State Of The Hogs: Sloppy

It was not a vintage Arkansas performance as the Razorbacka played unispired and allowed Chattanooga to stay in the game for three quarters before finally making enough plays to win.

The part of pre-game warmups that happens before the players put on their uniforms can be mundane.

It's often nothing more than a jog for those who even come out of the locker room. Just under two hours before the kickoff, the stadium is mostly empty.

However, there was an interesting scene that many think tells a lot about this Arkansas football team.

Before the game Saturday with Tennessee-Chattanooga in War Memorial Stadium, wide receiver Marcus Monk was working out Robert Johnson, letting the man who is trying to replace him test a tender ankle.

Johnson ran some routes, caught some passes from Monk, then went inside to tell his coaches and trainers that he wasn't ready. Johnson did not play, spending the rest of the night in a protective walking "boot" as Arkansas fought past Chattanooga, 34-15.

From there, things went downhill. There were bad snaps, fumbles by the school's greatest player and what most thought was a sloppy performance.

There were times it looked like they weren't trying, although that was probably not the problem with McFadden, attempting to break the career rushing record. The Little Rock native appeared to be trying too hard, if anything.

It was the kind of performance that suggests the Hogs wouldn't be a whole lot better with Monk, Johnson or the other injured receivers, Crosby Tuck and Ben Cleveland.

What appeared to ail the Hogs more than a lack of skill was a lack of blockers and scorpion defenders. It didn't appear the Hogs could handle Tennessee-Chattanooga's small, blitzing front.

Conventional wisdom says Monk would help this week against Auburn, but that doesn't seem likely to UA trainer Dean Weber, frustrated by the every week questions about the senior captain's availability.

"I don't feel very hopeful (on Monk's return this week)," Weber said, noting he was tired of all the updates about Monk. "I'm going to institute the two-week rule with no more questions about him right now.

"I think what I saw that is wrong with Greg Oden (of the NBA) is the same thing that Marcus has and Oden is going to miss a whole year. Sean May has the same thing with the Hornets. We aren't going to talk about Marcus for a little while. I've about had enough on these questions, I can tell you that."

There are other things this team needs more than healthy wide receivers.They need some stability in the offensive line, the defensive line and at linebacker. The Hogs shuffled players in all three areas against the Mocs.

It wasn't much fun to watch. In a game the Hogs were supposed to dominate, Chattanooga made plenty of plays to thwart them. Both teams were playing eight-man fronts on defense and neither offense could do anything about it.

"We weren't ready," said quarterback Casey Dick. "I think you could tell that. We had some communication problems. It was a little bit of everything."

The first snap of the game sailed over Dick's head. Center Jonathan Luigs said he didn't hear the snap count. Dick said he was checking the defensive alignment, a must to start the game. Later, another shotgun start, this one to McFadden, wound up as a lost fumble.

"That one was on me, too," he said. "I fired it too hard. He's not used to getting it sent back that there like that and it was a little quick like the first one, too."

Weber came to McFadden's defense. He said bruised ribs have been the problem the last two weeks.

"He got that against Kentucky," Weber said. "You get that and it stays with you awhile. You get jarred there every time you get tackled, every time you go to the ground. But that's an injury that comes with the game. Everyone gets some of that."

Offensive coordinator David Lee was just happy to get a victory.

"At least this one didn't turn out to be an Appalachian State deal, a loss," he said. "We weren't there. I had a bunch of things scripted as far as plays to start the game and after that first snap, we dumped it.

"We prepared for some blitzes and dogs, but we didn't think they would come at us on every play like that. We got a lot more than what we had seen. It was a frustrating game. We weren't real good tonight."

Defensively, the Hogs changed their lineup at halftime at linebacker. After starting both Ryan Powers and Elston Forte at weakside linebacker, they turned to Weston Dacus there in the second half. The Hogs' defensive captain moved from middle linebacker with Wendell Davis, his backup, taking over in the middle.

"I've played there and I know it, but I hadn't worked there this year," Dacus said. "I'm sure I made some mistakes and I'll have to work on it. We had a sloppy game. There were some things that we did that SEC teams will see and try to exploit.

"We gave up the big run. You can't do that. Our coaches prepare us, but we still have to go out there and execute it. We didn't do a very good job on defense tonight in some areas."

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