Razorbacks Defense Looking Forward

FAYETTEVILLE — Marcus Harrison isn't mincing any words when it comes to this weekend's matchup against Utah State.

Despite a first-half performance last week that saw Southern California manage just three field goals and a touchdown — 10 of the 16 points coming off of turnovers — Arkansas' defense still has plenty to prove, at least to itself.

"I'm not trying to imply anything about Utah State," Harrison said. "But it's time for us to get a shutout around here."

Arkansas hasn't shut out an opponent since 2002, when it blanked Troy State and South Carolina in back-to-back weeks.

But Harrison wants to make a point over just how far this defense has come since the 70-17 loss at USC in 2005.

"When you see stats and stuff and you see the top 10 defenses, we gave up 400-something yards against USC (actually 472 this season)," Harrison said. "The average Virginia Tech game is 248 yards per game. We need to get our level back down there."

In 2005, Virginia Tech led the nation in total defense, giving up 248 yards per game. Arkansas was 34th, giving up an average of 342.

Despite the 50-14 loss on the scoreboard at the end, defensive coordinator Reggie Herring is encouraged.

"I don't think there's any doubt that we're a lot better off this year despite the score," Herring said.

Harrison is still convinced the Razorbacks' defense can be one of the top defenses in the nation.

"We had it in our mind that we could beat those guys," Harrison said. "But the outcome didn't come out that way.

"I'm glad it was the first game so that's over with. We've got 11 more games to come out and play."

Herring has been focusing on the positives of Saturday's first half.

"I really believe that we played Southern Cal as fine as anybody last year, maybe this year as we'll play them at least for a half," Herring said. "Our kids fought hard and we just flat didn't get it done in the second half.

"We ran out of steam and our depth didn't perform as well as we would've liked."

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt brought up Harrison's play and that of defensive end Antwain Robinson the next day in a meeting with the defense.

"Antwain Robinson and Marcus Harrison played at a championship level. We need all four guys doing that, not just sometimes. I know they're on the field a long time but the way you get off the field is to stop them.

"In the first half, you couldn't have asked for a better defense. I mean perfect — stopping the run, tackling good. Offensively, we've got to help them but I just want that intensity each time."

Herring added cornerback Chris Houston as another player who stood out against the Trojans.

"I doubt Southern Cal will admit it and it's irrelevant now but the film doesn't lie," Herring said. "We're really proud of those guys. We think we've got something special with those guys. You've got to maintain it though, you're only as good as your last snap."

When the team gathered Sunday to rehash the loss from the day before, Herring brought his defense together as a whole to review the film, something he rarely does.

"I wanted to show them the first half what they were capable of doing — and I do know the game's four quarters, I don't need anybody reminding me of that," Herring said. "We wanted to reflect on the positive things because we've got 11 games left. We wanted to come out of this as less beat up mentally as possible because we've got to move on.

"I met with them to show them what they're capable of doing against one of the top five teams, top programs in the country year-in and year-out. It's a thing of beauty. They really played well and got after them. That was something I wanted them to come out of the thing feeling good about themselves even though we all were down about the loss and felt bad about the second half."

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