Arkansas Searching For 'Big Win'

FAYETTEVILLE -- He helped Arkansas beat up on a lightly regarded opponent, barely breaking a sweat during two-and-a-half quarters of work.

That's why Arkansas left guard Stephen Parker refused to take last Saturday's 44-15 win against Louisiana-Monroe seriously. Sure, it snapped the Razorbacks' three-game losing streak and was their first win in a month. But Parker disregarded any sentiment that it was a "great win" or a "turning point" for the Hogs.

"Everyone thought that was a big game, that it's going to kick-start everything for the rest of the year," Parker said. "That didn't kick start anything. That was Louisiana-Monroe. We were supposed to win that game big. That wasn't a big win."

Parker said the "big game" tag is much more appropriate tonight, when Arkansas faces an enormous test against No. 21 Auburn in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The Hogs are 0-2 in Southeastern Conference play, haven't beaten a ranked team since 2003 and must win four of their final six against SEC teams to become bowl eligible.

Defensive tackle Keith Jackson said the Razorbacks know what's at stake.

A loss at Auburn wouldn't eliminate Arkansas from becoming bowl eligible this season. But falling to 2-4, 0-3 in the SEC would dampen hopes with games against Georgia, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU still remaining.

"We're going to have to get back on track," Jackson said. "We've got to win these games and try to get to a bowl, so (tonight is) very important. We've got to prove a point. Auburn, they're ranked No. 21. We know that beating a ranked team will help us out a lot, to let people know that we're going to be here the rest of the season.

"It will open everybody's eyes."

Arkansas, which is 11-18 under coach Houston Nutt against ranked opponents, hasn't had much success doing that lately.

The Razorbacks' last win against a ranked opponent was the 38-28 upset against then-No. 5 Texas in Sept. 2003. Their last home win against a ranked team came in 2002 against LSU in Little Rock (21-20). And Arkansas hasn't beaten a ranked team in Fayetteville since 2001, when it knocked off 17th-ranked Auburn 42-17.

The Razorbacks have lost eight straight against ranked teams. They were 0-5 in 2004, losing to Texas, Florida, Auburn, Georgia and LSU. They lost to top-ranked Southern California (70-17) and then-No. 20 Alabama (24-13) last month.

"We're capable of beating anybody, I believe that," said senior Dedrick Poole. "It's just about getting the breaks when we get our opportunities, taking advantage of the opportunities. Not giving their team any extra opportunities.

"This is where you earn your stripes. You play against ranked teams. We just want to come out with that 'W,' whatever it takes. It doesn't matter if we win by a point or if we win by 30. Just as long as we come out with a 'W.'"

It wouldn't be the first time Arkansas has pulled off an upset against Auburn and coach Tommy Tuberville.

Nutt said Arkansas was clicking on all cylinders in 2001, when it beat the Tigers in Fayetteville. Auburn was undefeated and ranked, but the Razorbacks recorded big plays throughout their 42-17 win.

It also happened a year later, when the Razorbacks wiped out a two-game, SEC losing skid at Auburn. Behind tailback Fred Talley's 241 rushing yards, Arkansas ran all over the Tigers en route to a 38-17 win in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"Houston has done a good job over the last few years of rallying his troops when they have setbacks," said Tuberville, who is 4-6 in his career against the Razorbacks, including a 3-3 mark at Auburn. "This won't be any different. This will be the best game that they've played all year.

"We expect them to play their best game. But I expect us to play our best game."

Auburn played its first five games at home and will get its first road experience in Razorback Stadium tonight. The Tigers upset then-No. 7 Arkansas 10-3 during their last trip to Fayetteville in 2003, ending the Razorbacks' 4-0 start.

Auburn which rolled to an easy, 38-20 win last season has won two straight against the Razorbacks. Linebacker Travis Williams said Arkansas-Auburn is typically an "old-fashioned, throwback game" and doesn't expect anything different tonight.

"That's the way it's been for some reason," Williams said. "Arkansas isn't our rival. It's not our Alabama. But for some reason, they always get up to play us. For some reason, they're always geeked to play us and we're always hyped to play them."

Nutt said the Razorbacks are motivated once again to play Auburn, which is regarded as the biggest game on Arkansas' home schedule after the Tigers went 13-0 and won the SEC Championship in 2004. It has become even more important for the Razorbacks, who are hoping to reach the six-win mark despite their 1-3 start.

Nutt said the Razorbacks took an important step against Louisiana-Monroe last Saturday. It wasn't a "great win" or a "turning point" by Parker's standards, but Nutt said it helped Arkansas regain some much-needed confidence after the Alabama loss.

And now the Razorbacks are looking for a big win against Auburn.

"We've been hitting hard on everybody doing their job, keep playing, keep focusing," Nutt said. "We got better during the open week, had a good ball game Saturday night (against Louisiana-Monroe).

"Anything can happen in the wild, wild West. That's the biggest thing. So many times two losses in the West have gotten you a trip to the championship game."

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