Arkansas FB Game Notes - Georgia
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ARKANSAS TO BATTLE GEORGIA BETWEEN THE HEDGES: Arkansas travels to Athens, Ga., this weekend to take on the No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs. The game will be played between the historic hedges at Sanford Stadium. The Hogs are 2-4 (0-3 SEC) after losing to No. 21 Auburn 34-17 last weekend in Fayetteville. Arkansas won the season opener against Missouri State, but dropped decisions to Vanderbilt, Southern California and Alabama before getting back on the winning track with a win over Louisiana-Monroe.
Georgia (6-0, 4-0 SEC) is sitting comfortably atop the SEC Eastern Division standings with a two-game lead, in the loss column, over Florida, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs knocked off No. 18 Boise State to open the season and have never looked back. Georgia has consecutive wins over South Carolina, Louisiana-Monroe, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. With the exception of the South Carolina game, the Bulldogs have won by a margin of 13 points or more.
NOTING THE RAZORBACKS:
* Arkansas and Georgia will meet for the 11th time and only the third time in Athens. Of the 10 previous games between the teams, four have been in bowl games. Georgia leads the overall series record with a 7-3 mark including last year’s 20-14 win in Fayetteville. The Bulldogs have won seven of the last eight meetings with the Hogs including the last four-consecutive games.
* Arkansas is 3-5 all time against teams ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press poll. The Hogs lost to No. 4 Auburn 38-20 last season in the last occurrence. When Arkansas and Georgia met in the 2002 SEC Championship Game, the Bulldogs were also ranked No. 4 in the nation. Georgia won that game 30-3. Arkansas’ last win over a No. 4 team came in 1992 when an unranked Razorback squad upset Tennessee 25-24 in Knoxville, Tenn.
* Arkansas has played the second-toughest schedule in the nation so far according to NCAA rankings. Vanderbilt, USC, Alabama, Louisiana-Monroe and Auburn have combined to post an 18-6 record (.750). Missouri State isn’t included in the rankings since it is Division I-AA. All games against Division I-AA opponents by Arkansas and its opponents aren’t included in the ratings. Results against Arkansas are also not taken into the equation. Arkansas is tied with Ohio State and trails only Oklahoma (.806) based on the winning percentage of past opposition.
* Arkansas defensive line coach Tracy Rocker and Georgia defensive line coach Rodney Garner were teammates at Auburn. Rocker was a defensive tackle at Auburn from 1985-88. He was a two-time All-American and a three-time All-SEC selection. As a senior, he won both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award. Garner was an All-SEC performer and honorable All-America selection at nose guard for the Tigers in 1988.
* Arkansas is the only Division I-A football team to boast three running backs in the top 100 NCAA rushers this week. Freshman Darren McFadden ranks 45th (82.0 ypg), freshman Felix Jones ranks 88th (62.0 ypg) and senior De’Arrius Howard ranks 90th (61.6 ypg).
THE SERIES: Arkansas and Georgia will meet for the 11th time and only the third time in Athens. Of the 10 previous games between the teams, four have been in bowl games. Georgia leads the overall series record with a 7-3 mark including last year’s 20-14 win in Fayetteville. The Bulldogs have won seven of the last eight meetings with the Hogs including the last four-consecutive games.
The teams first met in the 1969 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Jan. 1. The Razorbacks posted a 16-2 victory over the Bulldogs that day. The teams would not meet again until the 1976 Cotton Bowl where the Razorbacks claimed a 31-10 victory. Twelve seasons would pass before the Hogs and Dawgs squared off again, this time in the 1987 Liberty Bowl in Memphis. Georgia notched its first win against the Razorbacks with a 20-10 victory.
The fourth and final bowl contest came in the 1991 Independence Bowl in Shreveport. Georgia made it two in a row over the Hogs with a 24-15 victory.
The teams met for the first time in the regular season the following year in 1992 when the Hogs joined the SEC. The Bulldogs came away with a 27-3 victory over the Razorbacks in Fayetteville to make it three straight wins over Arkansas.
Arkansas would snap that streak in the next season under first-year coach Danny Ford. The Razorbacks pulled out a 20-10 victory over the Bulldogs in their first trip to Athens. In 2000, Georgia posted a 38-7 win over Arkansas in Fayetteville. In Arkansas’ last trip to Athens, the Dawgs outscored the Hogs 34-23.
Arkansas and Georgia met with the league title on the line in the 2002 SEC Championship Game. The Bulldogs came away with an impressive 30-3 win at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga. Last season, Georgia escaped Fayetteville with a 20-14 victory.
THE SERIES AT ATHENS: Arkansas is 1-1 against the Bulldogs in Athens. The first game between the two teams in the Bulldogs’ home stadium came in 1993, the Hogs’ second season in the SEC and first under head coach Danny Ford.
The Razorbacks found themselves down a field goal after the Bulldogs scored on their opening possession of the game.
Arkansas quarterback Barry Lunney got the Hogs on the scoreboard when he connected with J.J. Meadors on a 72-yard touchdown pass that gave the Razorbacks a 7-3 advantage.
Georgia, however, took a 10-7 halftime lead when QB Eric Zeier hooked up with Terrell Davis on a one-yard score on the last play of the first half.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Razorbacks’ Dexter Hebert put Arkansas ahead for good with a one-yard touchdown plunge.
On Georgia’s ensuing possession, Zeier was intercepted by Dean Peevy at the UGA 34-yard line. Lunney then scampered 15 yards for his first career rushing touchdown to give the Hogs a 20-10 lead.
Lunney finished the game passing for 138 yards and a team-high 60 yards rushing. Georgia’s Terrell Davis finished the day with 177 rushing yards.
In 2001, quarterback David Greene passed for 298 yards and tailback Musa Smith rushed for 95 yards to lead Georgia to a 34-23 Southeastern Conference win at Sanford Stadium.
Georgia (2-1, 1-1 SEC) earned 459 yards of total offense in handing Arkansas (1-3, 0-3 SEC) its third-straight league defeat.
Arkansas quarterback Zak Clark earned the start for the ailing Ryan Sorahan and responded by completing 17 of 32 passes for 212 yards. Razorback tailback Brandon Holmes earned 44 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries before leaving the game with a sprained left shoulder. The game also marked the first collegiate action for former Razorback quarterback Matt Jones. Jones rushed three times for 13 yards against the Bulldogs.
FORMER TEAMMATES MEET AGAIN: Arkansas defensive line coach Tracy Rocker will recognize his counterpart on the Georgia sideline this weekend. Rocker and Georgia assistant head coach and defensive line coach Rodney Garner both played together at Auburn in the late 1980s.
Rocker was a two-time All-American and three-time All-SEC pick on the defensive line from 1985-88. In his senior year, he became the first SEC player to win both the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award.
Garner picked up his share of awards as well. He was an All-SEC and honorable mention All-America selection at nose guard in 1988. Rocker and Garner helped lead Auburn to the 1988 SEC Championship.
HERRING CONNECTIONS: Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring has coached previously with two members of Georgia’s coaching staff. Georgia offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Neil Callaway, and assistant head coach and defensive line coach Rodney Garner both shared the sideline with Herring at Auburn.
Callaway served as Auburn’s offensive line coach each season in Herring’s six-year tenure (1986-91) as linebackers coach. During that time current Razorback defensive line coach Tracy Rocker and Garner both played for the Tigers.
Herring also coached with Garner for two years (1990-91) after his playing days were finished at Auburn. Herring was in his final two years as the Tigers’ linebackers coach while Garner was working with Auburn’s tight ends.
OTHER UA-UGA CONNECTIONS:
* Arkansas director of football operations Louis Campbell was on the Alabama coaching staff when Georgia offensive coordinator Neil Callaway played for the Crimson Tide in 1974-76.
* Arkansas defensive tackle Ernest Mitchell played with Georgia flanker Demiko Goodman at Newnan (Ga.) High School.
* Arkansas linebacker Sam Olajubutu was teammates with Georgia free safety Olaolu Sanni-Osomo at LaGrange High School.
PEACH TREE STATE RAZORBACKS: There are eight current Razorback players, one assistant coach and one administrator who once called Georgia home. Athletic Director Frank Broyles was born in Decatur and was named Georgia’s Outstanding All-Around Athlete in 1942. Broyles was a three-sport letterman at Georgia Tech.
Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker was born in Atlanta. Rocker went on to star as an Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award winner at Auburn.
Eight current Razorbacks will likely suit up against their home-state Bulldogs this Saturday. Tight end Wes Murphy (Cuthbert), quarterback Alex Mortensen (Fairburn), linebacker Sam Olajubutu (LaGrange), Ernest Mitchell (Newnan), Michael Grant (Stone Mountain), Michael Hall (Decatur), Kyle Roper (Powder Springs) and De’Andre Bryant (Dunwoody) all hail from Georgia. Murphy, Mortensen, Olajubutu, Mitchell, Grant and Roper have all played for the Hogs this season. Bryant and Hall are being redshirted this season.
GRANT BRIEFLY A DAWG NOW A HOG: Razorback cornerback Michael Grant has been a two-sport standout since coming to Fayetteville in time for the 2004 football season. Grant is in his second season as a cornerback on the Razorback defense and has completed one season with the national champion Arkansas track and field program.
Grant, a native of Stone Mountain, Ga., spent his final two prep years at Stephenson High School. He then signed with the Georgia Bulldogs to play football and participate in track. When Grant wasn’t admitted to Georgia, he turned his attention to Arkansas.
Things have worked out well for both parties as Grant has become a valuable member of two Razorback squads. Grant is on his way to his second-straight letter on the Razorback defense. Last spring, he became the first Razorback football player since 1948 to win a track national championship when he was part of the championship 4×100 relay at the 2005 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. He also helped the Hogs capture both the indoor and outdoor national team titles.
DENTING THE SCOREBOARD: Including the first six games of the 2005 season, Arkansas has scored in 116 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in team history. Arkansas has not been shut out since a 28-0 loss to LSU in Baton Rouge, La., on Nov. 18, 1995.
The longest scoring streak in Razorback history is 125 games set from 1973-83. The Hogs were shut out by Southern Cal, 17-0, in the season opener on Sept. 15, 1973, and went 125 games before being blanked by SMU, 17-0, on Nov. 19, 1983.
Arkansas ranks fourth among league schools in the longest active scoring streak. Florida ranks first in the SEC earning points in 211 consecutive contests.
RACKING UP 20: The Razorbacks have made a routine of racking up 20 points since Houston Nutt arrived in Fayetteville. Arkansas has scored 20 points or more in 67 of Nutt’s 92 games (.728) as head coach. Arkansas is 50-17 (.746) when scoring 20 points or more including a 24-8 mark (.750) in the last four seasons.
HOGS’ SCHEDULE RANKS NO. 2 NATIONALLY: Arkansas has played the second-toughest schedule in the nation so far according to NCAA rankings. Vanderbilt, USC, Alabama, Louisiana-Monroe and Auburn have combined to post an 18-6 record (.750). Missouri State isn’t included in the rankings since it is Division I-AA. All games against Division I-AA opponents by Arkansas and its opponents aren’t included in the ratings. Results against Arkansas are also not taken into the equation. Arkansas is tied with Ohio State and trails only Oklahoma (.806) based on the winning percentage of past opposition.
Overall, Arkansas ranks fifth in the toughest schedule category when past opponents and future opponents are taken into consideration. The Razorbacks’ opponents are a combined 33-18 (.647) so far this season.
TOUGH SLATE: Once again, Arkansas finds itself one of the toughest schedules in the nation. It appears that the Razorbacks are headed for yet another top 10 ranked schedule. The Hogs have navigated a top-10 nationally ranked schedule in three of the last four seasons.
Five of the Razorbacks’ 11 regular season opponents are ranked in the preseason top 25 polls. The USA Today Coaches poll features Southern Cal (#1), LSU (#6), Georgia (#13), Auburn (#15) and Alabama (#24). The AP preseason listing had Southern Cal (#1), LSU (#5), Georgia (#13) and Auburn (#16).
Arkansas has only played as many as five nationally ranked teams in one season three times in history with two of those coming in the Houston Nutt era. The Hogs faced five nationally ranked opponents in 1997, 2000 and 2004.
In 2004, Arkansas’ schedule ranked No. 8 in the nation based on cumulative opponents winning percentage. The Razorbacks’ 11 opponents in 2004 combined for a 68-43 (.613) record. In 2003, Arkansas ranked No. 26 in strength of schedule. Arkansas boasted the fourth-toughest schedule in both 2002 and 2001. In 2000, the Razorbacks’ schedule rated 12th in the country.
SI RANKS HOGS’ NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE FOURTH NATIONALLY: Sports Illustrated recently ranked the Hogs’ 2005 non-conference schedule as one of the toughest non-conference lineups in the nation. Arkansas ranked fourth in the ranking for non-conference games with Missouri State, Southern Cal and Louisiana-Monroe.
Notre Dame was rated as the most difficult non-conference slate followed by Southern Cal, Texas, Arkansas and Georgia Tech.
BCS BONANZA: Much of the final month of the 2004 football season was full of passionate debate about whether Southern Cal or Auburn was the top college football team in the nation. Both posted undefeated seasons and finished at No. 1 and No. 2 in the polls, respectively.
Arkansas fans had a chance to judge both programs up close in 2005 as the Razorbacks took on both USC and Auburn earlier this season.
BEVY OF BOWL TEAMS: While Arkansas plays both the No. 1 (USC) and No. 2 (Auburn) ranked teams from last year’s final poll, the remainder of the schedule doesn’t appear to provide much of a reprieve either. The Razorbacks will play six teams that earned bowl eligibility last season on their 2005 slate.
USC (Orange), Auburn (Sugar), LSU (Capital One), Georgia (Outback) and Alabama (Music City) all saw postseason action in 2004. South Carolina also qualified for a bowl game, but elected not to play after an incident in its final regular season game against Clemson.
HOGS AMONG NATION’S BEST IN RUSHING: Arkansas continues to rank among the nation’s best when it comes to rushing offense. After leading the country in rushing for the first two weeks of the season, the Razorbacks rank sixth in this week’s statistical rankings.
The Hogs are averaging 263.33 yards per game on the ground through the first six games of the 2005 campaign.
Arkansas racked up 483 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 51 carries against Missouri State in the season opener. Arkansas tailbacks Felix Jones (137), Peyton Hillis (135) and De’Arrius Howard (120) all topped the 100-yard rushing mark in the victory. The Hogs’ total of 483 rushing yards against the Bears still ranks as the top team rushing output by an NCAA Division I-A team this season. Arkansas also registered among the NCAA’s single-game highs with 321 yards in a win over Louisiana-Monroe.
Arkansas finished 22nd in the nation last season in rushing yardage averaging 187.4 yards per game.
LEADING THE LEAGUE: Arkansas is also pacing the SEC in rushing yards per game. The Hogs’ 263.33 average out-distances second-ranked Georgia (189.7 ypg.) by more than 70 yards per game. Arkansas is also leading in yards per attempt with 6.0 yards per rush.
Arkansas has led the league in rushing in two (2002 and 2003) of the last three seasons. The last SEC team to lead the conference in rushing three times in four seasons was Auburn (1983-85).
RUSHING AGAINST NO. 1: Arkansas came into the USC game leading the nation in rushing yards per game. While the Razorbacks didn’t reach their gaudy average for yards on the ground, they did manage to do something that the Trojans’ last 36 opponents failed to do.
Arkansas rushed 52 times for 197 yards in the loss to the top-ranked team in the nation. The Hogs’ total was the most rushing yards given up by the Trojans’ defense in their last 37 games. The last team to rush for as many yards against USC was Washington State (201) in an overtime game in 2002.
GROUND SCORE: While Arkansas did have success rushing the ball against No. 1 USC, the Razorbacks failed to score a rushing touchdown for the first time this season. The Hogs scored five rushing touchdowns in the opener against Missouri State and added another against Vanderbilt.
The USC game marked the 18th time in the Houston Nutt era that Arkansas failed to score at least one rushing touchdown. The Razorbacks are now 4-13 (.235) in those games including losses in the last seven contests without a rushing score. The last time Arkansas won a game without a rushing touchdown was in 2002 when the Hogs topped South Carolina 23-0 on two passing scores and three field goals.
Arkansas is 51-23 (.689) when scoring at least one rushing touchdown since 1998.
STEMMING THE TIDE: Arkansas also racked up big rushing yardage against another of the nation’s top defenses. The Razorbacks earned 237 yards rushing in a 24-13 loss at Alabama.
The Crimson Tide defense entered the game ranked first in the SEC and 24th in the nation in rushing defense. They had allowed only 114 rushing yards in their first three games combined.
In fact, Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden’s 70-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter accounted for nearly double the real estate of Alabama’s average rushing defense total (38.0) in the first three contests.
TOTAL EFFORT: While the rushing game has been the primary catalyst, Arkansas is among the league leaders in total offense as well. The Razorbacks rank third in the SEC and rank 45th in the nation averaging 399.20 yards per game.
Arkansas is sixth in the nation in rushing offense (263.3 ypg) and ranks 110th (135.8 ypg) in passing offense.
HOGS LEAD NATION IN INDIVIDUAL RUSHING LEADERS: Arkansas is the only team in Division I-A football to boast three running backs among the top 100 individual rushers in the nation.
Freshman Darren McFadden ranks 45th (82.0 ypg), freshman Felix Jones ranks 88th (62.0 ypg) and senior De’Arrius Howard ranks 90th (61.6 ypg). In addition, Peyton Hillis has ranked among the nation’s rushing leaders this season. Hillis is averaging 45.0 yards per game this season.
TRIPLE DIGIT RUSHERS: The Razorbacks’ rushing success has already resulted in seven 100-yard rushing efforts in six games this season. Senior tailback De’Arrius Howard topped the 100-yard mark in the first two games this season (120 vs. Missouri State, 139 vs. Vanderbilt) while Felix Jones (137) and Peyton Hillis (135) earned 100-yard rushing efforts against Missouri State. Jones (102) and freshman Darren McFadden (125) both topped the century mark in rushing in a win over Louisiana-Monroe. McFadden made it two 100-yard rushing games in a row with a 108-yard effort against No. 20 Auburn.
Arkansas earned a total of five 100-yard rushing efforts all of last season with a pair of those coming from quarterback Matt Jones.
In all, Arkansas’ players boast 234 100-yard rushing performances with 49 of those coming in the Houston Nutt era (1998-2005).
TRIO OF 100-YARD RUSHERS: A trio of Razorbacks found plenty of running room in Arkansas’ win over Missouri State. Freshman Felix Jones led the Razorbacks with 137 yards and one touchdown on eight carries. Jones’ performance was the third-best by a Razorback freshman in school history and included an 80-yard touchdown run on his second career carry.
Sophomore Peyton Hillis racked up 135 yards and three touchdowns on 14 attempts in the victory. It was Hillis’ first career 100-yard rushing game. Senior tailback De’Arrius Howard tallied his fourth career 100-yard rushing effort with 120 yards on 12 carries. Freshman tailback Darren McFadden also made a run at the 100-yard mark earning 70 yards on nine carries.
The last time Arkansas boasted a trio of 100-yard rushers was in the Hogs’ seven-overtime win at Ole Miss in 2001. Quarterback Matt Jones (110) and tailbacks Cedric Cobbs (100) and Fred Talley (113) each eclipsed the 100-yard plateau in the longest game in NCAA history. The last time three Razorbacks gained 100 yards or more rushing in a regulation game was in Arkansas’ 1993 win over LSU in Baton Rouge. In the 42-24 victory, Razorback running backs Oscar Malone (143), Carlton Calvin (123) and Marius Johnson (106) turned the trick.
OFFENSIVE FIREWORKS: Arkansas’ offense was in high gear in the Razorbacks’ 49-17 season-opening win over Missouri State. The Hogs racked up 591 yards of total offense in the victory. The total ranked ninth all-time on the UA school record list for total offense in a single game and was the most since Arkansas tallied 605 yards in a seven-overtime win at Kentucky in 2003.
The 483 yards earned on the ground ranked seventh on the school record chart for rushing yards in a game. The last time Arkansas rushed for more yards as a team was in 1987 when the Hogs churned up 502 yards in a win over New Mexico.
FRESHMEN LEADING THE WAY: Arkansas freshmen Darren McFadden and Felix Jones have been leading the way for the Razorbacks on the ground this season. The two true freshmen have combined to rack up four 100-yard rushing games this season.
It is the first time in school history that two true freshmen have recorded a 100-yard rushing game in the same season. In fact, McFadden and Jones each earned 100 yards rushing in the same game against Louisiana-Monroe earlier this season.
Single Game 100-Yard Rushing Performances by a UA Freshman
169 – Darryl Bowles vs. Texas A&M, 1979
143 – Brandon Holmes vs. LSU, 2000
137 – Felix Jones vs. Missouri State, 2005
131 – Matt Jones vs. Mississippi State, 2001
125 – Darren McFadden vs. Louisiana-Monroe, 2005
125 – James Rouse vs. Texas, 1985
121 – De’Arrius Howard vs. Mississippi State, 2002
118 – Oscar Malone vs. LSU, 1992
110 – Matt Jones vs. Ole Miss, 2001
108 – Darren McFadden vs. Auburn, 2005
107 – Cedric Cobbs vs. Tennessee, 1999
103 – Chrys Chukwuma vs. Louisiana Tech, 1996
102 – Felix Jones vs. Louisiana-Monroe, 2005
FRESHMEN FEAT: Freshmen tailbacks Darren McFadden and Felix Jones made some history when both players rushed for more than 100 yards in Arkansas’ win over Louisiana-Monroe. They became the first UA true freshmen to earn 100 yards or more rushing in the same game. McFadden rushed for a career-high 125 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Jones racked up 102 yards and two scores on 14 attempts.
The two 100-yard rushing performances marked the 11th and 12th time a true freshman has eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards in a game.
RISING STAR: Freshman Darren McFadden is off to a torrid start in his Razorback career. The North Little Rock, Ark., product has back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts to his credit and was recently named the SEC Freshman of the Week for his efforts against No. 21 Auburn.
McFadden has rushed for 70+ yards in five of his six collegiate games including a 125-yard effort against Louisiana-Monroe and a 108-yard performance against Auburn. McFadden is only the third true UA freshman (Matt Jones, Felix Jones) to tally a pair of 100-yard rushing efforts in his freshman season. No UA back has ever earned three in his first season.
MORE ON McFADDEN:
* He leads the team with 492 yards and six touchdowns on 55 carries through six games.
* He has earned 70+ yards in five of his six collegiate games. He earned only one rushing attempt against Vanderbilt (6).
* He ranks sixth in the SEC and 45th in the nation averaging 82.0 yards per game.
* His 8.9 yards-per-carry average is the highest of any SEC running back listed in the top 10 in rushing yards. Teammate Felix Jones has the next highest average at 7.3 yards per carry.
* He leads the Razorbacks in rushing touchdowns with six. Five of his six scores have come in the last three games including two touchdown efforts against Louisiana-Monroe and Auburn.
* He has led the Hogs in rushing yardage in the last four consecutive games including against No. 1 USC, No. 20 Alabama and No. 21 Auburn.
* He was named SEC Freshman of the Week after rushing for 108 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries against No. 21 Auburn. He scored on runs of five and 17 yards. He also made three receptions and returned a kickoff for 20 yards against the Tigers. He tallied 129 all-purpose yards.
* McFadden tallied a career high 125 yards and two touchdowns on only 11 carries in the Hogs’ win over Louisiana-Monroe. His 125 yards tied for the fifth-best rushing output by a UA freshman. He ran 26 yards on the Razorbacks’ opening play and scored touchdowns from 39 and 15 yards.
* McFadden launched his Razorback career with nine carries for 70 yards and a touchdown against Missouri State. After only one carry against Vanderbilt, McFadden earned a team high 88 yards on 13 carries against two-time defending national champion USC. McFadden also returned two kickoffs for 37 yards to tally a total of 125 all-purpose yards against the No. 1 Trojans.
* Against No. 20 Alabama, McFadden tallied 95 yards and a touchdown including a 70-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter. The Crimson Tide defense entered the game allowing only 38.0 yards per game in their first three contests.
FELIX FORTUNES: Freshman Felix Jones is making the most of his opportunities on the field this season. Jones is averaging 139.0 yards in total offense per game this season. His average ranks him second in the SEC and 25th in the nation in that category.
In the backfield, Jones has racked up 372 yards and three touchdowns on 51 carries. Only fellow freshman Darren McFadden (492) has earned more real estate than Jones through six games this season.
Jones ranks 10th in the SEC and 88th in the nation with an average of 62.0 rushing yards per game. He also has tied a freshman school record with two 100-yard rushing games. Jones tallied 137 yards in the season opener against Missouri State before collecting 102 yards against Louisiana-Monroe. Only former Razorback quarterback Matt Jones and current UA freshman running back Darren McFadden can lay claim to that accomplishment in UA history.
OTHER JONES NOTES:
* Jones got off to a quick start as a Razorback by rushing for a game-high 137 yards and one touchdown on eight carries in leading the Hogs to a 49-17 win over Missouri State in the season opener. Jones became just the ninth freshman running back in Arkansas history to earn 100 yards rushing in his initial season. For his efforts, Jones was named the inaugural SEC Freshman of the Week.
* His 137 yards ranks third in Razorback frosh history only trailing Darryl Bowles (169) in 1979 and Brandon Holmes (143) in 2000. Jones holds the distinction as the only Arkansas freshman to rush for 100 yards or more in his Razorback debut.
* Jones’ second career rush from scrimmage also etched his name in the UA record books. The 80-yard touchdown run was the longest scoring run by a freshman in school history and the longest rush from scrimmage by a Razorback since Fred Talley raced 81 yards against Central Florida in 2001. The Tulsa, Okla., product tallied 10 yards or more on four of his eight carries against Missouri State and finished the contest with a 17.1 yards- per-rush average.
FELIX NEAR THE LEAGUE LEAD IN KO RETURNS: In addition to his rushing production, freshman Felix Jones has given the Hogs a new weapon on kickoff returns.
Jones ranks second in the SEC and 12th in the nation with a kickoff return average of 29.0 yards per attempt. He tallied a season-long 67-yard kickoff return to set up a touchdown against No. 1 USC. He has 14 kickoff returns for 406 yards in the Hogs’ first six games.
The last Razorback to lead the league in kickoff returns was Derek Holloway in 1982. Holloway led the Southwest Conference with an average of 21.7 yards per kickoff return.
RETURN TO ACTION: It is easy to understand why it may have been overlooked. After all a dump pass for a loss of two yards is not usually a milestone. But for senior Dedrick Poole, that second quarter pass from quarterback Robert Johnson in the season opener against Missouri State may rank as one of the most gratifying plays of the Little Rock native’s Razorback career.
It was Poole’s first reception or carry since leaving the field at Auburn on Oct. 16, 2004, with a severe hamstring injury that left his college football career in jeopardy. Thanks to his diligent rehabilitation work and his treatment by the UA training staff, Poole made a remarkable recovery and expedited return to the field. In fact, Poole was even healthy enough to take part in non-contact drills in the spring.
And just like with his injury, Poole bounced back in the Missouri State game as well. Poole finished with three catches for 15 yards and one rush for four yards.
Poole has seven catches for 35 yards in the Hogs’ first six contests.
CENTER OF ATTENTION: Senior Kyle Roper is one of 39 candidates listed on the 2005 Dave Rimington Trophy Watch List entering the 2005 season. The Rimington trophy is award annually to the best collegiate center in the country.
Roper was a preseason All-SEC pick by nearly every preseason publication and was tabbed as the No. 2 center in the Southeastern Conference and the No. 14 center in the nation by The Sporting News. He started 11 games last season grading out at 90 percent or better in 10 of those games. The Powder Springs, Ga., product racked up 46 knockdown blocks in 2004 including 30 in the final three games of last season.
The Rimington Trophy recipient is determined by a consensus of the four All-America teams: The Walter Camp Football Foundation, the America Football Coaches Association, Football Writers Association of America and The Sporting News.
MARVELOUS MONK: At 6-6, Marcus Monk was sure to stand out in his first year at Arkansas. Monk obliged by leading all Southeastern Conference freshmen in receiving and setting a school record for freshman receiving along the way. Monk shattered Richard Smith’s UA record (33) for receptions by a freshman when he hauled in 37 balls for 569 yards and six touchdowns. He tied for the team lead in catches and garnered freshman All-SEC honors for his efforts.
Monk, the first 6-6 wide receiver in school history, also stood out in the classroom. The Lepanto, Ark., product was honored last December in New York by the National Football Foundation and the College Hall of Fame for his academic performance in high school. He was chosen as the spokesperson to accept the award on behalf of the other three scholar-athletes honored.
So far this season, Monk has picked up right where he left off. Monk leads the team with 21 catches for 260 yards and four touchdowns. Monk has made at least three catches in 11 of his 17 career games as a Razorback including four of six games this season
Monk’s 43.3 receiving yards per game ranks him 16th in the SEC. His 3.50 receptions per contest rates him 10th in the SEC.
PEYTON AND THE PASSING GAME: Arkansas running back Peyton Hillis has become a prime target in the Hogs’ passing game. Hillis snared a career-high seven balls for 81 yards last weekend against No. 21 Auburn. His previous career high was four catches for 60 yards and a touchdown earlier this year against Vanderbilt.
Hillis has now tallied 20 receptions for 207 yards and a score on the season. He is the Hogs’ second-leading receiver trailing only Marcus Monk.
Hillis has also been a steady contributor in the rushing attack as well. He ranks 17th in the SEC in rushing with an average of 45.0 yards per game.
RAZORBACK OFFENSE TIDBITS:
* Tight end Jared Hicks returned to action against Auburn after missing the Louisiana-Monroe game with a high ankle sprain. Hicks missed the first three games of the season with an injury. He made one catch for seven yards against the Tigers and has made two receptions for 16 yards on the season.
* Fullback Brandon Kennedy earned his first catch of the 2005 season on a six-yard play against Auburn. It was his fourth career reception after earning one in 2003 and two last season. Kennedy does not have a carry this season.
* Arkansas wide receiver Cedric Washington caught three balls for 58 yards against No. 21 Auburn. Washington earned a season-long 26-yard reception against the Tigers.
PICKING OFF PASSES: For the second time this season, Arkansas earned a pair of interceptions in last weekend’s 34-17 loss to No. 21 Auburn. Michael Coe and Vickiel Vaughn each came down with a Brandon Cox pass in the first half. The Razorbacks also tallied two interceptions in a season-opening win over Missouri State.
Arkansas has forced an interception in four of its six games this season. The Razorbacks have a total of six team interceptions this season with Michael Coe owning three of those.
COE AMONG NATION’S BEST: Junior cornerback Michael Coe finds himself among the nation’s leaders in interceptions after six games of the 2005 season. Coe leads the SEC with three interceptions and ranks tied for 16th in the nation with his 0.50 interceptions per game average.
Coe picked off his third interception of the season against No. 21 Auburn last weekend. He also owns interceptions against Missouri State and Vanderbilt this season.
SCOOP AND SCORE: When Arkansas’ defense pitches in on the scoreboard, it usually means good things for the Razorbacks especially in the Houston Nutt era. The Hogs are 10-2 since 1998 when the Razorback defense scores a touchdown. Arkansas has combined for seven interception returns and five fumble returns for touchdowns in those 12 games.
Darius Vinnett added an entry to that list in the 2005 season opener with a 44-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the second quarter of the Hogs’ 49-17 win over Missouri State. It was the first fumble return for a score since teammate Marcus Harrison ran 18 yards with a fumble last season against Georgia.
OFF TO THE RACES: Senior cornerback Darius Vinnett made the most of his first fumble recovery of the season in the Hogs’ win over Missouri State. Vinnett picked up a fumble caused by teammate Sam Olajubutu and raced 44 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Bears. It was Vinnett’s second career fumble recovery after returning a loose ball four yards last year against Georgia.
It was the first fumble recovery returned for a touchdown by a Razorback since Marcus Harrison returned a fumble 18 yards in the same game last season against Georgia. Vinnett’s 44-yard fumble return was the longest by a Razorback since Corey G. Harris sped 46 yards with a fumble against Auburn in 2001.
HOW ‘BOUT ‘BUTU: Junior weakside linebacker Sam Olajubutu appears to have carried the momentum of a strong spring and fall camp into the 2005 campaign.
Olajubutu leads the Razorbacks and ranks second in the Southeastern Conference in tackles with an average of 11.3 stops per game. His average also places him 15th in the nation in rankings compiled by press box totals. Olajubutu ranks tied for fifth in the country in solo tackles per game with an average of 7.17 per contest.
Based on Arkansas coaches’ film, Olajubutu has compiled 79 tackles including seven tackles for loss (-25). Vickiel Vaughn is next on the list with 46 tackles. Olajubutu has recorded double-digit tackle games in four of six outings in 2005.
* He ranks tied for 15th in the nation with an average of 11.3 stops per game. He rates second in the SEC with that average.
* He ranks fifth in the nation in solo tackles per game with an average of 7.17 solo stops a game.
* He ranks 87th in the nation in tackles for loss (1.08 per game) and 86th in the country in sacks (0.50 per game).
* He leads the Razorbacks with 79 tackles (coaches’ totals) including seven tackles for loss (-25).
* He has seven double-digit tackle games in his career including four this season.
* He is averaging 16.0 tackles per game against ranked foes this season including 14 vs. No. 1 USC, 16 vs. No. 20 Alabama and 18 vs. No. 21 Auburn.
* Olajubutu tied for the team lead with 15 tackles on 57 defensive snaps in Arkansas’ 49-17 season-opening win over Missouri State. He made one tackle for loss (-2) and forced a fumble. He was credited with a forced fumble on a play in the first quarter that led to a UA touchdown. Razorback cornerback Darius Vinnett picked up the loose ball and raced 44 yards for a touchdown.
* He recorded eight tackles against Vanderbilt before racking up 14 tackles against No. 1 USC. Eleven of his 14 stops against the Trojans were of the solo variety.
* Against No. 20 Alabama, Olajubutu made 16 tackles including two tackles for loss (-10).
* He tied for the team lead with eight tackles, including a tackle for loss (-2) in the Hogs’ win over Louisiana-Monroe.
* He set a new career high with 18 tackles, including 12 solo stops, against No. 21 Auburn. He earned two tackles for loss (-10) and one sack (-9) against the Tigers.
BUTU ADDED TO LOMBARDI AWARD WATCH LIST: Arkansas linebacker Sam Olajubutu literally played his way onto the national scene after the Razorbacks’ first four games. The LaGrange, Ga., product was added to the Rotary Lombardi Award watch list on Oct. 3 by The Rotary Club of Houston.
The Rotary Lombardi Award is celebrating its 36th year of honoring the finest linemen in college football. The 2005 winner will be announced on Dec. 7 at the Hilton Americas Hotel in Downtown Houston. To be eligible for the Rotary Lombardi Award, a player must play on the line of scrimmage (including tight ends on offensive) or must be a linebacker who lines up within five yards of the football.
An initial list, based on 2004 postseason and 2005 preseason honors, was compiled prior to the start of the season. Olajubutu was one of several players garnering recognition as a mid-season addition.
Olajubutu is the first Razorback to be named to the Lombardi Watch List since offensive tackle Shawn Andrews was one of four Lombardi Award finalists in 2003.
SECONDARY SWAP: Arkansas rearranged its defensive secondary prior to the Auburn game. Starting strong safety Vickiel Vaughn returned to the free safety spot he played in seven of the first eight games in 2004. With Vaughn back at free safety, Randy Kelly earned the starting nod at strong safety against the Tigers.
Arkansas’ starting free safety in the first five games, Matterral Richardson, moved to cornerback to compete at that spot with Michael Coe.
RAZORBACK DEFENSE TIDBITS:
* Senior free safety Vickiel Vaughn earned his first interception of the season when he picked off a pass against Auburn. It was Vaughn’s fourth career interception as a Razorback.
* All 10 of Arkansas’ points in the first half against Auburn came via a forced turnover. Two Brandon Cox interceptions resulted in a Chris Balseiro field goal and a Darren McFadden touchdown run.
BALSEIRO SPLITTING THE UPRIGHTS: Senior placekicker Chris Balseiro appears to be making the most of his final season in a Razorback uniform. After missing his first attempt of the season from 44 yards, Balseiro has hit six of his last seven field goal attempts including a career-long tying 42-yard field goal against Louisiana-Monroe. His 75.0 percent field conversion percentage ranks fifth among league kickers. His average of 1.0 field goals made per game places him sixth in the league and 57th in the nation.
The Miami, Fla., native has been almost automatic inside 40 yards in his career. He has made 17-of-21 field goal attempts from that range in his career including four-of-five from that range in 2005. His only miss this season from that range was on a blocked 38-yard attempt against Auburn.
Overall he has made 17 of his last 21 field goal attempts dating back to 2003. His six field goals this season already has eclipsed his season output from 2004. Balseiro made four of seven attempts last season.
Balseiro has made 19 of 20 PAT attempts this season. He had converted 33 straight PAT until his first extra point against Louisiana-Monroe was blocked this season. He ranks fifth in the SEC in kick scoring with an average of 6.2 points per game.
Balseiro ranks tied for 20th in the nation among active kickers in field goal percentage. Balseiro has hit 21of 30 field goals for a 70.0 career percentage.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS: Arkansas freshmen Felix Jones and Darren McFadden are proving to be a threat not only in the backfield but on kickoff returns as well. Thanks in large part to the freshman duo, Arkansas ranks ninth in the nation in kickoff returns with an average of 26.71 yards per attempt. Despite that average, Arkansas ranks third in the SEC in the category.
Jones is second in the SEC and rates 12th in the nation with an average of 29.0 yards per return. McFadden is averaging 26.3 yards per return this season.
SPECIAL TEAMS TIDBITS:
* Sophomore Peyton Hillis recorded a season-long 27-yard punt return against Auburn. Hillis has six punt returns for 75 yards this season and is averaging 12.5 yards per attempt.
* Senior Jacob Skinner landed another punt inside the 20 against Auburn last weekend. Skinner has now placed nine kicks inside the opponents’ 20-yard line this season.
Download: 2005 Arkansas Game Notes – Georgia.pdf