Razorbacks Come Up With ‘Special' Victory

LITTLE ROCK — By now, Arkansas should know how to take advantage of someone else's mistakes on special teams.

First, there was Vanderbilt kicker Bryant Hahnfeldt missing the potentially game-winning 48-yard field goal in the final minute.

Then, Alabama kicker Leigh Tiffin had a complete meltdown, botching three field goals and an extra-point attempt in a double-overtime loss at Arkansas.

And finally, there was Saturday night.

No. 13 Arkansas took advantage of a pair of mistakes by Louisiana-Monroe's deep snapper, as well as two well-placed punts by Jacob Skinner, to make up for the offense's early struggles in a 44-10 win in front of a crowd of 55,420 in War Memorial Stadium.

"If you give them that many gifts," Louisiana-Monroe coach Charlie Weatherbie said, "they're going to kick your tail just like they did."

The four special-team plays contributed in large part to the Razorbacks (7-1, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) scoring all 23 of their points in the first half of another lopsided victory.

It also made things a whole lot easier on Arkansas quarterback Mitch Mustain (who struggled with his accuracy early on), offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn (who celebrated his 41st birthday) and coach Houston Nutt (who earned his 100th career coaching victory).

Early on, Arkansas' offense had difficulty moving the ball downfield. Mustain threw more interceptions (2) than completions (1) in the first quarter, and backup Casey Dick didn't look much better when he took over in relief.

Frankly, it didn't matter.

After taking a 7-0 lead on its opening drive, Louisiana-Monroe (1-7) committed a pair of costly special-team mistakes that gave Arkansas great field position and more than enough momentum to cruise to its seventh straight win.

Usually, it's a bad sign when a TV camera focuses in on a team's deep snapper as he stands on the sidelines, looking dejected.

That's exactly what happened Saturday after Louisiana-Monroe's Cody Bauman lobbed his second bad snap over the head of punter Scott Love.

Bauman's first bad snap early in the first quarter led to a 50-yard loss for the Warhawks and gave the Razorbacks first down at the 10-yard line. Sophomore Felix Jones scored two plays later on a touchdown run to tie the score at 7.

Bauman's night got worse.

The senior lobbed a second bad snap over Love, resulting in a 35-yard loss that gave Arkansas first down at the 14. Mustain threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Monk three plays later.

"That was a senior that's done (long-snapping) for a while for them," Arkansas special teams coach James Shibest said of Bauman. "And (his bad snaps) really put us in some really great position when we were struggling early.

"That helped us really get going."

While Louisiana-Monroe struggled mightily on special teams, Arkansas had one of its better performances in that area.

Skinner booted two punts in the first half that junior Chris Houston downed deep in Warhawks' territory. The first punt left Louisiana-Monroe with the football on the 1, and the second one led to a safety.

On the first play after Houston downed the ball at the 2, Arkansas linebacker Matt Hewitt tackled Warhawks running back Calvin Dawson in the end zone for a safety to give the Razorbacks a 16-2 lead with 4:12 left in the first half.

"Those first two (punts), boy, I was fired up," Skinner said. "I wish I could have done them on all four (of my punts)."

Saturday marked the second straight week that Arkansas' special teams played a big part in the team taking an early lead.

A week ago, Jones returned the opening kickoff 100 yards to give Arkansas the momentum to cruise to a 38-3 win over Ole Miss in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

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