Hogs Unveil New Toy

Arkansas came with something new and fun for the opposition as it rolled past Ole Miss, 38-3. Here's the thoughts of HI.com publisher Clay Henry.

With all the questions about who is calling what play and complaints about the lack of passes down the field, I got to the pressbox after Arkansas' 38-3 victory over Ole Miss without asking the burning question: Who is the man coaching Darren McFadden when he plays quarterback?

Is it Alex Wood, the quarterback coach? Is it Danny Nutt, the running back coach and a former college quarterback? Is it Gus Malzahn, the offensive coordinator? Is it head coach Houston Nutt?

I'm sure that will come up this week and I wish I had settled that issue Saturday. Sorry, but that will remain another of the many mysteries swirling around this Arkansas football team.

What isn't an issue, at least in my mind, is whether or not this Arkansas team is any good. It is quite good and may end up in a better than average bowl if it can avoid major injuries.

That's why there was concern when Sam Olajubutu and Antwain Robinson limped off with November on the horizon. It won't matter this week when the Hogs meet Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock. The Hogs are plenty good enough to rest both those defensive starters this week.

McFadden didn't blister Ole Miss with any conventional runs out of his true tailback position, but he deflated the Rebels in several other ways, including getting the backside pursuit with a block in front of Felix Jones on his 100-yard kickoff return to start the game.

McFadden was at quarterback for five plays, three of them keepers. He capped Arkansas' first possession with a 4-yard run up the gut on a quarterback draw. He also went 70 yards with a screen for another touchdown. And, he handed off to Jones for two nice gains on a flanker sweep.

There was also a keeper on a third-and-2 for a first down.

"That one on third down outside was supposed to be a pass," McFadden revealed, "but I could see that I could keep it and get the first down so I didn't throw it."

There was enough diversity to keep the Rebels off balance with a nice mix of power running and underneath passing. It might have been Mitch Mustain's best game at quarterback. The true freshman completed 12 of 15 passes, but that's not what pleased Malzahn the most.

"Mitch did a nice job and the best part was we didn't have a turnover," Malzahn said. "That's the third straight game. That helps you a lot when you don't lose the ball."

Mustain did fumble once when he pulled the ball down on what was supposed to be a slant. It was poked away from behind, but the do-everything McFadden was there to jump on the loose ball.

Mustain hit McFadden for the TD on the screen on the next play.

"We were moving some guys around to get Ole Miss off balance, but what was really good was the blocking," Malzahn said. "Obviously, we are trying to get the ball to Darren and Felix in space in as many forms as possible."

The Hogs put in the quarterback plays for McFadden this week, but it's something Malzahn has wanted to do since spring drills.

"Darren was hurt to start the year, so it wasn't until the last three weeks that we started thinking about it," Malzahn said.

Did he know McFadden played some quarterback at Pulaski Oak Grove?

"I know all about him," Malzahn said.

Do the Hogs have some more QB plays for McFadden? How about a pass back to Mustain, the flanker for those plays?

"Maybe," Malzahn grinned. "There may be some more stuff off of that.

"Hey, we are just having some fun. The guys have really worked hard and you can do some things like that in practice to keep everyone up and feeling good. It's fun stuff to work on.

"We really do have a lot of weapons. It's really fun to be the offensive coordinator with these type of players."

It' also a lot of fun to start with a 7-0 lead courtesy of the special teams.

"That was a big play," said James Shibest. "To open the game by taking it 100 is something that isn't going to happen very often. But, we worked hard on it this week.

"We talked long and hard about how good Ole Miss is on special teams. They had blocked some punts and field goals. We showed them film of all of that Tuesday and we had the attention of the special teams.

"Our average (on kickoff returns) hasn't been great, but we've been close to breaking some. We had changed some personnel -- four or five guys -- a few weeks ago and they are just settling in on the kickoff return now. We've been solid on special teams all year, but we hadn't done anything big. We did today."

Shibest is one of the many coaches lined up to tutor McFadden and Jones.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories