Muschamp, Borges and Cox Preview the Hogs

Running the football with success has been the formula for winning in college football for a long, long time. However, Arkansas has had recent trouble with the second part of the equation.

Auburn, Ala.--Going back to last season, Arkansas has rushed for an average of 294.3 yards in its last eight games. Darren McFadden and Felix Jones have combined for an average 262.3 yards on the ground and 375.9 all-purpose yards.

However, in the last eight games, Arkansas is just 3-5 overall and 0-4 against SEC opponents.

Houston Nutt's Razorbacks enter Saturday's contest against Auburn at 3-2 overall with out of conference wins over Troy, North Texas and Chattanooga and conference losses to Alabama and Kentucky.

Led by McFadden, one of the preseason and midseason favorites to win the Heisman Trophy, the Razorbacks are second in the nation in rushing at 338.4 ypg. But even in their losses they have rushed for more than 300 yards.

"If not the best, (McFadden) is one of the best college football players," Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp says. "He's a dominating back that can take over a game. He's big. He's strong. He's fast. He's physical. He's tough. They do a lot with him and put him in a lot of different areas to get him the ball rather than just putting him in the I-Back position.

"He's an outstanding football player," Muschamp continues. "When he gets in the open field he's very difficult to get down. We've got to do a great job of tackling and keeping him in front of us. When he gets on the edge that's really when he makes some big plays. They have only been outscored. They got outscored against Alabama and they got outscored against Kentucky. They are scoring a lot of points. They are averaging over 300 yards rushing a game. They do a great job up front of getting a hat on a hat."


No. 5 is Muschamp's primary focus this week.

Last season after beating LSU and starting the season 5-0, Auburn was ranked second nationally and the odds-on favorite to represent the SEC West in Atlanta. However, Arkansas stormed into town and behind a 63-yard score from McFadden and 145 yards on the ground total from the then-sophomore, the Razorbacks beat Auburn 27-10 and won the SEC West Championship.

"Last year we tried to outnumber them in the box and they got a hat on every body," Muschamp says. "They make one guy miss and you're in trouble. We've got to do a great job of disengaging and getting off blocks and having great effort. We've got to tackle well in this ball game."

Jones also hurt the Tigers with a score of his own and 104 yards rushing on just 13 carries.

"He would start at 11 other SEC schools," Muschamp says of Jones. "Unfortunately for him, he's at Arkansas so he plays behind Darren McFadden. He has great speed on the edge and they do a good job of getting him the ball in space with the speed sweeps and the different ways they get him the ball. They are just two really good football players.

"It takes 11 to stop a running game like this," Muschamp says. "You have to fit well from the secondary. The linebackers can't misfit on any powers or counters in the different running game you've got. It's a team effort. The front guys have to disengage and get off blocks, but also keep the blockers off the linebackers. When you play an offense like this it's all 11. The pressure is on all of us."

McFadden has bruised ribs, but is expected to play against the Tigers.

No thanks to Casey Dick and the Hog receivers, the passing game has again struggled this year. Playing without big target Marcus Monk, the three leading receivers are fullback Peyton Hillis (17 receptions for 178 yards), Jones (7-70) and McFadden (7-56). London Crawford, a high school teammate of Auburn's Gabe McKenzie at Davidson High School in Mobile, Ala., and former QB Robert Johnson both have six receptions through five games. And there hasn't been much production from the tight ends in the passing game either.

As usual, the Arkansas offensive line is big and physical led by junior center Jonathan Luigs. The entire Razorback starting offensive line checks in at 6-4 or taller and 300 pounds-plus.

Whether it's Quinton Caver, Caleb Miller or Tony Bua, the Razorbacks seem to always have a tough leader at linebacker. This year it's Weston Dacus with 35 tackles through five games. The leading tackler is Matt Hewitt with 38 stops. Despite moving back to safety this season, he still plays a similar linebacker-type role that he played last season.

"They have a little different style of doing it, but the equation is the same mathematics," says Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges. "They're going to stop the run first. It's going to come down to the same story. We're going to have to A), hold on to the football, B), be able to run the ball from a variety of different formations and (C), be efficient in our passing game and catch every ball we should catch."


Can Dacus, No. 30, slow down Auburn's rushing attack of Brad Lester, Ben Tate and Mario Fannin?

Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring is known for his blitzing style and has been able to get to Brandon Cox the last two meetings. However, if Auburn can run the football as it did last week against Vanderbilt the Tigers could be able to neutralize some of the pressure.

"I think when our run game is effective our pass protection will be good," Borges explains. "There seems to be carryover in that area. Anytime we're not running the ball the protection isn't very good. That's probably from playing behind the chains, but we haven't played behind the chains near as much these last few games as we did early in the year."

Despite the losses of Jamaal Anderson and Keith Jackson from last season, Arkansas' defensive front is still one of the more physical lines in the SEC with Malcolm Sheppard and Antwain Robinson on the outside, and Marcus Harrison and Ernest Mitchell up the middle.

"They are a ‘hit you in the mouth' defense," Borges says. "That's the way they play. There is no paralysis through analysis with them. They're going to come after you. They're an up-field team that wants to make things happen. That's the way Reggie coaches. They're going to be very sound defensively because they always are. They're going to try and unseat your intensity."

The Razorbacks are also physical at the corners with Matterral Richardson, Jerell Norton and converted safety Michael Grant. Known for playing mostly man coverage in the secondary, Herring threw mostly zone at Auburn last season and the Tigers were never able to get anything working down the field on the Razorbacks. Auburn was scoreless in the second half of the 27-10 loss.

"There is always something different that a team is going to do," Cox says. "We've just got to prepare for it. The coaches give us multiple looks at different things. You have to always be prepared for the unexpected. The biggest this is just how physical they are. Their front line, they come off and hit you hard. And they're fast, too. The main thing is that they're physical."

It'll be important for Auburn kicker Wes Byrum to put the ball in the end zone on kickoffs rather than give Jones and McFadden an opportunity to return. Norton and Reggie "Water Bucket" Fish are also dangerous as punt returners.

Kickoff is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. CDT on ESPN.


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