Preview: Let's Get Physical; Horns Head For Hills

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- There are two teams Texas <i>has</i> to beat this season, head coach Mack Brown told his 2004 recruits once they had given their verbal. The Longhorns face one of those teams Saturday night in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

We all know who the other team and, as far as many are concerned, the two teams Brown has to beat are Oklahoma this year and Oklahoma next year. But what makes the 7:45 p.m. (CDT) hoe-down in the hills so pivotal for Brown is that -- except for the Sooners -- no other team will test Texas' physical mettle this year as will the young-but-blue-collar Razorbacks. Both QB Matt Jones and former RB Cedric Cobbs rushed for more than 100 yards against Texas last year. Arkansas' O-line dominated throughout. Hell, for that matter, so did the Arkansas D-line (sacking QB Chance Mock eight times and holding RB Cedric Benson to 38 net yards). This game will be an early-season indicator of just how much progress Texas has made with its new defensive coaches and their emphasis on run defense and toughness.

"Texas is a pretty powerful name but the names don't play," FS Phillip Geiggar said. "The players play. I think we took Arkansas for granted last year."


Arkansas' upset last year broke Texas' 20-game home win streak, a stretch that would now have led the nation if not for the 38-28 setback. Now, Texas has an opportunity to break a similar streak in Fayetteville. Hog coach Houston Nutt is 21-0 in non-conference regular season games.

Texas leads the overall series, 54-21. The Horns have won eight of the last 10 meetings in the Razorbacks' home city.

The Hogs have topped Texas in three straight meetings (1991, 2000 Cotton Bowl, 2003). A Razorback win Saturday would match its longest win streak in the series (1935-38).

There are 23 Texans on the Razorback roster. Those defectors represent nearly half of the number of Arkansas players from out of state.


How big is this game, behind enemy lines, here in the northwest corner of Arkansas? Consider this: the front-page headline of the regional newspaper here simply stated in big, black print: NO VACANCY. Quite simply, this state has gone so hogwild over the fact that Texas is returning to town that area hotels quit taking reservations in 2003. Yep, they've been selling out for nearly a year. Arkansas hates Texas like Texas hates OU. Although the matchup was discontinued on a regular basis following Arkansas' departure to the SEC in 1992, the 75 previous meetings against Texas remain Arkansas' longest standing series.

The last time Texas played in Fayetteville, most current Longhorns were barely out of diapers. That was 15 years ago when, on a sunsplashed afternoon, freshman QB Peter Gardere engineered a 24-20 upset over the favored Razorbacks. Considering the fact that the Horns have not set foot in Fayette-Nam since 1989, you've got the makings for the most frenzied faction of hogwild fans that Texas will face all season. And that is a good thing, according to Brown.

"Our guys enjoy that atmosphere (so) I think that helps us," Bown said. "We have trouble going into an atmosphere and nobody's there, or if it's really quiet. I think that helps us this week. I think it's a huge picker-upper. I wish we had played (Arkansas) on the road last year. We probably felt too comfortable at home."

Texas players have pointed out all week that they have won in places like Lincoln Nebraska, Manhattan Kansas, Stillwater Oklahoma and College Station Texas. The real difference between those venues and Saturday's site, it seems, is that the scenery is better in the Ozarks.

"It's going to be a hostile environment and we know we're going to get their best game," SS Michael Huff said. "I love playing on the road. They're just booing. We go out there for warmups and they're talking trash. You get the feeling that you have to play well or they're going to make fun of you."

The Horns have won 17 of their last 18 road games (not counting those pesky neutral sites) and are 22-6 overall on the road during Brown's first six seasons.

"Regardless of whether people like us or not, or what they say between now and (Saturday), what they throw at us or how they treat us, we need to play well," Brown said. "It's about the game. It's about how we play and who plays the best on Saturday night. We can get into all the hype and all the talk but when that ball is kicked off, nobody is going to be throwing anything at anybody except those players are going to be throwing bodies at each other."


Two words: Matt Jones.

The stout (6-6, 237), blue collar senior QB is the only offensive starter returning from the squad that upended Texas last year, but he keyed the upset.

"Matt Jones is back and he was a big problem for us last year," Geiggar said. "He's their main key. We need to stop him."

Jones accounted for 139 yards passing and 102.yards rushing, totals that were more clutch than staggering. On 3rd-and-30 from the Texas 3, for example, Jones took advantage of a busted coverage assignment to exploit the Horns for a 54-yard, third-quarter completion. Then, late in the game, Jones scampered on a 60-yard bootleg -- that almost everyone in DKR saw coming except the D -- to seal the upset. Overall, his determined performance and athleticism caught several UT defenders off-guard.

"He's so big and heavy that you don't expect him to be able to move like that," WLB Derrick Johnson said. "You don't expect him to run that fast. He has deceptive speed. I was definitely surprised by that."

The rub on Jones is that when he is good, he is very good; but when he is bad, well... the Horns expect his best shot Saturday. Jones is 13-8 as a starter.

"He can be accurate, he can be very accurate," Co-Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson said. "He can throw with great velocity. He can throw on the run. He's in a rare category when you talk about his size (6-6, 237) and strength."

Jones is closing in on the SEC rushing record for a QB. His career total of 1,951 yards is second only to Mississippi State's John Bond. He's also accounted for 58 career touchdowns, 39 passing and 19 rushing. That puts him just four scores behind former Razorback QB Clint Stoerner (1996-1999).

With Cobbs gone, Robinson said, "So much of their running game is built around the quarterback. He's a real threat. He makes everything tougher."

The Hogs have led the SEC in rushing the past two seasons but will be hard pressed to maintain that streak now that Cobbs has taken his game to the League. On Saturday, Jones will hand off to senior TB DeCori Birmingham whose name has been all over the roster the past three seasons. The RB turned WR is back at RB, as well as taking snaps as both PR and KO returner. He was Arkansas' third-leading rusher last season with 549 yards.

Jones will likely look to WR Steven Harris as his go-to pass catcher but true freshman SE Marcus Monk (at 6-6) makes for a heckuva target. His first career reception was a 38-yard TD strike from Jones in Arkansas' 63-13 home-opening win over New Mexico State last week. TE Jared Hicks is built like a pro (6-6, 271). Junior RT Zac Tubbs is the only Arkansas O-lineman who had started a game before last weekend, but once again, the front five are HUGE. Tubbs weighs in at 6-6, 351.

"Every one of their lineman weighs more than 300 pounds," Brown noted.


Come and listen to a story 'bout a man named Jeb.

DE Jeb Huckeba is just one of four Arkansas defenders back from last year, but the senior made life miserable for the Horns. He was credited with two forced fumbles all of last year and both came in Austin. Remember when Texas was driving late in the game, but a Razorback forced a Mock fumble that he recovered on his own? That was Huckeba.

"It seems like he's been there as long as Bo Scaife's been at Texas," Longhorn OC Greg Davis said.

Despite the high rate of attrition, Arkansas returns 10-of-13 defensive linemen. The list includes DE Elliot Harris, DT Arrion Dixon ("a force inside," Davis calls him) and MLB Clarke Moore.

"Their front seven look really solid," Davis noted.

DT Marcus Harrison became the first true freshman position player to start a season-opener at Arkansas since 1982.

The Hogs are depleted in the secondary as seven of the top eight DBs from last season, including four starters, are gone.

Coaches expect Arkansas to blitz, and blitz, and blitz some more, from multiple formations and from every area of the field.

"They're just a pressure defensive team," Davis said. "It doesn't matter who they're playing. They stay consistent."

Horns Digest Top Stories