Smith To Likely Miss Season Finale

FAYETTEVILLE — Barring a surprisingly fast recovery, it appears that Arkansas running back Michael Smith will miss the final game of his breakout season.

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said Monday that he doesn't anticipate his leading rusher being ready for Friday's game against LSU in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium because of a pulled hamstring.

Smith suffered the injury with two minutes, 17 seconds remaining in the first quarter of last Saturday's 31-28 loss at Mississippi State. The junior caught a screen pass, and after planting his leg, was immediately hit by MSU defensive back Jasper O'Quinn.

"I don't expect he'll be available for the (LSU) game. He's got a hamstring injury; they're hard to come back from," Petrino said of Smith. "We're going into the game really understanding we'll be without him."

The Razorbacks (4-7, 1-6 SEC) would be without their top offensive weapon if Smith can't play in the regular-season finale against LSU. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday.

Though slowed lately by injuries, Smith leads the Southeastern Conference with an average of 141.4 all-purpose yards per game. He has rushed for 1,072 yards and eight touchdowns in his first season as Arkansas' starting tailback, and his average of 107.2 yards rushing per game ranks second in the SEC.

"I've got the ultimate respect for him — the way he's played and performed this year and the toughness that he's demonstrated," Petrino said. "It hurts our team when he's not in there because we miss that."

Smith walked off the field on his own after suffering the hamstring injury, and he tried to play the remainder of the MSU loss. But he looked a step slower and finished with 14 carries for 60 yards and one touchdown.

Petrino said he'll wait until after he sees how junior Brandon Barnett and freshmen Dennis Johnson and De'Anthony Curtis practice over the next few days before deciding on which one will start in Smith's place.

All three running backs have taken turns serving as Smith's backup this season, but none of them has rushed for more than 74 yards this season.

Johnson started the season opener against Western Illinois because Smith was serving a one-game suspension for violating NCAA rules. The freshman gained only 18 yards on six carries in the 28-24 win.

Petrino said Johnson could be limited in practice this week because of a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, Barnett made some costly assignment errors against MSU and Curtis has struggled to pick up Petrino's system.

"We'll work all three of them and then decide late in the week who starts," Petrino said.

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