Arkansas took the book on itself and turned it inside out Saturday night on newly dubbed Frank Broyles Field. The Hogs made South Carolina pay in a 48-36 victory.
Darren McFadden rushed for 323 yards, Felix Jones for 163, Peyton Hillis 35 and Michael Smith 32. Never has a backfield done so much against such a quality foe.
And, it started with a game plan on Monday and a challenge on Tuesday.
"We challenged Darren, Felix and our backs in front of the team," said David Lee, the Arkansas offensive coordinator. "We put it on our backs and they responded."
If anyone was listening, Lee spelled it out to the media after practice on Tuesday when he said McFadden was finally as healthy as he had been before the start of SEC play when the Hogs went to Alabama. He hoped that maybe the big tailback could put the team on his back like he did for three quarters at Alabama, maybe this time for four quarters.
That's what he did, thanks to a brilliant plan that combined Jones and Smith on misdirection sweeps out of motion and left the Gamecocks confused over the Arkansas blocking. Hillis, superb all season as a blocker, often leads the way and thus tips linebackers and safeties. Against the Gamecocks, he took those defenders the wrong way.
"You're right, they were really keying on me and tonight it was designed for me to take them away from the play," Hillis said. "I actually did that quite a bit and they went with me. I did get to block quite a bit, too, but there were going the wrong way to make it easy, too.
"They have a good defense, but they knew after the first half that they couldn't stop the run. They put everyone in the box and we just shocked them and ran it down their throat. It was a LOT of fun. It was old-time Arkansas football."
Offensive guard Mitch Petrus said he saw the dazed look on the Carolina linebackers as they backed up and widened their alignments as the game progressed.
"We gave them a lot of motion and they were following Peyton -- the wrong way," Petrus said. "We figured they were going to key on him."
Lee smiled about the game plan and deflected credit.
"We did some different things, but mainly we did them out of different formations," he said. "We showed them some different looks, a lot of motion. We have run all of those plays before. A lot of it was setup by things we did in our last three games."
Yep, those false keys can be killers. And, this time Jones might have set the stage for McFadden's big plays.
"I don't know about that," Jones said. "I'm just different than Darren. He's the power guy. I try to cut and make people miss. We are different. I will say, Darren got stronger as it went along.
"The main thing -- and this is always the main thing -- we won the game. Don't lose sight of the victory. You need to do what it takes to win the game. That's what you saw us doing out there tonight, make sure we won the game and do whatever it took."
Running backs coach Tim Horton said there was a verbal challenge to the backs from Lee. None backed down.
"That's the way they are," Horton said. "We did put a little bit more on them this week."
Jones said, "If you are a football player, you like a challenge. A ballplayer likes a challenge. I think we really liked it as a running back group when the coaches did that."
There was a little bit of Heisman Trophy talk concerning McFadden in the Arkansas locker room. Jones was asked if he deserved some mention in the chase, too.
"I don't think about those things, but now that you ask it, to be at least on that Heisman watch list might be nice," he said. "But it's not something I think about."
Defensive end Malcolm Sheppard was nodding his head to that suggestion. He said he turned his head to the big screen as he tried to catch his breath as the Arkansas offense kept putting up quick-strike scores.
"I saw it, I saw everything those guys did," he said. "Darren, Felix, Peyton and Michael -- what great players and what a show they put on tonight. It is a great privilege to be on the same team."
Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, like Lee, was sort of a prophet when he met the media on Wednesday. He talked of all the things South Carolina's offense could do well, and respect for Steve Spurrier, the head coach on the other sideline.
Then, he said one of the best things the offense could do this week was to score plenty and perhaps run out the clock to end the game. The Hogs ran off the last 6:42 to clinch the outcome.
"Hey, go talk to the offense," Herring said, one of the first out of the team meeting room after the game. "You can take all of those (South Carolina) stats and stuff your stocking because all that matters is we won a big ball game. This one was huge."
CLAY HENRY IS THE PUBLISHER OF HAWGS ILLUSTRATED, A STEPHENS MEDIA PUBLICATION. E-MAIL: CLAY@NWAONLINE.NET
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