Hogs Eager To Little Rock and Roll

LITTLE ROCK -- One by one, players streamed out of the Arkansas locker room, walked down the ramp and loaded their red equipment bags onto a truck.

Right guard Jonathan Luigs and reserve guard Tyler Morgan, who were helping older teammates, toted two bags apiece. Fullback Brandon Kennedy had trouble finding someone to carry his, but finally convinced an equipment room assistant to help. Defensive end Anthony Brown took care of his own belongings, stopping only to sit down, slip off his cleats and throw them in his equipment bag.

The Razorbacks were preparing for another road trip Thursday night.

But this time, they were gearing up for a long-awaited trip home.

"We're ready to go back to the Rock," defensive tackle and Little Rock native Keith Jackson Jr. said. "It has been a long time. I'm ready to go home."

Arkansas (1-3, 0-2 in Southeastern Conference) will make its first appearance of the season in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium tonight at 6, intending to snap its three-game losing skid, restore confidence and turn a woeful start around against Louisiana-Monroe (2-3, 2-0 in Sun Belt Conference).

The Razorbacks, who typically play a Little Rock game every September, will play there a little later than usual this season. Arkansas hasn't made a first appearance in War Memorial Stadium this late since 1961, when coach Frank Broyles' team didn't play its first Little Rock game against Texas Christian until Oct. 7.

So defensive end Jamaal Anderson said the Hogs are excited about the homecoming.

"It's been a real long time since I've been home," said Anderson, a Little Rock native. "Hopefully it's going to be a good experience to go back. (Arkansas coach Houston) Nutt has been telling me I've been stepping up in practices this week.

"I think it has something to do with the Rock."

Anderson said there also has been plenty of intensity because of Arkansas' last game in Little Rock. No. 12 LSU ruined Nutt's perfect record in War Memorial Stadium last November. The Tigers' 43-14 win snapped the Razorbacks' 17-game win streak in Little Rock under Nutt, wiped out Arkansas' school-record tying, 6-year bowl streak and abruptly ended the 2004 season.

Linebacker Pierre Brown said Arkansas wants to "start another win streak" tonight.

"I know it's going to be great," Brown said. "They love us in Little Rock. It's an atmosphere like none other. I can't wait to see their reaction. I know they're going to greet us as soon as we get off the bus.

"They're a riled up bunch and we're going to feed off of their enthusiasm."

Nutt also believes a change of scenery will be good for a frustrated team that is off to its worst start since 2001.

Arkansas opened that season 1-3 -- with three SEC losses -- but rebounded thanks to a confidence-building, 42-19 win against Division I-AA opponent Weber State. They followed it up with a season-changing, 10-7 win against then-No. 9 South Carolina in Little Rock and finished 7-4.

Arkansas needs a promising performance against the Indians with games against Auburn and Georgia looming. But Nutt said the Hogs must concentrate on Louisiana-Monroe, which sports a dangerous offense led by senior quarterback Steven Jyles.

"We can't look to Auburn. We can't look to Georgia," Nutt said. "We've got to look at this game and score some points, get that confident feeling and put the ball in the end zone. We've got to stay on the field, execute, do whatever it takes to win."

Brown and center Kyle Roper both redshirted in 2001. The seniors said the Weber State and South Carolina wins haven't been forgotten. They believe a similar performance in Little Rock can trigger another turnaround.

In fact, Roper believes tonight's game will serve as the turning point of the season.

"(The LSU game) left a bad taste in our mouth the last time we were there and we're ready to go back and turn our season around," Roper said. "We're ready to see the fans that are there, get in that atmosphere down there and have fun with it."

Brown said the Razorbacks are simply looking for a way to get back on track.

"We want to turn it around right now," said Brown, who will be back in the starting lineup after missing two games with a sprained knee. There's seven games left. Play every game like it's your last and eventually thing's going to start going our way.

"You'd be surprised how lucky you get when you're working hard or you hustle."

Louisiana-Monroe knows the Razorbacks will have a rowdy crowd backing them.

Receiver Drouzon Quillen said the Indians got a good feel for War Memorial Stadium last September, losing 49-20 in a game tighter than expected in the first half. Behind Jyles and Quillen, Louisiana-Monroe threw for 278 yards in the first half, scored 20 points and threatened Arkansas. But the Razorbacks adjusted at halftime, shut down the Indians in the second half and pulled away en route to a comfortable win.

"I remember last year," Quillen said. "(The crowd) was wild. I loved that. I know the other players on our team loved that. Last year, we played at Auburn and I think they had 86,000. I think last year when we played Arkansas they had 55,000.

"It was very loud. They were on you."

Nutt is hoping Louisiana-Monroe will have to deal with the same kind of deafening noise tonight despite Arkansas' shaky start.

Arkansas has had two weeks to heal bumps and bruises, shore up weaknesses and gain confidence after losing the past three games. The product on the field hasn't been a work of art this season, but Nutt believes Arkansas will take an important step during its first appearance in Little Rock this season.

"I would hope that nobody (has given up on the season)," Nutt said last week. "I would hope they wouldn't. If they were that quick to give up, I'd hate to have that attitude around our players because they don't think that.

"I go by practice, gauge them by their attitude. They've still got a lot of hope and a lot of desire to win and to finish a successful season."

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