Idle last week, Texas enters the game ranked No. 5 (ESPN-USA TODAY)/NO. 6 (AP) while Hogs scraped up enough votes following their 45-13 win against Tulsa to check in, if youre counting, at No. 33 (AP). The methodical win over a bad team did little to assuage the bitter taste of two season-ending losses (Georgia in the SEC title game and Minnesota in the Music City Bowl) by a combined score of 59-17. A televised road win over a hated, highly ranked opponent is the just the remedy the Razorbacks want to obtain.
On paper, it looks like another home W for Texas, whose 20 straight victories at DKR trails only Miamis NCAA-leading 23. But head coach Mack Brown said he expects this one to "come down to the fourth quarter." He said the same thing last year about the Kansas State and Nebraska games. Turns out he was right.
"Ratings are unimportant this time of year," Brown said, "but if you look at Arkansas performance last week they deserve to be rated just as much as we do. I think Arkansas should be a rated team, and if they continue to do what they did last year they will be before the years over because theyre a really good football team."
It was a game that Arkansas wanted for quite some time but it took Browns initiative during his first season to get the Razorbacks on the slate. The intent was both to honor legendary coaches Darrell Royal and Frank Broyles and to spark interest in what had been a downtrodden Longhorn program following that disastrous 1997 campaign. Turns out, Texas didnt need to add a former rival to sell out its house. The result, Brown said, is "we have a really, really tough out-of-conference game early in the season, and we havent had something like this since UCLA in our first year. So, it will be a real challenge for us."
The last meeting, of course, was Arkansas excruciating 27-6 win the 2000 Cotton Bowl in which the only fans truly excited about the matchup were the ones wearing garish red polyester, plastic pig hats and missing at least three teeth. This was a dull, defensive battle as Arkansas held on to a 3-point lead near the midway point of the third quarter. But the tide turned after the Hogs, thanks to a highly questionable officiating call, worked themselves out of a third-and-long at their own one-inch line. It appeared that QB Clint Stoerner had been stopped, not once but twice, for a safety. The refs saw it differently, allowing the Hogs to complete a long pass downfield. Texas never recovered. Some would argue that QB Major Applewhite never recovered as well. Under heavy duress all day behind a relentless Razorback blitz and a clueless Longhorn line, the Major was helped off the field after severely injuring his knee.
The last time the teams hooked up in Austin, Texas entered the fourth holding a 20-17 lead. But the Horns reeled off 29 points while holding the Hogs scoreless in the final frame to post a 49-17 shellacking.
But the Piggies prevailed 14-13 in the final SWC matchup in Fayetteville, as a missed PAT proved fatal for Texas.
BIG PIG ON CAMPUS
If the game truly starts up front, then the place to start with Arkansas is with its behemoth All-American OT Shawn Andrews. The 6-5 junior has had his weight guessed more often than a carnival tourist but reports range anywhere from 350 to 375. But there is no guesswork when it comes to where Arkansas will typically go when they want to pound the ball.
Brown compared Andrews to former UT All-American Mike Williams as well as Large Leonard Davis. He has started 24 of 25 games dating back to the third contest of his freshman year and is the anchor of a big O-line that dictates Arkansas smash-mouth, ball control offense.
"They just line up and hit you right in the mouth," Brown said. "They line up and hammer you. Were going to see whether we can stop the run or not. We gave up too many yards against New Mexico State when they ran the option and we gave up too many yards when they ran right at us. But we are not playing New Mexico State. Were playing a good football team."
Andrews left practice mid-week with a stomach virus, according to the schools website, but is expected to play Saturday
THE RAZORBACK OFFENSE
To listen to Brown is to be convinced that there are two types of Razorbacks: the really big ones and the really big and fast ones. Senior tailback Cedric Cobbs falls in the latter category.
"They have the ability to line up with their huge offensive line and smash you and then hand off to their 230-pound back and run right at you," Brown said.
Cobbs' 145 yards on 12 carries last Saturday earned him Southeastern Conference Player of the Week honors.
"We know hes good," Brown said. "Weve seen him."
Unfortunately, it wasnt just on television. As a freshman, Cobbs was tabbed the Offensive Player of the Game in Arkansas 27-6 Cotton Bowl win over Texas in 2000. He was granted a medical redshirt the following season after separating a shoulder.
Arkansas rushed for 200-plus yards in ten games last season en route to a SEC Western Division championship. The Pigs pound the ball -- controlling the clock and keeping your defense on the field -- and then try to bust the big one with play-action pass. The favorite downfield target is WR Richard Smith. The senior is within striking distance of the school career-receptions record (153) set by Anthony Eubanks (1993-97). Smith is credited with 105 grabs through three seasons.
The Pigs also like to go to senior WR George Wilson (94 catches through three seasons) and occasionally to their big TE (6-5, 320) Jason Peters. Arkansas has enough team speed to bounce it outside if a defense stacks the line of scrimmage, but its basic scheme is simply to out-physical an opponent and wear them out by the fourth quarter.
"Weve talked a lot about doing a better job of stopping the run," Brown said. "I think well know a lot more about ourselves at 3 oclock on Saturday. The good thing for us is well know early. We wont have to wait until midseason before we know if were any good."
At least one Longhorn is looking forward to the trench warfare. Prefers it, actually.
"You like games like this (with) a team that just tries to run the ball at you," DT Marcus Tubbs said. "We like to play in the trenches. We like to see the run. As far as their being big, well, New Mexico State had some guys that were pretty big. Weve had a test against big guys in the first game already. The defensive tackles are looking forward to this game."
Arkansas will play two capable quarterbacks by halftime. Against Tulsa, starting QB Matt Jones engineered two TD drives in four series during the first half while Ryan Sorahan answered with TD drives of his own before intermission.
"Weve seen Matt a lot more because weve seen him for two or three years," Brown said. "It seems like hes been there forever."
THE RAZORBACK DEFENSE
Bottom line: the Hogs will stack the line, live and die by the blitz and play man coverage all the livelong day. As such, you could not pay SE Roy Williams to suppress his grins every time the thought of single coverage was raised this week.
The Hogs boast two of college footballs fast cornerbacks in Lawrence Richardson and Ahmad Carroll. The two play a significant part of Arkansas blitz package which means Williams and company will, at times, be one-on-one against a safety.
One of the units strengths is its three returning linebackers: Clarke Moore, Caleb Miller and Tony Bua. Moore was his teams leading tackler in 2002 while Miller was named to last seasons SEC All-Freshman team. Together, they comprise a bunch that tries to confuse opponents with their looks and wreak havoc by blitzing on nearly every play.
"Theyre going to line up with a bunch of them in the box," Brown predicted. "Theyre going to blitz all over the place. Theyre one of those teams that lines (defenders) up every where and comes from every where and you really dont know where theyre coming from."
It represents the biggest challenge for Texas O-line between now and the October 4 Kansas State game. Its a group that generally did well in short-yardage situations in the home opener but did not consistently push New Mexico State around even in a 66-7 blowout.
"Were inexperienced in the offensive line and were really inexperienced at quarterback, so thats not a good matchup for us," Brown said. "So, were going to have to play better than we did against New Mexico State to have a chance to win. This will be a great test for us, with a young offensive line and inexperience at quarterback to see if we can handle those blitzes. Youre not going to run the ball, or people havent very well against them."
I dont think that even the most optimistic of Orangebloods are expecting Texas to win the game by running the ball any time soon. The offensive key for Texas will be the O-line picking up the blitz in order to provide pass protection (otherwise, you may have Cotton Bowl flashbacks from three years ago). The added bonus, of course, is Texas possesses two mobile quarterbacks and one explosive wideout who is personally insulted any time a team attempts to cover him one-on-one.
"Their defense is so aggressive up front," Williams said, before adding another a grin. "But you can always go deep."