The Razorbacks accomplished it thanks to the return of junior running back Michael Smith.
Smith — who was suspended for the opener because of a textbook violation — ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries during Arkansas' 28-27 win against the Warhawks. The numbers were all career highs for Smith, who started for the first time after spending three seasons on campus behind former running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.
"That's the type of game we'll expect from him no matter what we're doing," quarterback Casey Dick said. "He's a hard runner, makes a couple players miss and gets us a bunch of yards."
Smith was the one who got the Arkansas offense in gear in the first half. He broke off 24- and 29-yard runs on consecutive plays during the Razorbacks' second series. It eventually led to place kicker Alex Tejada's second missed field goal, a 25-yarder.
Smith had 121 yards on 13 carries in the first half.
His number wasn't called as much after the break and coach Bobby Petrino said it was largely because of the Razorbacks' deficit. Arkansas fell behind 24-6 and started leaning on Dick's arm during the comeback.
"I thought we ran the ball fairly effective," Petrino said. "It would've been nice if we would've gotten points on the board early in the game so we were ahead and could run it more."
Get It Gragg
Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said the Hogs have practiced the play known as "Cowboy, Get it," at least every other day since the preseason.
But, interestingly, freshman receiver Chris Gragg — who ended up making the critical fourth-down catch to keep Arkansas' hopes alive late in the fourth quarter — wasn't always the first choice for the play.
"Earlier it was a tight end," Petrino said. "We didn't feel like that guy had enough burst to go. And then we tried (freshman Greg) Childs. Then we thought we were maybe overloading Childs with too much stuff.
"So then it was Chris. Chris has been the guy working it for the last two weeks."
Gragg was one of two options on the play. But Petrino said the second option was covered, leaving Dick to throw the pass to the 6-foot-3 receiver.
"I didn't even see any defenders," said Gragg, who caught the ball in double coverage. "I had my eyes focused on the ball the whole time."
For the second straight game, Arkansas' defense failed to force a turnover.
The blank slate is a little reminiscent of the 2006 season, when it took the Hogs four games before getting the football. Arkansas was one of the last teams in the nation to force a turnover that year, but Petrino hopes the drought will end at Texas.
"When that happens, you feel like they're going to come in bunches," Petrino said. "We need them to come in bunches next Saturday (at Texas)."
Arkansas has made critical conversions on fourth down in the fourth quarter of its first two games.
But Petrino wasn't ready to give himself an A-plus for his fourth-down decisions after the ULM game.
Petrino said he made a mistake in the third quarter by handing the ball to Smith on a fourth-and-two. The small back was stuffed by the Warhawks, who scored on their next possession to take a 24-6 lead.
"That's a situation sometimes where maybe that's not the right call for me with Michael Smith in there," Petrino said. "That would take a big back to run through a guy to get the first down. So I just didn't do a good job on making the play call. That one is on me."
Not everything was bad for Arkansas' special teams.
Petrino credited punter Jeremy Davis for a touchdown-saving tackle on running back Robert Williams during a kickoff late in the third quarter. The 47-yard return set up a field goal that gave ULM a 27-14 lead early in the fourth quarter, but it could've been much worse for the Razorbacks.
"That was a really nice tackle," Petrino said of Davis' play. "He did a nice job of being where he was supposed to be on the coverage. He did a nice job of carrying over the tackling drills that he goes through every week because he didn't try to go low. He tackled with his chest and wrapped up."
Smith's Return Blosters Run Game
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