Ground Game Looking

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas running back Broderick Green understands his role with the Razorbacks.

The Little Rock native, who transferred to Arkansas after starting his career at Southern California, is the team's big back. At 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, Green steps on the field when Arkansas is near the goal line and his job is obvious: Get the ball into the end zone.

So it's understandable Green is a little frustrated that Arkansas' goal line ground game is sputtering.

"I'm a big back. That's my role on the team," Green said Tuesday. "I don't want to be the player who's not fulfilling their role."

Arkansas' offense has piled up points and yards at a rapid rate behind a vastly improved passing attack, but its production has dropped off considerably around the goal line this season.

The blame doesn't fall squarely on Green's broad shoulders. Arkansas' offensive line hasn't done its part, either. But the Razorbacks know they must break through what has felt like an impenetrable wall whenever they're in goal line situations at No. 3 Alabama today.

"We've got a lot of things we're doing good, but that's one area we're definitely focusing on," Arkansas guard Mitch Petrus said. "We haven't gotten it done. ... You can move the ball all the way down the field, but you're judged on third down — picking up blitzes — and goal line. That's your test time."

It's clear Arkansas doesn't have a passing grade so far.



1-For-8

The Razorbacks have been at their opponents' five-yard line or closer four different times in two games. On those series, Arkansas has run the ball on eight plays. Only one has resulted in a touchdown.

The problems haven't kept Arkansas from scoring. Mallett threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Williams on third-and-goal against Georgia last week. And Tyler Wilson had a two-yard, fourth-and-goal touchdown pass to fullback Van Stumon in the opener against Missouri State.

But the ground game's struggles are cause for concern.

"It has been very frustrating," running backs coach Tim Horton said. "We have put a lot of time into it and we will continue, too.

"A lot of times you have nine or 10 guys that are executing really well and one guy makes a mistake. Whether it's, he doesn't see the cut or doesn't make the right angle to go block somebody. That's kind of where we are right now on the goal line running the ball."

It's nothing new. Arkansas has had problems in short-yardage and goal-line situations since coach Bobby Petrino's arrival.

In fact, the first visible sign came in the 49-14 loss to Alabama last season. The Crimson Tide stuffed the Razorbacks on four straight plays from the 1-yard line — three of which were handoffs to running backs — to hold on to their 35-7 lead.

"The goal line always comes down to who wants it more," Alabama linebacker Cory Reamer said. "Really getting after it. It's one of the more competitive areas when you're on the football field because there's not much distance between the goal line. It all comes down to who wants to put it in and who wants to stop it."

Failing to score around the goal line can crush the confidence of an offense. Petrus wasn't on the field last season, but said instances like ‘Bama's goal line stand have an obvious effect on both sides.

"It's pretty self explanatory," Petrus said. "It ain't a good feeling. It gives them a boost. Whoever wins is the more dominant force."



Hogs Go Big

Arkansas believed it was handicapped last season without a big, bruising running back. The team's leading rusher, 5-foot-9, 180-pound Michael Smith, joked that the team's biggest issue was that he was the one carrying the football near the goal line.

So Petrino made it an emphasis on the recruiting trail to find backs suited for short-yardage situations. He got Green from Southern Cal and freshman Ronnie Wingo. The NCAA's decision to grant Green immediate eligibility after his transfer was celebrated, too.

Green has handled the ball on every rushing attempt near the goal line so far, but has positive yards on just two plays. He has lost yardage on two others and been held to no gain four times.

"It's something we have not done well, but we took extra time to make sure we perfected it this week," said Smith, who doesn't have a carry near the goal line this season. "We have to start taking pride in being all the way down and having the defense backed up against their goal line. We've got to get it in for a score."

So how can it be corrected? Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said goal line success is no "great mystery."

"You just got to come off the ball lower and run your feet and block people and knock them off the ball," Paul Petrino said. "And the back has got to get his pads down and fall forward."

Petrus said it's easier said than done. But the offensive line has spent time in practice this week trying to improve its technique.

He said the line must fire off the line quicker and stay lower to push forward. Petrus said defenders can create a big pile at the goal line and clog lanes, but the line must fight through the "cluster."

"It's a big blob of mess down there," Petrus said. "A lot of times your guy will dive on the ground. ... We've got to make sure we get guys out of there and get these running backs in the end zone."

Green can do a better job, too. Horton said the big back must lower his pads and, when hit, make sure he's falling forward.

Green said he also needs to improve his awareness on goal line plays. Instead of just "blasting it in there," the sophomore wants to be more cognizant of finding creases and gaps to run through.

Arkansas' goal line run game has experienced plenty of problems the past two seasons, but Green said a breakthrough is coming.

"We had a couple of letdowns, but nobody is down about it," Green said. "I'm going to do everything I can to make sure I score from here on out. I'm not being cocky, but being confident."



Running On Empty

Arkansas' offense lit up the scoreboard against Missouri State and Georgia, but it hasn't been perfect. The Razorbacks continue to struggle running the ball near the goal line. Here is a look at Arkansas production — or lack thereof — when it gives the ball to a running back from the 5-yard line and in this season.



Missouri State

First quarter — Arkansas leading 14-3

1-G MSU 1 — Broderick Green 1 yard TD

Second quarter — Arkansas leading 21-3

1-G MSU 5 — Broderick Green no gain

2-G MSU 5 — Broderick Green 3 yards

3-G MSU 2 — Broderick Green no gain

4-G MSU 2 — Tyler Wilson 2-yard TD pass to Van Stumon

Second quarter — Arkansas leading 28-3

1-G MSU 2 — Broderick Green no gain

2-G MSU 2 — Broderick Green minus-1 yard

3-G MSU 3 — Ryan Mallett pass incomplete to Jarius Wright

4-G MSU 3 — Alex Tejada field goal



Georgia

Third quarter — Georgia leading 34-28

1-G UGA 1 — Broderick Green no gain

2-G UGA 1 — Broderick Green minus-1 yard

3-G UGA 2 — Ryan Mallett 2-yard TD pass to D.J. Williams

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