Injuries caught up with Arkansas in the second half of the SEC Championship game. The Hogs ran out of bullets and Florida did not.
Just one week after leaving the field in Tallahassee, Fla., on a stretcher, freshman flyer Percy Harvin -- along with two major blowups in the kicking game -- scored twice to lift the Gators to a 38-28 victory that left the Hogs crushed in their locker room in the Georgia Dome.
The neck injury that scared Harvin against Florida State was not a factor. Harvin's 67-yard run to start the fourth quarter was the backbreaker and came just after a muffed punt by Reggie Fish was recovered for the go-ahead Florida score.
Fish was on the field because Peyton Hillis couldn't play after trying the last three weeks to rehab from a bruised thigh. It didn't help that Darren McFadden rolled his ankle late in the first quarter trying to run a hitch route at wideout.
McFadden was done as a kick returner and couldn't do his Superman imitation in the Wildcat package as a do-it-all quarterback. He still led the Hogs with 73 yards on 21 carries, but Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said he was more of a decoy than a true home run threat.
"I don't want to make an excuse, but we had to give up on the Wildcat tonight and look for other ways," Nutt said. "He just wasn't his normal self after the first quarter. He tried to go, but that wasn't him in the last three quarters."
The Gators did just what Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring feared most, run four and five great wideouts onto the field and dare Arkansas to try to match them.
"We've got to do some more recruiting and get some more players," Herring said. "They had more widouts than we had cover corners. They were playing all of those great wideouts and they got the ball to Harvin in some situations that we couldn't handle.
"We've got some shortages at certain positions and we are going to fix that in recruiting.
"That touchdown early in the fourth -- we had two guys in position and they whiffed. You can say you should tackle him, but he's a great, great athlete and we couldn't match him. We tried, but we didn't have enough corners."
Well after the game, Nutt was asked if Arkansas game planned for the Florida phenom. Silly question. The Hogs have been thinking about how to stop Harvin for several weeks.
Harvin was not a surprise. It was Sunday afternoon just prior to Nutt's media briefing when the Arkansas boss ran into a reporter fresh off the phone from a man close to the Florida program. Nutt wanted to know about Harvin.
"Do they have him this week?" Nutt asked. Told it was still too close to call, Nutt winced and leaned hard on a glass wall facing onto the field at the Broyles Center. He knew what awaited the Hogs if Harvin could play.
"We knew the kind of athletes they had," Nutt said. "We knew about Harvin and we prepared for him. But we were right there with them and had our chances. Casey Dick made some good throws, but our wideouts have to help him more than they did tonight. Damian Williams had one in his hands. We dropped some others and we gave Florida too many gifts.
"The thing is, we competed and played our guts out. We gave them a good shot and we just couldn't overcome the three or four key mistakes we made tonight."
Herring skipped over the kicking game mistakes and pointed to the Harvin scamper as the "back breaker. They've done that to everyone, make big plays with him. Great athletes make things happen."
Herring was still proud of his defense, a unit that made big plays to start the third quarter to put the Hogs in front.
"A championship game is about big plays," Herring said. "This one hurts because we were right there. Our guys are hurting because they competed and came up just short.
"I want to still say that our kids, the alumni and the fans should remember how far we've come this year. Don't lose focus on how far we've come and what we accomplished. Keep perspective.
"We are now a team to be reckoned with, a team to be respected. It's too bad the last two games ended this way, but we are going to fight like heck to win the bowl game.
"Yes, we are still short and we still lack certain things. We couldn't overcome injuries, but we've put the foundation in place. We have the winning attitude back. We have made people around the country wake up to Arkansas football and respect us again."
"Be proud of the Razorbacks. Yes, we can play better, but our guys have worked too hard and deserve to be respected."
State of the Hogs: Percy Harvin
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