Arkansas had the right formula to hammer Louisiana-Lafayette, but it didn't have the right execution in a 24-17 victory.
Missed assignments on two punts led to 10 easy points for ULL's Ragin' Cajuns in what turned out to a nailbiter for the Hogs.
Sloppy play on offense and the two special teams mistakes almost cost the Hogs in a week that Houston Nutt decided to play little-used seniors and take it easy in practice.
Arkansas worked without full pads all week in hopes of gaining fresh legs for the key SEC games to end the season against Mississippi State and LSU. It did give Matt Jones some renewed vigor and it paid off when the quarterback went over the century mark in rushing yards for the first time this season.
But, it wasn't a championship performance by Jones in some areas. He made a bad pitchout for a lost fumble ... the first lost fumble by an offensive regular all season ... early in the first half and was average in the throwing department.
"He didn't play at a championship level, but he did get us a victory," said David Lee, UA quarterback coach. "He had two open receivers deep and didn't put enough air under them. He did make two nice throws, but he could have had four TD passes, not two. He's still learning and hopefully he learned something today."
Jones said the easy work week without pads was good in some respects.
"My legs felt better, quicker," he said. "I like what we did this week, but after the way we played, I bet we have pads on every day the rest of the season. We didn't have complete focus, and that was obvious."
Jones rushed for 129 yards on 13 carries, and rambled 62 yards for a TD. He also had a long touchdown run wiped out by penalty. He completed 9 of 13 passes for 118 yards. He had TD passes of 24 yards to Carlos Ousley and 19 to DeCori Birmingham.
The Hogs led 10-0 after Jones' long TD run and David Carlton's 22-yard field goal with 39 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Ragin' Cajuns drove 60 yards in nine plays to score the first points against the Hogs in three games. Fred Stamps hauled in a 22-yard pass from Eric Rekieta over Jimmy Beasley to make it 10-7 with 3:54 left in the first half.
Arkansas responded with a 5-play, 65-yard march to make it 17-7 on Ousley's catch with 2:53 left in the half, a broken play that Jones made work after scrambling to the sideline.
The Hogs pinned ULL and got the ball back with time to do more damage in the half, but two sacks and a penalty forced a punting situation. Punter Richie Butler was hit as he dropped the ball for an attempted punt, and the ball was recovered deep in UA territory. The Ragin' Cajuns had to settle for a 25-yard field goal on the final play of the half to cut the deficit to 17-10.
Jones' 19-yard go route to Birmingham against man coverage made it 24-10 on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Hogs then drove to the ULL 1-yard line, but failed on fourth down when Mark Pierce was stopped short of the goal on a straight ahead plunge.
At that point, Houston Nutt brought in Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback, but the freshman fumbled the ball away on the second play. ULL couldn't score, but when the Hogs got it back and had to punt, they blocked Butler's punt for a touchdown. Wenda Williams scooped the loose ball and raced 18 yards for the TD to set the final score with 2:52 left.
The Hogs didn't lock it up until giving ULL one more chance. Richard Smith fumbled after catching an 18-yarder for a first down from Jones. The Cajuns had it at the UA 34 with 1:48 left. However, Ken Hamlin intercepted Jon Van Cleve near the UA goal line, and the Hogs ran out the final 1:40.
Arkansas gained 404 total yards, but had trouble converting third and short all day. The Hogs were just 2 of 10 on third downs. ULL made just 229 total yards, and just 61 yards on the ground.