Scouting Arkansas

The Ole Miss Rebels traveled southeast last week to Alabama coming up a short in a 26-23 overtime televised loss. Today the Rebels are over in northwest Arkansas, the land of Razorbacks where Houston Nutt herds the Pigs. This is the LF TV game of the week.


Second-year Rebel head coach Ed Orgeron cannot expect any hospitality from an angry bunch of Hogs since one of Coach O's former teams came into Fayetteville on opening night and abused the Razorbacks for the second consecutive year, 50-14. The combined score of the Hogs' two USC losses was 120-31. Not since the founding of the University of Arkansas in 1871, and first playing football in 1894, has a team dominated the Hogs two years in a row like USC did. Arkansas defends their home turf well winning 262 games in Fayetteville while losing 105 and tying 10. The Hogs all-time record is 633-427-40.

Arkansas bounced back with a vengeance winning five straight games while rising to number 15 in this week's Associated Press poll. The Razorbacks got their first win of 2006 over Utah State 20-0, then had good fortune escaping from Vanderbilt with a 21-19 win when the Commodores missed a game-winning field goal at the final horn. Four-leaf clovers must grow in the Hogs barnyard because a week later Alabama rolled into Donald W. Reynolds Stadium and missed an extra point that would have won the game in regulation. The Tide then missed a field in the first overtime that would have again won the game. Arkansas squeaked out a 24-23 victory in the second overtime when Alabama missed another extra point that would have sent the game into a third overtime period. The Hogs took a week off before going down on the plains and caged the Auburn Tigers 27-10 using their strong running game. Last week the Hogs coasted to a 63-7 homecoming victory over Southeast Missouri State.

Saturday's game with the Razorbacks with be the 53rd meeting with the Rebels, the most games Arkansas has played against any member of the Southeastern Conference. Arkansas joined the Southeastern Conference in 1992 when the Southwest Conference disbanded. The Hogs have played their "boot rival" to the south, LSU, one less time than they have played the Rebels. There is a disagreement over the record between Arkansas and Ole Miss. The Hogs say the record is 28-23-1 in favor of Arkansas, Ole Miss says the record is 27-24-1. Arkansas claims a forfeit win of the 1914 game won by Ole Miss 13-7 in Little Rock. The Rebels have had very little success against the Hogs in Fayetteville, having won only one time in eight trips there, 38-24 in 2000. Everyone remembers the famous seven-overtime game played in Oxford and won by the Hogs 58-56.

Houston Nutt, head coach of the Razorbacks, began the 2006 season on the hot-seat after back-to-back losing seasons. This five game winning streak has quieted his critics since the Hogs are ranked and currently leading the SEC West with a 3-0 conference record. Being undefeated in conference play with Ole Miss, Tennessee and LSU left on their home schedule, the Hogs are in the driver's seat to make their third trip to the SEC Championship game in Atlanta since their only SEC road games are to South Carolina and Mississippi State. Nutt's love-hate relationship with Arkansas supporters seems to stem from him having played two years at Arkansas then transferred to Oklahoma State to finish his playing career. Nutt has a nine-year record of 67-41 at Arkansas and an overall head coaching record of 98-63.

After back-to-back losing seasons, rumors were that Houston Nutt was asked, or told, by Athletics Director Frank Broyles that he needed to hire an offensive coordinator. Nutt went out and hired a high school coach to be his offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn from nearby Springdale, Arkansas. Malzahn just happened to be the high school coach of current Hogs' quarterback, freshman Mitch Mustain and two of his high school receivers, Andrew Norman and Damian Williams. Offensive meetings at Arkansas are probably interesting with Malzahn who coaches the wide receivers as the coordinator, Mike Markuson who coaches the offensive line as the running game coordinator and Alex Wood the quarterback's coach being the passing game coordinator and Nutt having veto power over the whole offense.

Malzahn's offense is leading the SEC in rushing, averaging 235.2 yards per game. It does not bode well that the Rebels are next to last in stopping the run in the SEC. Add to that, the Rebels are seventh in the SEC rushing with 138 yards per game. The Hogs are fifth in third down conversions at 44.1% while the Rebels are dead last at 25.6%. Arkansas will likely start five seniors, three juniors and three sophomores. The Hogs offensive line averages 314 pounds per man and have three seniors leading the Hogs running game. Arkansas has run the football 221 times and thrown the ball 129. Malzahn is not afraid to reach into his bag of tricks to pull out a special play.

KEY ARKANSAS OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: - QB # 16 Mitch Mustain, Fr. 6-3, 205 - 45-of-88 for 525 yards, 51.1%, 7 tds, 5 int and net rushing (-24 yards); - RB # 5 Darren McFadden, So. 6-2, 210 - 107 carries for 625 yards, 5.8 ave, no. 1 in SEC at 104.2 yards/game; - RB # 25 Felix Jones, So. 6-0,195 - 49 carries for 469 yards, 9.6 ave, 8 receptions for 72 yards, 9.0 ave.; - RB # 21 Michael Smith, rFr, 5-7, 170 - 18 carries for 208 yards, 10.9 ave.; - FB # 22 Peyton Hillis, Jr., 6-2, 240 - 8 carries for 40 yards, 5.0 ave, 9 receptions for 80 yards, 8.9 ave.; - SE # 85 Marcus Monk, Jr., 6-6, 227 - 19 catches for 384 yards, 20.2 ave., 3 tds, one of SEC's best; and - SE # 1 Damian Williams, Fr. 6-1, 188 - 12 catches for 153 yards, 12.8 ave.

Defensively the Razorbacks are a 4-3-4 team headed up by defensive coordinator and linebacker's coach Reggie Herring. Arkansas is ranked seventh among SEC teams defensively allowing opponents 300.5 yards per game. Ole Miss ranks 11th allowing opponents 370 yards per game. The Hogs are a big zone blitzing team, they are fast and they have 17 sacks. Their linebacker play led by senior Sam Olajubutu is good. The Hogs secondary likes to press cover wide receivers while keeping two safeties for support. Herring will start an experienced group against the Rebels with five seniors, five juniors and one sophomore. The Hogs defensive line averages 273 anchored by senior defensive tackle Keith Jackson.

KEY RAZORBACK DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: - WLB # 24 Sam Olajubutu, Sr., 5-9, 227 - 40 solo tackles. 28 assist, 68 total, # 2 in SEC behind Willis with 73; - RT # 99 Keith Jackson, Sr., 6-0, 292 - 16 solo tackles, 24 assist, 40 total; - MLB # 23 Desmond Sims, Sr., 6-3, 228 - 34 tackles; - MLB # 30 Weston Davis, Jr, 6-2, 227, 34 tackles; - RC # 9 Matterral Richardson, Jr., 6-0, 194 - 6 break-ups, 29 tackles; - LE # 92 Jamaal Anderson, Jr., 6-6, 262 - 33 tackles; and, - RE #97 Antwain Robinson, So. 6-3, 253.

KEY SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYERS: Punter - # 14 Jacob Skinner, Sr. - 25 Punts for 40.6ave.; Punt Returns - # 10 Cedric Washington, Sr. - 8 returns for a 4.1 yard ave.; Place Kicker - # 50 Jeremy Davis, So. - 3-3 FG, 16-17 PAT; Kickoff Returns - # 25 Felix Jones, So. - 8 returns for a 17.8 yards ave.

THOUGHTS: Arkansas looks upon the Ole Miss game in Fayetteville as a win. Rebels must throw the football effectively and mix in the run. Defensively, the Rebels must slow down McFadden, Jones and Monk. They must tackle better and continue playing well on special teams.

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