Reggie Fish was not on the sideline. He was not on the Arkansas roster for the Tulsa game. Not surprisingly, Fish was not on the list of seniors included on the Cripp Hall ballot. The 5-5 wide receiver has been swallowed up on the depth chart by a talented group of freshmen.
However, the littlest Razorback played a role in the 30-23 victory over Tulsa. He was the man imitating AJ Whitmore for the Arkansas scout team throughout the week.
"I went up to him in the locker room to shake his hand," defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said. "He did a GREAT job this week. His role was so important to this victory. I hope it doesn't go unnoticed."
It came down to stopping Whitmore on the goal line when the Nashville product jumped from wideout to shotgun option quarterback. Whitmore came up empty on two plays inside the Arkansas 10 in the final minute, the last one a 3-yard loss when safety Matt Harris got to him on a blitz just after the defensive line clogged the hole.
"Coach Robinson called my number and I want to thank him for that," Harris said. "You dream about those situations where you get a chance to make a play like that. I'm just glad I could."
Robinson quipped, "That's Matt lobbying for more playing time. That was a layup. You don't miss a layup when it's called."
The Hogs planned to blitz against that formation after some halftime planning. Fortunately, there were not a lot of red zone chances for Tulsa's offense. They had only three for the day. Conversely, Arkansas had seven red zone chances, scoring on five.
"We had three calls ready for that and we didn't use them in the first half, so that's my fault," Robinson said. "When we first came in at the half, we settled on that. I got that right at the end.
"We practiced against that formation 10 minutes a day. We were going to come after them when they got in it. We did a good job of that at the end. Our defensive line got penetration and then Matt got to him."
Robinson took care to praise Tulsa's offense, schemes and overall ability. He said the Golden Hurricane is "no fake of a team." But he thought there were circumstances that could lead to a game where the Hogs held it to a 23-point game.
"First, we play in the SEC," Robinson said. "We see good teams. We are an SEC team so we should be able to do that. The other thing I knew, our offense was going to do something against them. I have a great appreciation of what our offense can do because we see it.
"The other thing, I knew we were going to come after them. We were not going to sit back and play soft. We saw that most every team they played was scared of their quarterback. We were going to come after him and see what he could do.
"As it turned out, we knocked the ball loose once and we got two interceptions. And, we stopped them on a couple of fourth downs. That's like turnovers, too.
"The play by Jerry Franklin was big. He played it perfectly. He's really helped this team. When we got Wendel Davis back (at middle linebacker), we could move him to weakside and he's played well."
The Hogs did it with a patchwork defensive lineup short on safeties. Elton Ford was lost to a neck injury last week. Jerico Nelson left the game on the first kick return. Rashaad Johnson limped on and off during the game. Dallas Washington appeared near exhaustion at the end, too.
Tramain Thomas played most of the game at free safety after moving there late in the Ole Miss game. He played cornerback in the first seven games.
"Really, Matt didn't get a lot of repetitions in practice this past week," Robinson said. "But Matt did a great job of getting mental reps and being ready. We had no idea that Tramain would have to play that much. I saw Tramain in the locker room after the game and was trying to tell him how well he played and he just chuckled. I'm not sure he knows how hard it can be out there.
"We gave up some stuff deep, but we played hard and we tackled all right. We played a lot with three safeties and sometimes it might have looked like we had four."
Getting ready for Whitmore was just a little piece to the puzzle required to slow Tulsa's offense. Robinson said it required extra preparation both from coaches and players.
"They do so much," Robinson said. "What we had to make sure is that we did all of our preparation on the field and still kept our legs fresh. That's what happens to you against them. You can be worn out just practicing against that pace. It's an incredible pace to practice. Our offense practices fast, but, my gosh, they really go fast."
The Hogs looked fast all day. Harris said there was some extra juice at the start after they watched Tulsa coach Todd Graham's interview on ESPN's morning show.
"Coach Graham said they needed a sound victory to impress the nation," Harris said. "Sound? We take pride that we are in the SEC. We play good competition. We don't talk about beating someone soundly. We try to win anyway we can. That's what it's like in the SEC.
"I think their coach wanted to make a statement. We went out to make a statement with our play, too. Ours was that we were going to hit you in the mouth. We were going to play hard and sound every single play. We went out to hit them right at the start and play our fundamentals. If you do that, it all takes care of itself, you come out victorious."
It took all areas of play for the Hogs to manage the victory. There was a lot of focus on the defense at the end, but the offense had only one turnover and cut back penalties to just four. Special teams produced some big plays, too.
"We were not backed up too often," Robinson said. "That was the offense moving the ball and the special teams making plays."
Quarterback Casey Dick passed for 385 yards, just 2 yards short of the UA single game record. He received the Cripp Hall Award as the outstanding senior in the Homecoming game.
"That's a big honor," he said. "There have been a lot of great players win it before me. But we had a lot of guys play well today. We played as a team. We did well in all areas."
One of the focuses was the seniors.
"That was what we talked about all week, to send these seniors out the right way," Robinson said. "I think that's why you saw us come out like we did."
Head coach Bobby Petrino said the same thing.
"We were fresh and had energy to come out," he said. "You couldn't script the first quarter any better. We've tried to cut back on practices at this point in the season to be fresh and our players were really focusing on playing for the seniors."
The 17-0 start by the Hogs was the biggest deficit the Golden Hurricane faced all season.
"That was a lot of fun," Dick said. "At the end, though, we have to tip our hats to the defense. They did a good job of stopping the run at the end and made plays all over the field.
"We thought we could make some plays against their secondary. Our receivers made some huge catches. They play the 3-3-5 defense. I've seen that before a couple of times in high school. We had a good game plan. We knew we might get some things in the passing game this week."
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