Arkansas Hopes Jones

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas proved it could win without running back Felix Jones against Mississippi State, but coach Houston Nutt hopes the Razorbacks won't have to face top-ranked LSU without one of its key weapons Friday.

Jones, who suffered a deep thigh bruise against Tennessee on Nov. 10, was limited to one play against the Bulldogs. Nutt said Arkansas planned to play him "a bunch," but the junior's thigh was still too tender and sore. Instead, Nutt is hoping another week of healing will help Jones be ready for the Tigers.

"We expect him to be better (for LSU)," Nutt said.

Arkansas rushed for 206 yards without him, leaning on running back Darren McFadden (88 yards), Peyton Hillis (65) and Michael Smith (4). It also got help from receiver London Crawford (52 yards), who picked up big gains on two end around plays that are normally designed for Jones in Arkansas' offense.

Jones stepped on the field in the second quarter and was the target of a swing pass from quarterback Casey Dick. He caught the ball after bobbling it, but didn't gain a yard. Jones didn't play the rest of the game.

"I know my body and I know what I can do and what I can't do," Jones said. "I got loose and it felt pretty good and I got in the game. I got me a play."

Jones, who has rushed for 1,032 yards and 11 touchdowns, said it was "fun" to see Arkansas' success without him. But he's "pretty sure" he'll be ready for LSU.

"(The extra week is) going to be real helpful for me," Jones said. "It gives me more time to get treatment and get my leg ready for LSU."


Nutt gave a thumbs-up to Arkansas' new-look offensive line.

Senior Robert Felton slid over to left tackle in place of injured starter Jose Valdez (ankle), while redshirt freshman DeMarcus Love moved into the starting lineup at right guard. The new starting five helped the Hogs rush for 206 yards against MSU, bouncing back from the poor performance at Tennessee a week earlier.

"I was really proud of Robert Felton," Nutt said. "He's been the most valuable player as far as going position to position to position and always on stand by. I thought DeMarcus Love showed a lot of toughness in there at right guard. He fell off a block a few times, but boy, he is a fighter and he's going to be a good football player."

Nutt said the starting five will stay the same for Friday's game at LSU. But the Razorbacks could have Valdez back from his ankle injury if needed.


Nutt said he let his players keep the small, wooden bats he handed out before the Mississippi State game.

They were used as a reminder for the Hogs to "bring the wood," against the Bulldogs after getting pushed around at Tennessee last week. Nutt said he and offensive coordinator David Lee talked about the motivational ploy after the Vols loss, borrowing an idea that had been used by another coaching staff in the NFL.

"I think it made a real point with all of them," Nutt said. "I think it helped us."

But he doesn't want anyone to get in trouble by carrying around with them all week.

"They need to go put them up," Nutt added.


The Razorbacks win against the Bulldogs kept their slim chances of playing in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day alive.

The Cotton Bowl was one of four bowls with representatives in attendance at Saturday's game. In addition, the Chick-fil-A, Independence and Liberty bowls watched the Razorbacks' win. Cotton Bowl president Rick Baker said last week it would probably take eight wins for Arkansas to play in the game, something the Razorbacks could get if they knock off the top-ranked Tigers on Friday.

"I hope so, but I don't know," Nutt said Sunday. "I know that the best thing we can do is go win this ballgame and let's see what happens then. The good news is that we're going to a good place, wherever we end up. We're going to a good bowl."


Nutt was asked why LSU has been so tough to beat the past few seasons.

Arkansas is 3-6 against the Tigers in Nutt's tenure, but that includes the recent four-game losing streak. The Razorbacks haven't beaten the Tigers since 2002, when a last-minute touchdown gave Arkansas the SEC Western Division championship.

"Have you seen them?" Nutt said in response to the question. "If you go down and watch them on film now, it will scare you a little bit."


Nutt said cornerback Jerell Norton is on crutches after taking a helmet to the knee in the first half Saturday. The sophomore, who leads the team with five interceptions, isn't expected to practice today and is questionable for Friday's game. ... The Razorbacks altered their practice schedule for LSU week. The Hogs didn't practice Sunday, but will work out tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday. Nutt said the work will also be lighter than usual because of the short week.

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