Arkansas 20, Utah State 0

With its defense coming up with its first shutout in four years and 42 games, Arkansas' Darren McFadden and Mitch Mustain help the offense do enough to get past Utah State 20-0 Saturday night before an announced crowd of 64,491 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium

After a week of rumors, innuendo and drama among its fans that only a daytime soap opera enthusiast could love, the University of Arkansas finally got back to the football field on Saturday night.

While it was far from perfection, it did end up better than the Razorbacks previous outing did – albeit against a much less talented foe.

Sophomore tailback Darren McFadden rushed 20 times for 185 yards and two scores and true freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain was 9-of-17 passing for 121 yards and a touchdown in the first start of his career as Arkansas downed Utah State 20-0 before an announced crowd of 64,491 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

"Anytime you can pitch a shutout, you get excited," Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt said. "I'm proud of our defense, but offensively we are shooting ourselves in the foot. We really should have scored 35-40 points. We play in too tough a league to give points away. But wins are precious, even if they are ugly."

It was the first shutout Arkansas' defense had pitched since a 2002 game at South Carolina, a 23-0 win on Nov. 9. That was a span of 42 games.

Utah State head coach Brent Guy could have helped his team avoid the shutout, but chose not to kick a field goal late and instead go for a touchdown.

"We've got to score touchdowns to win games," Guy said. "That's why we didn't kick the field goal. I'm not into moral victories and I wasn't going to kick a field goal there just to avoid getting shutout."

The Razorbacks (1-1) rolled up over 450 yards of total offense – 279 rushing and 178 passing– while evening their record after a 50-14 loss to visiting No. 3 USC last week to open the season.

It was a winning start for Mustain, who joined McFadden in fumbling once.

"I was very, very proud of him," Nutt said. "He took care of the ball for the most part and didn't try to force it into coverage. A lot of times, a lot of strong-armed quarterbacks think they can go through a keyhole. But he mostly didn't try to do that."

But they also fumbled at the 1 going in for a score (the only turnover after 5 against USC), missed an extra point and field goal and sputtered at times on a night when there were 38 running plays and 22 passing one.

"We have got to go to another level," Nutt said. "We really have to step it up. Everybody has got to pull their weight."

The Arkansas defense kept Utah State (0-2), who lost to Wyoming 38-7 in its season opener, out of the end zone but the Aggies did move the ball enough to gain 249 yards of total offense.

"Every time you get a win, especially a shutout, you have to be pleased," UA defensive tackle Keith Jackson noted. "It is definitely something to be proud of. But we have so much to work on before next week because Vanderbilt showed today (in a 13-10 loss at Alabama) that they are a very good team."

Arkansas was scoreless in the first quarter only because McFadden fumbled at the 1 on the Razorbacks' second possession, a play that happened after fellow sophomore tailback Felix Jones reeled of a spectacular 35-yard run and just missed breaking the plane of the goal line.

"It was completely my fault for not securing the ball better," McFadden said. "There is no excuse. I have to work to make sure it doesn't happen again."

The Razorbacks would break the ice in the second quarter with a 6-play, 50-yard blitz with McFadden carrying 5 times for 42 yards, including the final 9 yards for a score.

Stephen Arnold's PAT put the home team ahead 7-0 with 8:01 left in the half.

Although Arkansas didn't score on its next possession, the Razorbacks did roar down the field again after taking over the ball at its own 20 with just 1:21 left before intermission.

McFadden got 9, Mustain hooked up with former Springdale teammate Damian Williams on a 46-yard bomb and then two plays later the Razorbacks covered the final 26 yards with Jones rushing for half of it and then Mustain connecting with Monk for the final 13.

That connection and Arnold's PAT capped a 5-play, 80-yard drive in which Arkansas still had 22 seconds left on the clock after it took a 14-0 lead.

"It's always nice to be able to give the ball to such backs like Darren, Felix (Jones) and Peyton (Hillis)," Mustain said. "That make things a lot easier as a quarterback."

McFadden – showing that his injured toe is nearly healed if not all the way – ripped off a 72-yard run in the third quarter to make it 20-0 with 6:09 left in the third quarter. "Man it was good to have the old Darren back," Nutt said. "You can tell he missed a month, but he never looked over to (UA running backs coach) Danny (Nutt) because of being tired. He wanted to be out there the whole time." The 72-yard run was actually the longest run of McFadden's career for a touchdown. "I saw the hole even before I crossed the line of scrimmage," McFadden said. "I almost lost my feet, but I regained my balance and took it to the house. It was great blocking by the offensive line."

Arnold – who had hit the goal post on his second attempt but got it through – missed this one when he hit the goal post again and it bounced away.

He would later miss a 37-yard field goal attempt.

"You can't miss an extra point and we almost missed two," Nutt said. "We just can't have that. We have got to look at that. I was going to go with Jeremy Davis on the last kick if we scored again."

Utah State had a chance to avert the shutout by driving into Arkansas territory midway through the fourth quarter, but the drive stalled.

The Aggies had one more opportunity, driving all way to the Razorback 7 before being turned around on fourth down.

Jones rushed 9 times for 66 yards while Michael Smith got the last three carries of the game and ripped off 37 yards.

Monk led the pass catchers with 3 receptions for 57 yards while Williams hauled in 2 passes for 54 yards and Peyton Hillis 4 for 47.

Casey Dick played one series lasting 15 plays, finishing 2 of 5 passing for 59 yards.

Marcus Cross led Utah State with 29 carries for 104 yards.

The Razorbacks will return to action next Saturday when they travel to play at Vanderbilt in a 11:30 a.m. game that will be televised by Lincoln Financial.





Darren McFadden



Felix Jones



Damian Williams


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