Hogs Looking To Run To Victory Over Tigers

Auburn will have to slow a strong ground game by Arkansas when the two meet Saturday night in Fayetteville.

Auburn, Ala.-–Looking to keep an impressive streak going against conference foes in which they've won 12 straight contests, the 20th-ranked Auburn Tigers travel to Arkansas Saturday night to face the improving Razorbacks in a big SEC game for both teams.

At 2-3 overall and 0-2 in league play, Arkansas needs a win to keep bowl hopes alive while Auburn is looking to stay atop the standings in the Western Division.

On offense the Razorbacks are led by the 2005 version of the four horsemen of running backs in the SEC. True freshmen Darren McFadden (6-2, 210), Felix Jones (6-0, 195) have both been outstanding this season with senior De'Arrius Howard (6-0, 236) and sophomore Peyton Hillis (6-2, 240) are also capable of getting the job done. All four average at least 50 yards per game on the ground with McFadden's 76.8 yard average and four touchdowns tops on the team in both categories.

A rushing game that leads the SEC and is third nationally, averaging 286.4 yards per game, Arkansas dominates opponents on the ground but struggles to connect through the air successfully with quarterback Robert Johnson. A 6-2, 212 sophomore, Johnson has completed just 55 percent of his passes for 583 yards and five touchdowns with four interceptions on the season. A quick quarterback who can run the ball when pressed, Johnson has added 45 yards rushing this season.

Peyton Hillis is a powerful runner and receiver for Arkansas.

When Johnson throws the ball chances are he's looking in the direction of sophomore Marcus Monk. A 6-6, 227 target with great hands, Monk leads the team with 20 catches for 242 yards and four touchdowns in 2005. His yardage total is over a third of the total for the Razorbacks this season and he has four of the six touchdown catches by the team.

The most dangerous receiver behind Monk is H-Back Hillis, who has 13 catches for 126 yards and one score. Back from an injury this week is speedster Cedric Washington. The 6-0, 200-pounder has 10 catches for 106 yards this season.

Up front the Hogs have one of the most physical offensive lines in the SEC led by center Kyle Roper, but an injury to the senior may shuffle things around for Arkansas this weekend. The 6-3, 291 senior was held out of the Louisiana-Monroe game last week and practiced on Wednesday, but was held out of Thursday's practice because of soreness. If he's unable to go look for starting guard Jonathan Luigs (6-4, 301, Fr.) to move into the role.

The rest of the line has 6-5, 314 Tony Ugoh at left tackle, 6-4, 314 Stephen Parker at left guard, Luigs at right guard and 6-4, 313 Robert Felton at tackle. Big Chase Pressley (6-4, 310, Jr.), a former defensive lineman, should also see some action at right guard for the Razorbacks if Luigs moves to center.

At tight end the Razorbacks are beat up with starter Jared Hicks out much of the season with an ankle injury. He came back to practice this week and could see some time on the field Saturday night. The starter going into the game is 6-7, 258 sophomore Mason Templeton. For the year he has two catches for just 25 yards.

Defensively, Arkansas is a unit that has gotten considerably better as the season has gone along. Next to last in the SEC in total defense, allowing 422 yards per game, the Razorbacks have struggled against pretty much everyone this season. That has started to change since giving up 736 yards and 70 points to USC back on Sept. 17. Despite losing 24-13 to Alabama the next week, Arkansas allowed just 301 total yards to the Crimson Tide. In last week's win over Louisiana-Monroe the number was just 327.

Sam Olajubutu leads an improving Arkansas defense.

The player to watch on defense for the Hogs is without a doubt junior weakside linebacker Sam Olajubutu. Listed as a 5-9, 227-pounder from LaGrange, Ga., Olajubutu has 61 tackles this season to go along with two sacks. Three times this season he has double-digit tackles, including 14 against the Trojans. Alabama native Pierre Brown (6-0, 227, Sr.) gets the start in the middle for the Razorbacks and has 28 tackles this season. The third starter is freshman Freddie Fairchild (6-2, 215).

Up front the Hogs have struggled at times this season to get a consistent push. That's not the case for everyone though as both defensive end Desmond Sims (6-3, 228, Jr.) and tackle Keith Jackson (6-0, 285, Jr.) have been solid for Arkansas. Sims leads defensive linemen in tackles with 28 and has one sack. Jackson has 24 tackles with one sack as well. They have two of just five sacks by defensive linemen this season for the Razorbacks. Rounding out the front four are tackle Marcus Harrison (6-3, 300, So.) and right end Anthony Brown (6-6, 223, Jr.). Brown has 22 tackles and leads the team with seven tackles for a loss this year.

In the secondary Arkansas is paced by strong safety Vickiel Vaughn. A force at 6-0, 204, the senior is second on the team with 34 tackles and has one forced fumble on the year. The other starters in the secondary are cornerbacks Michael Coe (6-1, 186, Jr.) and Chris Houston (5-11, 180, So.) along with free safety Matterral Richardson (6-0, 195, So.). The top reserve is 5-11, 185 sophomore cornerback Michael Grant. On the year he has 13 tackles and three passes broken up.

In the kicking game the Razorbacks have been one of the best teams in the SEC this season. Placekicker Chris Balseiro is 5-6 on the season with the only miss coming in the opening game against Southwest State from 44 yards. Punter Jacob Skinner has been equally as impressive, averaging 40.4 yards with eight downed inside the 20-yard line. Returning kicks both Jones and McFadden have been outstanding. Jones is averaging 32.1 yards per return on nine attempts while McFadden is almost as good at 27.3 on six attempts.

Kickoff for Saturda's game is scheduled for 6 p.m. CST and is not available on television in any market. The Razorbacks enter with a record of 2-3 while Auburn is 4-1 and ranked 20th in the country by USA Today.

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