One And Done

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas seniors Kyle Roper, Vickiel Vaughn and Pierre Brown don't want to consider the upsetting possibility.

Neither do other long-time Razorbacks like Clarke Moore, De'Arrius Howard, Brandon Kennedy and Kyle Dickerson.

Arkansas will kick off its homecoming game against South Carolina by honoring a 12-member senior class in Reynolds Razorback Stadium today. But Roper said the veterans shudder to think their final on-campus game could end with a third-straight homecoming loss, another disappointing defeat in Fayetteville and the crushing blow that officially ends the Razorbacks' hopes of playing in a bowl game.

"That's something we can't think about," Roper said. "We want to go out there the right way. It starts here in Fayetteville. We've got to have this one for a bowl game."

The Razorbacks (2-5, 0-4 in Southeastern Conference) face all three scenarios when they meet the Steve Spurrier-led Gamecocks today. That's why motivational signs reading "Win in Fayetteville" and "They Remember in November" have been hanging in the stadium for players to study for two weeks.

South Carolina (5-3, 3-3) has won three straight and is one win short of becoming bowl-eligible for the second consecutive season. The Hogs aren't as lucky. They're one loss away from missing postseason play for the second straight season and must win their final four to become bowl-eligible.

Coach Houston Nutt doesn't want the postseason hopes to end. Especially on senior day.

"We need to win a game," Nutt said. "We're sitting there without a win in SEC play and that's been the biggest emphasis we've put on it. It's time to win, especially here in Fayetteville. I don't know how much more emphasis you can put on it than that. But that's been the main focus for our football team for a couple of weeks.

"We've had some outstanding efforts, but we've come up short."

Two of those disappointments have come in Fayetteville this season. Vanderbilt outscored Arkansas 15-0 in the fourth quarter of its 28-24 win on Sept. 10. The Hogs couldn't hold a 10-6 halftime lead in its 34-17 loss to Auburn three weeks ago.

Arkansas is 14-9 in Razorback Stadium since its expansion in 2000 and is 6-8 in SEC games during that stretch. Two of those losses have come in the past two homecoming games against Georgia (20-14) in 2004 and Auburn (10-3) in 2003.

Defensive tackle Marcus Harrison said the Hogs know that must change.

"We understand the situation," Harrison said. "We know that if we lose one game, then it's over for us. That's why we're so anxious, we're ready to come back out here and regroup and get better. Play as hard as we can and get a win this time."

Vaughn said the senior class has made it a point to encourage teammates to keep their heads up after the disappointing start. The free safety said the Hogs put together two solid weeks and still believe they can win four in a row.

Vaughn said the seniors' message to youngsters is simple: Forget the past.

"(The seniors) wanted to make sure everybody knows we've still got things that we can do for this team to end on a good note," Vaughn said. "Everything that happened in the past is done. Everything that happened, you can't prevent.

"The only thing we can do is look forward to the future and to what's ahead."

The Gamecocks come to Fayetteville after a 16-15 win at Tennessee last Saturday. South Carolina's first road win of the season snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Volunteers and was its third straight SEC win, which equals a school record.

South Carolina and former coach Lou Holtz became bowl-eligible last season after its 35-32 home win against the Razorbacks. Then-quarterback Syvelle Newton hit receiver Troy Williamson for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 1:09 remaining.

The Gamecocks now are led by Spurrier, sophomore quarterback Blake Mitchell and redshirt freshman receiver Sidney Rice. But the first-year coach said South Carolina is in good position to reach the six-win mark once again.

"I'm happy to be in this position," said Spurrier, whose team fell to 2-3 after a 48-7 loss to Auburn on Oct. 1. "Four weeks ago if you said we were playing for No. 6 right now, we'd be doing cartwheels. We understand we're in a pretty doggone good position. But we also know we could lose out.

"It's not going to be easy, but we have a chance to win some of these games, too."

Arkansas believes it has a chance to reach the same goal, which is why Nutt decided to change quarterbacks. True freshman Casey Dick, who has never played a down, will replace Robert Johnson as Arkansas' starter in hopes of invigorating a passing offense that has been stale this season.

The Razorbacks are last in the SEC and 111th in the nation in passing (133 yards a game). Nutt is hoping the change will help the Hogs kick off a strong November with games against South Carolina, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU.

"There's no ploy or anything," said Nutt, who gave Dick 95 percent of the work with the first-team offense this week. "We're trying to do what's best for our team. We're trying to win now. Otherwise, you defintely wouldn't hurt a freshman by taking his redshirt off. You want to save his season, but we feel like there's a season left.

"We've got a chance to win and let's go win starting with South Carolina."

Arkansas is 20-10 in November during Nutt's tenure, including a 16-4 mark in its past 20 games. The Razorbacks went 5-0 during the final month of the season in 2002 and claimed the SEC Western Division Championship. They went 4-1 in 2003, snapping a three-game October losing streak that knocked them out of the Top 25.

Several members of Arkansas' 2005 senior class played important roles in those strong finishes. And, after a solid performance in its 23-20 loss at fourth-ranked Georgia two weeks ago, the Hogs believe they're capable of a similar November.

"These next four games, we have to win to go to a bowl game and that's what we need to do," said true freshman tailback Felix Jones. "We have to win (today).

"We don't want the seniors to leave like that, with a loss at home."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories