Petrino: Arkansas Must Score More

FAYETTEVILLE — It's starting to sound like a broken record, but Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino had to know the question was going to resurface this week.

His team struggled to score points once again in last Saturday's 23-21 loss to Ole Miss. The Razorbacks have struggled to score in every game this season. And now they're preparing to face 19th-ranked Tulsa, which has been turning in big plays with ease, reaching the end zone again and again and routing opponents behind the strength of the nation's top-ranked offense.

So how important is it for the Razorbacks to finally break through offensively Saturday? Really important.

"We're going to have to score points," Petrino said. "To win this game, we're going to have to score points."

Arkansas' production this season hasn't matched the high-powered attack it envisioned last spring, but the Razorbacks know there's no better time for a turning point than on Homecoming.

The Razorbacks are ninth in the Southeastern Conference and 99th in the nation in scoring (19.1 points). They haven't eclipsed the 28-point mark in any game. It's the first such stretch since 1996-97, when Arkansas failed to break 28 points in 17 straight games.

The problems also have Arkansas on pace to become the school's lowest-scoring team since 1997, when it averaged 16.5 points. But the Razorbacks remain optimistic a big game is imminent.

"You've just got to keep believing," center Jonathan Luigs said. "The minute you start doubting yourself is when it's really going to go downhill. ... We've got a lot of faith in this offense and we're looking forward to another opportunity to prove it."

Luigs said Arkansas has simply hurt itself through eight games, and the struggles have been evident. Turnovers have been drive killers. Penalties have stolen momentum. Sacks have been problematic.

An even bigger issue: Reaching the end zone after crossing an opponent's 20. The Razorbacks haven't had much trouble moving the ball — they are 66th in the nation in total offense (361.6 yards a game) — but have had trouble finishing drives.

Arkansas has been inside the red zone 24 times and has scored 15 touchdowns. The Razorbacks have made four field goals, missed three others, lost a fumble and turned the ball over on downs once.

"I don't know if it's the excitement about getting there," Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams said. "It's a hard one to explain. It's the focus part of the game and we've got to get better."

Some troubles can be chalked up to personnel issues. Arkansas doesn't have a big back for goal-line carries. But Petrino said the Razorbacks just need to find ways to make more plays.

"Sometimes you can scheme a little bit and do things to move the ball," Petrino said. "But once you get inside the 20, you've got to line up and make plays. It's a lot more condensed and we haven't executed well enough."

But there are reasons for optimism: On paper, Tulsa isn't the same caliber defense as opponents like Florida, Texas and Alabama.

The Golden Hurricane ranks 99th in the nation in total defense (410.7 yards) and 77th in scoring (27.1 points a game). Central Arkansas scored 34 points against Tulsa last month.

In addition, the final five minutes of last Saturday's game may have boosted Arkansas' offensive confidence.

The Razorbacks trailed 20-7, but got back in the game with a 97-yard touchdown drive. They scored again on a 71-yard drive. Both touchdowns featured key plays by running backs and receivers.

"We made some big plays in the fourth quarter," offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said. "Hopefully that will carry over and we can make some early in the game and throughout the whole game."

There's no doubt Arkansas will need that consistency against the Golden Hurricane, who haven't scored fewer than 37 points.

"They've put up points on every team they've played," Williams said. "They're the leading offense in the country. The offense will have to do a great job this week helping out the defense. We know (the defense will) get a stop here and stop there, but (Tulsa) will score. That's just a part of the game."

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