Little Rock Flop

LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick saw the football coming. He just wasn't ready for it.

Apparently, neither were his teammates.

The Razorbacks got off to a dismal start Saturday night when, on their first play from scrimmage, center Jonathan Luigs sailed the snap over his quarterback's head.

Dick recovered the football in the end zone for a safety. The miscue offered a glimpse of what was to come during Arkansas' ugly 34-15 win over Tennessee-Chattannooga in front of an announced crowd of 54,836 in War Memorial Stadium.

"We weren't ready," Dick said. "We've got to come out here and be ready no matter who it is or who we play."

Saturday was expected to end with the Razorbacks (3-2, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) celebrating a lopsided win over the undersized Mocs, a Football Championship Subdivision team.

For the low price of $325,000, Arkansas' coaches and players had hoped for a convincing win that would help prepare them for this week's highly anticipated showdown with Auburn in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

But UTC (1-4) proved to be a much tougher opponent than expected.

The Razorbacks made matters worse for themselves by looking unfocused and uninterested throughout much of the night.

They gained only 373 yards of total offense, failed to convert on 9-of-14 third downs and got a surprisingly disappointing performance from Little Rock native Darren McFadden.

"The first thing is we weren't ready to play offensively," Arkansas offensive coordinator David Lee said. "The second thing is my hat's off to Chattanooga.

"And the third, I'm just grateful it wasn't a Michigan-Appalachian State deal because it was scary there for awhile."

Following last week's 66-7 rout of North Texas, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt commended his players for staying focused and not "flopping around" against an inferior opponent.

Well, they flopped around plenty Saturday.

Arkansas had trouble putting away UTC, which has suffered lopsided losses to Jacksonville State and The Citadel this season.

McFadden fumbled the football twice in the first half, and the Mocs trailed only 24-15 after running back Bryan Fitzgerald broke a 65-yard touchdown run with 1 minute, 49 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Razorbacks needed 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to crack the score open and prevent the possibility of them suffering a program-changing loss.

"It seemed like during warmups we were going to have a good game, and the game started and it looked like we went downhill from there until the second half," Arkansas fullback Peyton Hillis said.

"We can't do that against Auburn. We can't do that against top (Division) I opponents like that."

A chorus of boos reverberated through War Memorial Stadium after Fitzgerald's long touchdown run toward the end of third quarter. More boos came before and after that.

Nutt will have plenty to say to his players after watching them struggle with the Mocs, who arrived in Little Rock as heavy underdogs.

The Razorbacks looked in the first half like they were "going through the motions," as Hillis said. They gained only 187 yards of total offense and headed into halftime leading only 17-9.

"I didn't like that first half at all. The team was so excited to be here, but that first half was ugly," Nutt said. "There was a lot of ugly, but it is a win."

Nutt had hoped to get McFadden enough carries in the first half to break Arkansas' career rushing record and then rest him for the entire second half.

McFadden came into Saturday needing 154 yards to surpass Ben Cowins as the Razorbacks' all-time leading rusher. But he fell short in front of a hometown crowd, leaving him frustrated.

The Little Rock native gained only 64 yards and one touchdown during a first half that saw him fumble twice.

He averaged just 3.8 yards on 17 carries before halftime, and he finished with 122 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries. It was his lowest production of the season.

With the outcome in jeopardy for much of Saturday night, Nutt didn't get a chance to rest his offensive starters until the final few minutes of the game.

"We started real slow. We started off with a safety," McFadden said. "We got off on a bad foot, but I feel like we came back and started putting things together."

It wasn't pretty, though.

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