A Perfect Day

FAYETTEVILLE — Everyone got what they wanted. Well, except Southeast Missouri State.

Arkansas fans enjoyed the type of lopsided victory they have come to expect on homecoming.

Razorbacks defensive coordinator Reggie Herring finally got a dominant performance from his team against an inferior opponent.

Backup quarterback Casey Dick saw significant playing time and made a case for even more snaps.

And coach Houston Nutt received a framed plaque from his seniors, and better yet, a 63-7 victory in front of an announced crowd of 72,453 on his 49th birthday.

For the most part, everything went smoothly Saturday afternoon in Reynolds Razorback Stadium — at least until Arkansas' players tried to wish Nutt a happy birthday following the game.

"We tried to sing ‘Happy Birthday,' but then half of the team said, ‘Happy Birthday,' and half the team started singing," Arkansas running back Michael Smith said. "(Coach Nutt) just cut us off."

Almost everything else went as planned.

Running back Darren McFadden broke off a 52-yard touchdown on Arkansas' first play from scrimmage, the first of six touchdowns the Razorbacks would score to take a 42-0 halftime lead.

Defensive tackle Keith Jackson Jr. recorded Arkansas' first interception of the season — and then was left breathless after the 6-foot, 296-pound senior returned it 69 yards for a touchdown.

The Razorbacks (5-1, 3-0 SEC) moved within one game of being bowl eligible by easily cruising to their fifth straight win, this one against an NCAA Division I-AA opponent that had a new starting quarterback and not much hope of pulling off the upset.

"I guess if you were wishing for a perfect game, you want it to happen, but it's not going to. It's just human nature," Herring said following the 56-point win. "But (the players) did what they had to do in a game they were supposed to win. And they didn't look sloppy doing it."

Following last Saturday's shocking 27-10 win at previously No. 2 Auburn, Arkansas' coaches stressed to their players the importance of not having a letdown against Southeast Missouri State.

Earlier this week, Herring said Saturday's game would be "an indictment on what we are" as a team.

In his two years at Arkansas, Herring said he had not seen his team play to its potential against an opponent it was heavily favored to beat. This was a chance to do so.

"You're either a champ or a chump," Herring said Wednesday.

Well, it might be a little premature to call Arkansas a champ. But the Hogs certainly didn't look like chumps as they rushed for 381 yards, held Southeast Missouri State to just 31 yards on the ground and fell just short of pulling off their second shutout of the season.

"The coaches thought we were going to be all big-headed and things like that. But we actually came to work," Jackson said. "We worked real hard last week at practice, and we just surprised our coaches, I think, by coming out there to work like that coming off a big win."

Almost everyone got involved in the blowout. Former Arkansas quarterback Robert Johnson caught his first pass as a wide receiver. Junior Reggie Fish returned punts. And even third-string quarterback Clark Irwin got some work when the score got lopsided in the fourth quarter.

Three Arkansas running backs — Smith (116 yards on eight carries), Felix Jones (106 yards on five carries) and McFadden (71 yards on six carries) — combined to rush for five touchdowns.

Wide receivers Damian Williams, Chris Baker and London Crawford each caught a touchdown pass.

And Dick, who had not attempted a pass since late in a 20-0 win over Utah State on Sept. 9, came in after starter Mitch Mustain struggled with his accuracy early on. Dick completed 8-of-9 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

Dick's performance — and Mustain's 5-for-13 for 51 yards and one touchdown —will likely raise questions about a possible quarterback controversy, but Nutt would rather save that for another day.

After all, Saturday was his birthday.

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