guard. He lost another on what appeared to be a bad exchange with quarterback Alex Mortensen. The only other fumble came when Reggie Fish lost the ball on a reverse. Barthel dove to regain that loose ball. The only other turnover came when Casey Dick was intercepted.
Five different Razorbacks attempted passes, although two were not quarterbacks. Mortensen was 5 of 11 for 58 yards. Barthel was 5 of 8 for 88 with one interception. Dick was 2 of 6 for 53 yards with one interception. Wideout Marcus Monk was incomplete on a double pass. Dedrick Poole was incomplete on a halfback pass.
Poole was a busy man. He ran twice for one yard at tailback. He also threw a pass. He also caught a pass for 26 yards when Barthel dumped a screen pass over a defender and a blocker in the flats, a play that infuriated Herring.
"We have a guy right there," Herring said. "That one has to be knocked down. Don't know how it slipped in there."
Poole also played the last series at free safety when threes and fours were mopping up. Poole donned a yellow jersey over his red offensive jersey when he went to defense.
"That's something we are going to look at the next week to get a little depth at free safety," Herring said. "He said he played there in high school some and we are going to experiment around with it. By no means is that a for sure thing, just something to look at. He's a long way from playing in a game there. He's been in one meeting with the safeties and tonight we had to put a coach behind him to make sure he lined up right and went the right direction."
Nutt said, "For sure Dedrick still has a role on offense and a very big role, but we may need an extra safety in some nickel situations. He's played there before. We'll just have to wait and see."
Safety coach Chris Vaughn said, "I know he likes contact and our guys were excited the one time he had a chance to hit someone back there. But he went a little wide and he didn't really get a good shot in. You could see he stuck it up in there and wanted some of it. We will see how it goes."
Vaughn did push Poole in the right direction on at least one play and was giving verbal instructions on some others at the snap.
De'Arrius Howard scored twice for the offense, getting the nod on the goal line when the Hogs worked on their red zone offense. He spent most of the rest of the night on the sideline. He had four carries for 12 yards.
"We know what we have with De'Arrius and he's going to have a big role," Nutt said. "He's a big back who knows what to do with the ball."
McFadden got the ball in open-field situations for the most part and he knew what to do, too. He was quick and fast in the open field, making tacklers miss.
"He's got breakaway speed and is elusive," Nutt said. "Both of those young running backs are very, very good."
Conversely, they made the defense look like poor tacklers.
"We had some guys sitting out, but I don't care who they are, they are Division I players and they have to tackle better than that," Herring said. "Overall, that was bad tackling what you saw tonight. You can't win a game with that."
Strong safety Vickiel Vaughn said the tackling will improve.
"That's something I think will get better (when more starters play)," Vaughn said. "Some of the guys were a little anxious tonight and tried too hard. Our tackling was bad last year. That's our number one goal. The only thing I can say is that we'll be better than that."
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