Arkansas goes hog wild on NMSU, 63-13

Big plays and field position was the downfall for the Aggies as they fell to Arkansas 63-13 in their 2004 season opener Saturday night at Reynolds/Razorback Stadium, in Fayetteville, Ark. It was the most points the Aggies have given up to an opponent since the 2001 season when NMSU lost 64-0 to Kansas State.

It wasn't the start New Mexico State hoped for. The Arkansas Razorbacks scored the game's first 35 points en route to a 63-13 win at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday night.

It was the second straight season-opening loss for the Aggies by at least 50 points. Last year, New Mexico State lost 66-7 at Texas.

The Razorbacks (1-0) tallied 548 yards of total offense, 327 in the air. New Mexico State had 216 yards of total offense.

Arkansas senior quarterback Matt Jones was 13-of-16 passing for 195 yards, while backup Robert Johnson was 5-of-8 for 132.

"We didn't execute," said NMSU junior linebacker Jimmy Cottrell. "Arkansas has some really athletic players and they got going early. They out-schemed us."

While the Razorbacks gained 305 total yards in the first 30 minutes, NMSU struggled for most of the first half, before heading to the intermission with 141 yards, 127 of it passing. The Aggies didn't make a first down until nearly five minutes into the second quarter.

"Arkansas is solid defensively," said QB Buck Pierce. "They have guys that get to the ball really fast and we struggled. We have to execute better."

The Aggies managed just 14 yards rushing on 16 carries in the first half, 12 by freshman Justine Buries. Buries was filling in for the suspended Tony Joseph and Muammar Ali. Joseph, a sophomore, was the expected starter, while Ali, also a sophomore was listed as the backup.

They, along with starting defensive end Christopher Sneed, were all suspended Thursday. Though the team has not said why Ali was suspended, Joseph and Sneed were recently indicted on felony forgery charges and suspended for not reporting the pending legal investigation to coaches until after they were charged. The alleged charges occurred in April.

Several players said after the game the suspensions didn't affect them. "We had the right game plan and the coaches prepared us well, we just didn't do enough right things," said Buries, who finished with 41 yards on 12 carries. "It was a total team effort tonight and we have to play better."

The Aggies ran very little of their customary option-offense and when they did, it wasn't effective.

"We would have liked to have run more option," Aggies head coach Tony Samuel said. "But Arkansas had a great push up front with their defensive line and we didn't have a couple of running backs that know our system"

Said Pierce: "Our timing was off at times. We just didn't execute like we should have."

Arkansas scored on five of its first six possessions and led 42-7 at halftime.

Carlos Ously led the Arkansas receiving corps with 47 yards on six receptions in the first half, while Jones had 38 yards rushing for UA.

"Arkansas is very athletic at receiver," Samuel said. "And their offensive line did a good job of protecting their quarterbacks. They didn't let us enough pressure to get sacks or force bad passes."

The Aggies' special teams also got hurt again, much like last year's game in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks' Chris Houston returned a blocked punt one yard for a score after Kevin Woods got a hand on Steven Smith's kick.

NMSU's only first-half-score score came with 2:13 left in the second quarter as Buck Pierce hit Paul Dombrowski — his backup at quarterback — with a 29-yard scoring pass down the right sideline to make the score 35-7. Pierce also completed a 30-yard pass to Preston Williams on the drive.

The Aggies had a chance to score earlier in the second quarter, but a Ryan Guardia 39-yard field goal was wide left.

The second half was a mere formality as the Razorbacks added two quick scores in the third quarter to go ahead 56-7.

Former Mayfield High standout Jeremy Lawson caught his first collegiate touchdown with 5:12 left in the third on a 7-yard slant pass from Pierce to make it 56-13. Lawson caught three passes on the night for 17 yards.

Pierce finished 17-of-23 for 161 yards and two scores.

The game was a far cry from last year's contest as NMSU was never in the game. Last year, the Aggies trailed just 21-17 midway through the third quarter.

New Mexico State is at California on Saturday, while Arkansas takes on Texas. Cal pounded Air Force, 56-14, Saturday and Texas beat three-time defending Sun Belt champion North Texas, 65-0.

Notes: Fullback Clint Jones caught three passes in the first half Saturday. Aggie fullbacks caught just four passes all of last year...

Former Gadsden High player Shukree Shabazz started at right cornerback, his first start at that position after playing free safety last year... Junior quarterback Paul Dombrowski, who caught two passes last season, caught his first touchdown pass of his career in the second quarter on a 30-yard pass from Buck Pierce.

Dombrowski's first half score gave him 29 touchdowns in his career... Former Mayfield wide receiver Jeremy Lawson caught his first career pass in the second quarter... Junior cornerback Cameron Wright left the game in the second quarter with an injured left ankle and his status for next week is unknown.

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