Razorbacks Realize Game Will Be Won In Trench

FAYETTEVILLE -- The bumps and bruises are fresh in Antwain Robinson's mind these days, the agony and distress impossible to forget. With Arkansas welcoming perennially physical Auburn to Fayetteville on Saturday, Robinson was reminded of the two teams' battle last season.

The Hogs won 27-10 in Auburn, dominating the line of scrimmage and sparking the remainder of their 10-game winning streak. They humbled both sides of Auburn's lines. They did what they wanted, when they wanted, how they wanted. Even so, Robinson still remembers the soreness that game caused.

And he expects to leave Reynolds Razorback Stadium with similar aches Saturday.

"On both sides of the ball, there's going to be plenty of pain and blood for both teams," Robinson said. "Both teams will be hurting. Both teams won't want to get out of bed (Sunday)."

Though sore, Robinson said he woke up with a smile the Sunday after last year's win at then-No. 2 Auburn. Whether he will tolerate similar pain with a positive outlook this Sunday depends on the collective performance of Arkansas' offensive and defensive lines.

Coaches and players from Arkansas and Auburn all agree that Saturday's Southeastern Conference matchup should be a test of strength, a war of wills. Arkansas will run right at Auburn, unleashing Darren McFadden and Felix Jones on the Tigers. Auburn will run right at Arkansas, pounding the Razorbacks with running backs Brad Lester, Ben Tate and Mario Fannin.

If Las Vegas decided to set a proposition bet for the amount of combined passes by quarterback Casey Dick and Brandon Cox, that total probably wouldn't exceed 30. And that's just the way Arkansas offensive line coach Mike Markuson likes his football -- smash-mouth style.

"You've got to prepare yourself mentally and get ready for a dang brawl," Markuson said. "And that's what it is. If you're not ready for a brawl, you're going to get your butt whipped."

Judging from recent efforts, there's no way to know if Arkansas will be ready for Saturday's physicality, especially on defense.

The Razorbacks running game continues to perform. Arkansas ranks second nationally in rushing offense, even though opposing defenses know the Hogs struggle with their passing. But the Razorbacks haven't yet put four full quarters of consistent power-blocking together. They haven't yet made up for the absence of guard Zac Tubs and tackles Tony Ugoh and Stephen Parker.

"We're 0-2 in the SEC, and we haven't been as tough as we should be up front," Arkansas offensive guard Robert Felton said. "As a whole, we have to prove ourselves Saturday."

Arkansas' defense has more to prove, though. Arkansas is eighth in the SEC in rushing defense and faces an Auburn backfield with three able bodies who run behind a massive group of linemen.

All three of the Tigers running backs average at least five yards per carry. Lester was expected to be Auburn's No. 1 back this year, but a suspension for academic reasons delayed the start of his season. He's back now, just one of "three tough, downfield runners," defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said.

Can they be stopped by a defensive line that has shown it misses Jamaal Anderson and Keith Jackson? Razorback defensive coordinator Reggie Herring can't wait to find out.

"Personally, defensive-staff wise, we're actually anxious and awaiting this game to see where we are and how far we have come," Herring said. "This game will tell us. You can't run, you can't hide. It's there in front of you. It's going to be a very physical day.

"And this game will be won up front, period."

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