Freshman Ride Offensive Line To Victory

Arkansas did to Mississippi State on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium what it should have done to Vanderbilt in game two in the Ozarks. The difference this time in the way the Hogs destroyed one of the SEC's have nots was Casey Dick, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.

Those three smooth freshmen took advantage of the nice edge Arkansas held up front on both sides of the ball for a 20-0 breakout start three minutes into the second quarter against Mississippi State. The Hogs had it by 41-3 by intermission and cruised to a 44-10 victory.

None of those three were in the picture in the Vandy game. Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said, "Umm, hmm. That's what people will say. But I will say, we are close, a better team now all the way around and we are coming. Our defense wasn't there then, either. It's not just offense, it's all of it. Offense, defense and the kicking game. That's why we put up 41 in a half today."

The Hogs had blocked and defended well enough at the outset of the Vandy game to have the Commodores put away, but led only 10-0. The way the Hogs wasted their chances set up Vandy. The Commordoes got the 28-24 upset when Jay Cutler led a 15-0 fourth quarter against a still-learning Arkansas defense.

The Hogs picked up right where they left off at Oxford and upset was never a thought Saturday. Mississippi State quarterback Michael Henig had no protection against a now-solid UA front. The freshman was hit on almost every pass attempt. If he did manage to throw it on time, he was wild. It wouldn't have mattered. The Hogs had his receivers double covered. It seemed like it was only a matter of time before the Hogs plundered him for a defensive touchdown.

All of that led to such a comfortable victory for the Hogs that my mind began to wander by halftime. Why had I assigned Hawgs Illustrated staffer Dudley Dawson the trip to Hawaii this week to cover the Arkansas basketball team in the Maui Invitational?

Obviously, that decision was made weeks ago when it was dry and hot in the Ozarks. I was probably in a fit of depression either from the Vandy loss or after watching an Arkansas defense give up 70 to USC. Perhaps it was made before Dick, McFadden and Jones had been given the keys to the offense and coordinator Reggie Herring fixed the attitude and toughness of the defensive front four.

"Jamaal Anderson at end, he is the man on that defense now," Nutt said. "Andereson, Marcus Harrison, Keith Jackson and Desmond Sims. Those guys, all the way across our front. That's big."

The decision on the Hawaii trip was obviously made before the cold front forced our 11-month-old chocolate lab inside on 20-degree nights. There were two of those nights last week when Charlie Brown and I went to the study to keep him from running loose through the house.

I wasn't nearly as smart as Mississippi State tackle Antonio Johnson, ejected from this game in the final minute of the first half with his team trailing 34-3. The rest of us had to stay. His cheap shot on Peyton Hillis unfairly earned Johnson an early shower and a nap on the team bus. I bet Johnson would really laugh if he knew I turned down a trip to Hawaii.

Fair enough. The Hogs probably didn't care. It was their first SEC laugher since they dismantled Ole Miss on homecoming last November. And, it wasn't just a little bit of a laugher. Their 41 points in the first half were more than MSU had given up in any of its six previous SEC losses, the most being 37 against LSU five games ago.

Sadly, there is no mercy rule in the SEC. The Hogs treated the Bulldogs like Springdale's Bulldogs treat every high school team in the state. Except the clock seemed to be stopped throughout the second half at War Memorial Stadium.

"Have we ever scored 41 in a half?" Nutt said. "I didn't think so."

Peyton Hillis said, "No, there isn't a mercy rule, but that's about as good as you can do and as close as you can get to playing a perfect half."

Now it's about seeing if the freshmen and sophomores who have come so far on this Arkansas team can still be men at LSU where the meek fall by the wayside in a hurry. They'll be yelling Tiger Bait at these Arkansas players from the time they land in Baton Rouge until it's time to go home.

I didn't pick the Hawaii trip. I'll have to be satisfied with seeing how tall these young Razorbacks can stand in Tiger Stadium.


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