Hogs turn to triple option

The Hogs used a "tricked up" offense with Darren McFadden reading the option to blast past the Bulldogs.

Robert Johnson is catching passes, not throwing them. But he's still calling signals.

Johnson, senior wide receiver, is the man squatting in the huddle calling the plays when the Arkansas offense settles into a package called "31 Rojo" in a 45-31 victory over Mississippi State.

The 31 refers to the personnel in the game. Darren McFadden is at quarterback in the shotgun, Peyton Hillis is one of the halfbacks. With Felix Jones injured, the other halfback is Michael Smith. Quarterback Casey Dick is on the bench.

"That's when the game turned, when we got in 31 Rojo," said David Lee, UA offensive coordinator.

"That's when we let Darren read the triple option. He was reading the backside end and giving it to Peyton for big gains. The defense finally had to call timeout to get it figured out. It was something they hadn't seen."

The Hogs wanted to do that at the start of the season, but couldn't get the timing worked out on the handoffs with McFadden and others.

"We have been working on it and working on it, getting the timing down in practice," Lee said. "It's taken time, but we had it ready today.

Darren was taking the ball out too quick in the Troy game. We were putting it on the ground. We worked on it until we got the risk out of it so we could run it in a game."

Lee had answered all the questions about the 31 Rojo and the play of Dick at quarterback.

Reporters were headed away from the UA playcaller and quarterback coach when Lee called them back.

"Guys, I just wanted to say one more thing, I called the plays today all except for one," Lee said. "The head coach stepped in and called the third-and-10, the crack and go with McFadden throwing to Robert Johnson for the touchdown. He asked for that one and it was a great call."

Johnson hauled in three passes for 71 yards including touchdown catches of 35 and 24. He battled the sun to make the catch from Dick on the longer of the two.

"It was coming out of the sun," Johnson said. "But you just focus on the ball. Someone told me the sun hadn't been out until that play. You just have to find it in the sun."

Was it fun to be calling the signals again?

"That is great," Johnson said. "I will say, it's just a great way to put the defense in a bind with Darren handling the ball. We've worked hard on it. It's good to use it. I guess you could see we tricked up the offense today."

That wasn't the only new development for the Arkansas offense. Getting Marcus Monk involved in something other than a goal line fade or slant gave the Hogs an added weapon.

"Marcus came to me before the game and told me he felt really good," Dick said. "We got him the ball on some plays today."

Dick hit him for 23 to jump start the offense in a 45-yard march for a field goal, the first UA points of the game. It was a play-action pass with two tight ends and featured a long, deep route across the middle of the field, one of Monk's favorite routes, but missing all season.

"Marcus makes a difference, he really does," Dick said. "The touchdown pass (for 19 yards) late in the first half, that's just throwing it up for him in double coverage. You just know he's going to go get it above everyone.

"He wanted the ball today. That pumped me up. As far as Monk, you can't describe the feeling he gives you (as a quarterback)."

There was praise for the offensive line, from every angle. The coaches and backs lauded the work of the front, retooled this week with Robert Felton moving from guard to left tackle with Jose Valdez out with a ban ankle. DeMarcus Love stepped in at right guard.

"Last week, we looked pathetic as an offensive line," Felton said. "It was mainly just a different attitude. It was night and day different."

Was it a satisfying feeling to turn it around with a 24-point second quarter?

"Satisfied is not the right word," Felton said. "The feeling I have is FINALLY. We finally did it with that quarter."

Finally, the Hogs did what they wanted to do all along, run the triple option with Darren McFadden.

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