Sacks Concern Razorbacks

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick's white uniform was covered in grass stains and dirt by the end of the Razorbacks' 52-10 loss at then-No. 7 Texas.

It was no surprise. The senior spent all afternoon running from Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo, dodging Henry Melton, and hitting the turf again and again as the Longhorns piled up seven sacks.

"It's embarrassing watching our quarterback get hit like that," Arkansas tackle Jose Valdez said.

The Texas game highlighted what has become a big concern for Arkansas (2-2, 0-1 in Southeastern Conference) as it prepares to play 12th-ranked Florida (3-1, 1-1) in Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday: The Razorbacks are surrendering sacks at an alarming rate.

Arkansas quarterbacks have been sacked 17 times in four games. No other team in the nation is watching its quarterbacks hit the ground more per game (4.25).

The struggles also have Arkansas on pace to set a school record for sacks allowed in a season. According to athletic department records — which have kept sack totals since 1983 — the 1997 team holds the distinction after allowing 42 sacks in 11 games (3.8 a game).

"We have to do a better job," offensive line coach Mike Summers said. "When you're in there for 60 or 70 plays, all it takes is one or two misses to have a bad game. We have not been consistently performing the way we need to keep our quarterback off the ground."

It's a stark contrast from last season, when Arkansas quarterbacks were sacked 13 times in 13 games.

To be fair, the Razorbacks are throwing the ball much, much more in coach Bobby Petrino's offense. But the sack total is still a source of frustration for the linemen.

"Really it's just getting a guy in the right area and really just winning the one-on-one battles," center Jonathan Luigs said. "We know how to do it all week leading up to the game. When we get to Saturday, we have mental errors or we get out-physicaled and beat one-on-one."

Petrino said the protection problems were caused by a variety of factors against the Longhorns.

As Luigs said, offensive linemen have been beaten in one-on-one situations. Second, Dick held onto the football too long, giving defensive players more time than usual to reach the backfield. Third, the offensive line had some communication problems at the line of scrimmage.

"We see (the offensive line) pointing on film, making the call," Petrino said. "Then (they) just didn't do it. We had a guy come completely free on that one.

"It's just a combination of things. When you do that, you know you're not executing very well."

It has been obvious in the numbers. Arkansas' offense scored a combined 17 points against Alabama and Texas, but it has surrendered 18 points thanks to three interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.

Tight end D.J. Williams said the pressure that has been placed on Dick has been a big reason for the woes.

"You can ask any quarterback," Williams said. "If they don't have as much time as they think they have and they get those hits or they get forced out of the pocket, then it'll disrupt routes. It'll disrupt any passing scheme."

There is no easy cure-all for the shaky protection.

For starters, Petrino said Arkansas must run the football more effectively to keep the Hogs out of long-yardage passing situations. Dick must improve his ability to recognize blitzes at the line of scrimmage, too, and work on getting the ball out quicker. Summers said his group, which has performed well at times and awful at others, must improve its consistency.

They'll need a better effort against Florida, which is seventh in the nation in total defense (241 yards a game) and 10th in scoring (12.5 points a game).

Petrino said the Gators are a "big zone-blitz team" and like to bring pressure 50 percent of the time.

Valdez said Florida will "throw more blitzes at us than Texas did," but the Razorbacks are determined to help their quarterback keep his uniform clean Saturday.

"That's the most embarrassing thing ever," Valdez said about the sack total so far. "But we've just got to keep going. We made our mistakes. Now build on it."

Sack (Un)Happy

The Razorbacks rank last in the nation in sacks allowed a game (4.25) after watching their quarterbacks go down 17 times in four games. Here's a breakdown of the pressure Arkansas QBs have been facing this season:

Opponent Sacks/Yds QB Hurries

W. Illinois 4/35 3

Louisiana-Monroe 4/20 1

Alabama 2/15 2

Texas 7/58 11

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