ARKANSAS TRAVELS TO TUSCALOOSA: Arkansas returns to Southeastern Conference play this weekend when the Razorbacks travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to battle the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Razorbacks (1-2, 0-1 SEC) will be looking to rebound after consecutive losses to Vanderbilt (24-28) and No. 1 Southern California (17-70).
Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC) is coming off an impressive 37-14 win over South Carolina last weekend at Columbia, S.C. The Crimson Tide also own wins over Middle Tennessee (26-7) and Southern Mississippi (30-21) this season.
NOTING THE RAZORBACKS:
* Arkansas and Alabama will meet for the 16th time in school history this weekend. Alabama leads the series 8-7. Arkansas holds a 7-6 edge in the series since the Razorbacks joined the SEC in 1992.
* Arkansas will be looking for its third-consecutive victory over Alabama this weekend. The Razorbacks won 27-10 last year in Fayetteville and 34-31 in double-overtime in 2003 in Tuscaloosa. Since 1994, neither Arkansas or Alabama has recorded as many as three consecutive wins over its SEC Western Division rival.
* Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines served in the same position at Arkansas from 1991-94. Kines worked under Jack Crowe (1991-92) and Danny Ford (1993-94) during his tenure at Arkansas. In 1992, Kines was named interim head coach and guided the Hogs to a 3-6-1 record in 10 games. In 1992, Kines led Arkansas to a 45-7 win over South Carolina in the first SEC game in school history. Kines also guided the Hogs to an improbable 25-24 upset of No. 4 Tennessee at Knoxville.
* Arkansas is 6-7 in league road opening games since entering the SEC in 1992. The Razorbacks have lost five of their last six road conference openers including a 45-30 loss last season at Florida.
* For the third consecutive week, Arkansas ranks among the nation’s leaders in rushing offense. The Razorbacks rank third in the country averaging 291.3 yards per game. Arkansas led the nation in rushing offense in each of the first two weeks of the season.
* Arkansas ranks No. 1 in rushing offense in the SEC during Houston Nutt’s tenure (1998-2004). The Hogs averaged 183.3 yards per game in Nutt’s first seven years.
* Arkansas boasts the highest-scoring offense in the SEC over the past three seasons (2002-04). The Razorbacks’ 29.8 points-per-game average is tops among league members during that span. Arkansas and Florida lead the SEC in scoring average this season with a 36.5 points per game clip.
* Six current Razorback players hail from the state of Alabama. Cole Barthel (Decatur), Pierre Brown (Birmingham), Cody Green (Oneonta), Donovan Johnson (Anniston), Michael Robinson (Birmingham) and Zac Tubbs (Cullman) are all from Alabama.
SLOW START: Arkansas is in unfamiliar territory when it comes to this year’s slow start. Only one other time during Houston Nutt’s tenure has Arkansas started a season 1-2. In 2001, the Hogs actually dropped to 1-3 before rallying to post a 7-5 record including six-consecutive victories. Arkansas went on to earn a New Year’s Day berth in the Cotton Bowl that season opposite Oklahoma.
SEC ROAD OPENERS: Arkansas will hit the road for its SEC road opener this weekend against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. It will be the Razorbacks’ 14th SEC road opener since joining the league in football in 1992.
Arkansas is 6-7 in road league openers. The Razorbacks have dropped five of their last six conference road lidlifters including last year’s 45-30 loss at Florida. Two of the last three league road openers have gone to overtime. The Hogs have opened conference play in Tuscaloosa six times with Arkansas boasting a 4-2 record in those games.
Arkansas in SEC Road Openers
1992 – Arkansas 45, South Carolina 7
1993 – Arkansas 3, Alabama 43*
1994 – South Carolina 14, Arkansas 0
1995 – Arkansas 20, Alabama 19
1996 – South Carolina 23, Arkansas 17
1997 – Arkansas 17, Alabama 16
1998 – Arkansas 41, South Carolina 28
1999 – Alabama 35, Arkansas 28
2000 – South Carolina 27, Arkansas 7
2001 – Alabama 31, Arkansas 10
2002 – Tennessee 41, Arkansas 38 (6 OT)
2003 – Arkansas 34, Alabama 31 (2 OT)
2004 – Florida 45, Arkansas 30
* Alabama win forfeited by NCAA sanctions
THE SERIES: Arkansas and Alabama will meet for the 16th time in history when the two teams battle each other this weekend in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide leads the overall series 8-7. However, Arkansas holds a 7-6 advantage since the Razorbacks joined the SEC including wins in the last two meetings.
Arkansas posted a 27-10 win last season in Fayetteville. The last time the two teams met in Tuscaloosa, Arkansas won a 34-31 double-overtime thriller. Since 1992, neither school has boasted more than a two-game winning streak in the series. Arkansas has had the edge in close games in the series. The Hogs are 4-0 in games decided by three points or less.
Alabama earned wins in 1992-94, but the 1993 win was later forfeited to the Razorbacks per NCAA sanctions against the Tide.
(Complete series history on page 3)
LAST TIME AGAINST THE TIDE: Matt Jones extended his school record by accounting for two touchdowns and that was enough for Arkansas to grind out a 27-10 Southeastern Conference victory over Alabama at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
In front of 72,543, the fifth-largest crowd in stadium history, Arkansas improved to 3-1 and 1-0 in the SEC while Alabama dropped to 3-1 and 1-1. Jones entered the game tied for the school record in touchdown responsibility with Clint Stoerner with 62. Stoerner had 57 scoring passes and five TD runs from 1996-99 while Jones entered with 43 scoring tosses and 19 touchdown runs.
Alabama held a 10-7 lead late in the first half, but the Razorback defense stiffened and shut the Crimson Tide out the rest of the way. Freshman Peyton Hillis made a spectacular catch between two Alabama defenders for an 18-yard touchdown with under a minute to play in the first half to give Arkansas a 14-10 lead at the break.
After a scoreless third quarter, Arkansas scored two fourth-quarter rushing touchdowns to ice the victory. Hillis scored from seven yards with 3:02 to play and junior De’Arrius Howard followed with a five-yard run with 1:12 on the clock.
Howard led the Hogs with 64 yards and a score on 21 carries. Jones rushed nine times for 60 yards and a touchdown. Jones also completed seven of 12 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Alabama running back Ray Hudson rushed 20 times for 170 yards including a touchdown on a 63-yard run in the second quarter.
LAST TIME IN TUSCALOOSA: Rain, lightning and a 21-point deficit proved to be no match for the ninth-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks as the Hogs claimed a 34-31 come-from-behind victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide in double-overtime.
Arkansas improved to 4-0 with the victory and 1-0 in the Southeastern Conference. Alabama fell to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the SEC.
Tied at halftime, Alabama exploded for 21 points in the first eight minutes of the third quarter to take a 31-10 lead. But, the Razorbacks narrowed the deficit to 31-17 with just over two minutes left in the third quarter and seized the momentum.
Mark Pierce made it a 31-24 game with 8:31 left in the fourth quarter on a two-yard touchdown run that capped a drive that began after Alabama fumbled at the Razorback 31-yard line. Arkansas forced the Tide to punt on the ensuing possession and promptly marched 71 yards in 12 plays and tied the game with 27 seconds left in regulation on a three-yard touchdown pass from Matt Jones to Richard Smith.
In overtime, Arkansas took the first possession but was unable to net any points after Jones was sacked and tagged with an intentional grounding penalty on third down. The Hogs were unable to complete a fourth-and-25, giving Alabama the ball.
Alabama took the ball on its possession and moved to the 21-yard line, but kicker Brian Bostick shanked a 38-yard attempt to send the game into a second overtime.
The Tide received the ball to open the second OT frame, but had the ball only one play as Jimarr Gallon picked off quarterback Brodie Croyle. Cedric Cobbs carried the ball five times on Arkansas’ ensuing possession as the Razorbacks moved inside the Alabama five-yard line. De’Arrius Howard moved the ball to the two to set up a fourth and goal. From there, kicker Chris Balseiro connected on a 19-yard game-winner to keep the Hogs unbeaten on the season heading into an off-week.
The game was delayed an hour and three minutes before the teams took the field due to lightning and strong thunderstorms that passed through the area.
TWO OF A KINES: Alabama assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Joe Kines knows what it is like to be on both sidelines in the Arkansas-Alabama series. Kines is in his fifth year with Alabama after a long career that includes a tour of duty at Arkansas.
Kines was the Razorbacks’ defensive coordinator from 1991-94 serving under both Jack Crowe (1991-92) and Danny Ford (1993-94). Kines also filled the interim head coach role for 10 games in 1992 after Crowe was fired. His first game as the interim head coach was also Arkansas’ first Southeastern Conference game in school history. He led the Razorbacks to a 45-7 win over South Carolina at Columbia. Arkansas finished 3-6-1 in the 10 games under Kines.
BEAR PROTÉGÉ: Arkansas director of football operations Louis Campbell can lend first hand experience to any discussions about legendary Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. Campbell began his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Bryant in 1973. Campbell spent two seasons as a GA before being elevated to full-time status as the Tide’s secondary coach (1975-76). After a stint with SMU, Campbell returned to coach the Tide secondary from 1980-84 under Bryant and Ray Perkins.
Campbell’s youngest son, Steadman, currently serves as a GA under Mike Shula at Alabama. Before dawning his coaching career, Steadman Campbell lettered in 2000-01 at Arkansas as a wide receiver and punt returner. Campbell led the Hogs in punt return yardage in 2000.
BATTLE BETWEEN THE BEAR AND BROYLES: One of the last recruiting battles waged by legendary Alabama head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant and Hall of Fame Arkansas head coach Frank Broyles was for a passing quarterback out of Little Rock, Ark.
Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt was a prized recruit out of Little Rock Central High School and his college choices came down to Alabama and Arkansas. In the end, the in-state Razorbacks won the signature of Nutt. Nutt was the last scholarship football player signed by Broyles before he retired following the 1976 season. Nutt played two years of football and basketball at Arkansas before finishing his collegiate career at Oklahoma State.
Nutt returned to Arkansas in Dec. 1997, to take over the head coaching duties for the Razorbacks and serve under Broyles.
BAMA BRED HOGS: Arkansas has a total of six Alabama products on its 2005 football roster. Three offensive and three defensive players will make a return to their home state for Saturday’s game.
Reserve quarterback Cole Barthel was a standout at Decatur High School before pursuing a professional baseball career. Barthel originally signed with Arkansas in 2001, but spent four years in the Atlanta Braves’ organization. He enrolled at Arkansas last spring and is listed as a true freshman on the Razorback roster. Senior offensive guard Zac Tubbs and redshirt freshman offensive guard Cody Green both attended Cullman High School in Cullman, Ala. Green played his first three years of prep ball at Oneonta High School before moving to Cullman for his senior season.
Starting strong side linebacker Pierre Brown is from Birmingham and played at Shades Valley High School. Fellow linebacker Michael Robinson also calls Birmingham home after playing his high school career at Jackson-Olin High School. Defensive end Donovan Johnson played prep football at Saks High School in Anniston. He is the cousin of former Razorback Quinton Caver.
ARKANSAS TIDER: Little Rock native Adam Thrash is the only Arkansan currently on the Alabama football roster. Thrash played high school football at Pulaski Academy and was teammates with current Razorbacks Jonathan Luigs, John Aaron Rees and Matt Stoltz.
ON THE HOME FRONT: With two home stadiums, the Razorbacks have proven to be tough to beat on both home fronts. Arkansas holds a 139-69-2 (.667) mark at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium including a 21-9 (.700) record under Houston Nutt. Overall, Arkansas is 265-101-11 (.718) all-time in games played in Fayetteville.
At War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, the Hogs are 135-51-2 (.723) and are 17-1 under Nutt. In its history, Arkansas is 154-62-3 (.710) in games played in Little Rock.
DENTING THE SCOREBOARD: Including the first three games of the 2005 season, Arkansas has scored in 113 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 207 consecutive contests.
GROUND HOGS: Arkansas once again found itself near the top of the SEC in rushing offense last season. After leading the league in rushing yards per game in both 2002 and 2003, the Razorbacks finished second in the category in 2004. The Hogs tallied 187.4 yards per contest in 11 games. The average was also good enough to rank 22nd in the nation.
Arkansas will attempt to regain its rushing crown in the 2005 campaign. The last SEC team to lead the conference in rushing three times in four seasons was Auburn (1983-85).
RED ZONE RAZORBACKS: Arkansas will attempt to keep its offensive momentum in the red zone as it enters the 2005 campaign. No SEC team was more efficient in the red zone than the Razorbacks as the Hogs scored on 35 of 40 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line (87.5 pct.). That success helped lead Arkansas to the third-highest scoring offense in the league and the 33rd scoring unit in the nation with an average of 29.8 points per game in 2004.
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 66 of Nutt’s 89 games (.742) as head coach. Arkansas is 49-17 (.742) when scoring 20 points or more including a 23-8 mark (.742) in the last four seasons.
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 will get a chance to judge both programs up close in 2005 as the Razorbacks will take on both USC and Auburn. The Hogs have already faced two-time defending national champion USC at the the Los Angeles Coliseum earlier this season. Auburn will visit Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville for an SEC Western Division showdown on Oct. 15.
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.
CLOSING IN FAST: Arkansas will attempt to repeat its outstanding performance in 2004 in punt return defense. A year ago, Razorback coaches were concerned that the Hogs’ punt return coverage would suffer with the departure of Ahmad “Batman” Carroll and Tom Crowder.
But even with Carroll playing for the Green Bay Packers and Crowder suiting up for the Dallas Cowboys, Arkansas managed to improve its national ranking in punt return defense.
The Hogs allowed only 74 return yards on 24 punt returns for an average of 3.29 yards per return. Only Fresno State (2.70) was better at containing punt returns in 2004.
The good news is that Arkansas returns the top three “gunners” or outside containment players from last year’s team. John Johnson and Chris Houston are the starters at the two outside spots while Darius Vinnett is also available for “gunner” duty.
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 slipped to third in this week’s statistical rankings.
The Hogs are averaging 291.3 yards per game on the ground through the first three 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 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 291.3 average out-distances second-ranked Georgia (232.7 ypg.) by nearly 60 yards.
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 50-22 (.694) when scoring at least one rushing touchdown since 1998.
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 24th in the nation averaging 438.3 yards per game.
Arkansas is third in the nation in rushing offense (291.3 ypg) and ranks 102nd (147.0 ypg) in passing offense.
TRIPLE DIGIT RUSHERS: The Razorbacks’ early-season rushing success has already resulted in four 100-yard rushing efforts in just three games. Senior tailback De’Arrius Howard has 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 their 100-yard rushing efforts against Missouri State.
Arkansas earned a total of five 100-yard rushing efforts last season with a pair of those coming from quarterback Matt Jones.
In all, Arkansas’ players boast 231 100-yard rushing performances with 46 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.
DE’ MAN ON THE GROUND: Senior De’Arrius Howard has gotten off to a quick start out of the offensive backfield this season. The tailback from West Memphis, Ark., is fourth in the SEC and ranks 39th in the nation with an average of 87.7 yards per game. He also leads the Razorbacks in both rushing attempts (42) and rushing yards (263).
Howard has already earned his fourth and fifth career 100-yard rushing games this season. His five career 100-yard rushing efforts ranks him tied for 12th on the UA career 100-yard rushing list with Clyde Scott (1946-48) and Bobby Burnett (1964-65).
He wasted little time in adding to his Razorback rushing resume in 2005. The tailback tallied 120 yards on 12 carries in the Hogs’ season-opening win over Missouri State. Howard broke off a career-long 60-yard run in the fourth quarter against the Bears.
In fact, Howard gained 71 of his 120 yards on the drive that culminated with a Peyton Hillis four-yard touchdown run. Howard’s previous long rush was 40 yards against Louisiana-Monroe in 2004.
Against Vanderbilt, Howard set a new career high with 139 yards on 21 carries. He scored the first touchdown of the game on a 39-yard scamper. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry against the Commodores.
Howard became the first Razorback to rush for at least 100 yards in back-to-back games since Matt Jones turned the trick in 2004 against South Carolina and Ole Miss.
PAYDIRT FOR PEYTON: Arkansas sophomore tailback Peyton Hillis is once again finding it familiar in the end zone. Hillis has scored four touchdowns in the first three games of the season. His 8.0 points-per-game average ranks fifth in the SEC and tied for 70th in the nation.
Hillis rushed 14 times for 135 yards and three touchdowns in the Razorbacks’ 49-17 season-opening win over Missouri State. Hillis darted 32 yards in the first quarter to get Arkansas on the board for the first time in 2005. He followed it up with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs of one and four yards, respectively.
He became the first Razorback since Matt Jones (2003 New Mexico State) to earn three rushing touchdowns in a single game. Hillis also tallied a career-high 135 yards rushing, besting his previous best effort of 66 yards in the 2004 season finale against LSU.
Against Vanderbilt, Hillis scored on a 16-yard reception from Robert Johnson. He earned four receptions for 60 yards and rushed the ball 15 times for 39 yards. Hillis did not find the end zone against No. 1 USC.
With his three rushing touchdowns in the first three weeks, Hillis is already halfway to last season’s rushing touchdown total of six. Hillis scored two rushing touchdowns in the 2004 season opener against New Mexico State. In fact, he racked up five rushing touchdowns in his first four games before being sidelined with an injury.
A NEW JONES ERA: In recent years, Arkansas fans have grown accustomed to seeing a Razorback jersey with Jones on the back whizzing by on some electrifying runs. But with Matt Jones now a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, a new Jones era may have dawned.
Freshman Felix Jones has already staked his claim to similar big-play capability. Jones ranks second on the squad with 202 yards on 21 carries. He is averaging a team-best 9.6 yards per carry average.
Jones also ranks second in the SEC and ninth in the nation with a kickoff return average of 33.4 yards per attempt. He tallied a season-long 67-yard kickoff return to set up a touchdown against No. 1 USC.
He rushed 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 eighth 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. He could also break an additional school mark with another 100-yard rushing effort. A Razorback running back has never rushed for 100 yards twice in his freshman season.
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.
Single Game Rushing Yards by a 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 – James Rouse vs. Texas, 1985
121 – De’Arrius Howard vs. Mississippi State, 2002
118 – Oscar Malone vs. LSU, 1992
107 – Cedric Cobbs vs. Tennessee, 1999
103 – Chrys Chukwuma vs. Louisiana Tech, 1996
McFADDEN’S MARK: Freshman Darren McFadden turned in the best performance of his young Razorback career last weekend against No. 1 USC. The tailback from Little Rock, Ark., earned 88 yards on 13 carries against the two-time defending national champions. McFadden also returned two kickoffs for 37 yards to tally a total of 125 all-purpose yards against the Trojans.
McFadden launched his Razorback career with a strong effort as well. He rushed nine times for 70 yards and a touchdown against Missouri State. For the season, McFadden owns 164 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries. He has returned four kickoffs for 80 yards in the Hogs’ first three games.
SUCCESSFUL DEBUT: Sophomore quarterback Robert Johnson put an opening drive interception behind him and led the Razorbacks to a convincing 49-17 win over Missouri State in his first collegiate start. Johnson completed 12 of 22 passes for 88 yards and one touchdown in the Hogs’ victory. The Waco, Texas, native saw his first offensive series come to an end with an interception, but the sophomore bounced back to lead the Razorbacks to the end zone five times.
Johnson was the seventh quarterback to start a game in the Houston Nutt era. Clint Stoerner started his first game in 1997 prior to Nutt’s arrival. However, the other six starting quarterbacks since 1998, combined to post a 4-2 record in their quarterback debuts.
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 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.
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 14 catches for 169 yards and four touchdowns. Monk has made at least three catches in 10 of his 14 career games as a Razorback including all three games this season.
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. After three weeks of play, Olajubutu leads the Razorbacks with 37 tackles as compiled by coaches film.
Olajubutu also leads the SEC in tackles per game with an average 10.3 tackles per game. SEC rankings are based on press box defensive totals that have the LaGrange, Ga., native with 31 tackles in three games.
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. The fumble was one of five Missouri State turnovers forced by the Razorback defense on the night. Arkansas recovered three fumbles and tallied two interceptions.
Olajubutu tallied a new career high with 14 tackles against No. 1 USC. The linebacker earned 11 solo stops and three assisted tackles against the Trojans. It marked the fifth double-digit tackle game of Olajubutu’s career.
COE PICKING OPPONENT PASSES: Junior cornerback Michael Coe has been honing in on opponent passes in 2005. Coe leads the SEC and ranks tied for 11th in the nation with an average of 0.67 interceptions per game.
Coe snared an interception and returned it 16 yards in the Hogs’ season opener against Missouri State. Last weekend against Vanderbilt. Coe made a diving interception on a pass thrown by Jay Cutler.
Coe already has matched his career total entering the season and has tied last season’s team-leading total. Coe, Vickiel Vaughn and Lerinezo Robinson each had two interceptions in 2004 to lead the Razorbacks.
VAUGHN SETS NEW CAREER HIGH: Senior strong safety VIckiel Vaughn has tied and set a new career high for tackles in the first three weeks of the season. Vaughn tied his career high with 10 tackles in the 49-17 season-opening win over Missouri State before setting a new new career high 11 tackles against Vanderbilt. Vaughn led the squad in stops and also tallied two pass breakups and one quarterback hurry against the Commodores.
Vaughn started 10 of 11 games last season splitting time at free safety and strong safety. He earned a team-leading 66 tackles, including 47 unassisted stops as a junior. He also picked off two passes returning them for 92 yards combined.
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 quarters 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.
BROWN’S BREAK OUT SEASON: Senior middle linebacker Pierre Brown will be looking to build on the momentum of his break out 2004 campaign in 2005.
Brown racked up 60 tackles, six tackles for loss (-17) and one sack (-11) in 11 games for the Razorbacks last season. His 60-tackle total was second on the squad only to Vickiel Vaughn (66). He racked up five or more tackles in eight of 11 contests.
Brown led the team with two fumble recoveries and became the first Razorback in school history to return a blocked field goal for a touchdown when he raced 76 yards for a score against Mississippi State.
So far, Brown has been able to pick up where he left off. After two games he ranks second on the squad with 22 tackles. He earned a career-high 15 stops against Missouri State in the season opener. He did not play last weekend against No. 1 USC due to injury.
NUTT LEADS EAST INTO ALAMO CITY: Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt will lead an all-star squad representing the East in the 81st annual East-West Shrine Game set for Jan. 21, 2006 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Nutt and Texas A&M head coach Dennis Franchione will serve as the head coaches of the East and West squads, respectively. The game will be televised by ESPN2 at 3 p.m. CT.
The game, recently relocated to the Lone Star State from San Francisco, Calif., has been played annually for the benefit for the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children since 1923. The event showcases some of the top collegiate senior football players in the country while raising millions of dollars and visibility for Shriners Hospitals.
A total of 25 Razorbacks have participated in the East-West Shrine Game in its history. Nutt will be the first Razorback to coach in the game.
TENURED HOG: Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt is in his eighth season heading the Razorback football program. Nutt already ranks third in school history in length of tenure trailing only Frank Broyles (19) and Fred Thomsen (13) in years at the helm in Fayetteville.
Nutt also ranks as the second-longest tenured coach in the SEC behind only Tennessee’s Philip Fulmer (14). Since Nutt was hired at Arkansas in 1998, 29 other coaches have roamed the sidelines at the other 11 SEC schools combined. Seven of the 12 league schools have made coaching changes since 2002. Florida, Ole Miss, LSU and South Carolina all boast first-year coaches in 2005.
DEAN OF OFFENSIVE COORDINATORS: Houston Nutt also holds the distinction of being the longest-tenured offensive coordinator in the SEC. Nutt has spearheaded the offense and called the plays in all eight seasons with the Razorbacks.
The offensive recipe has obviously been successful as exhibited by the Hogs leading the league in scoring offense over the past three years (2002-04) with an average of 29.8 points per game. In adttion, the Razorbacks lead the league in red zone efficiency (83.6%) and rank third in total offense (393.0 yards per game) in that same span.
Nutt has guided the Hogs to offensive success since he arrived in 1998. In the past seven seasons, Arkansas ranks as the No. 1 team in rushing offense (183.3 yards per game) and in turnover margin (+.476 turnovers per game). Arkansas has also been the top scoring offense in the SEC West in that seven-year stretch.
HERRING ARRIVAL: Arkansas will have a new look on defense in 2005 and it will have a new coordinator calling the shots as well. Houston Nutt lured Reggie Herring, the architect of the nation’s top defense last season at North Carolina State, to come to Fayetteville to join the Razorback program.
In 2004, Herring guided the Wolfpack to a dramatic turnaround on the defensive side of the ball. North Carolina State boasted the nation’s top ranking in total defense in 2004 allowing only 221.36 yards per game. In 2003 prior to Herring’s arrival, N.C. State ranked 89th in the country allowing 421.0 yards per contest.
North Carolina State also led the country in pass efficiency defense (91.77) and ranked second in total pass defense (119.0 ypg.). The Wolfpack defense rated ninth in rushing defense (102.36 ypg.) and 25th in the nation in scoring defense (19.82 ppg.).
Prior to his stint at N.C. State, Herring spent time at the collegiate level at Auburn, TCU, and Clemson and in the professional ranks with the Houston Texans. Nutt and Herring first worked together as graduate assistants at Oklahoma State.
As a player, Herring was a three-year starting linebacker at Florida State from 1978-80. While with the Seminoles, he played in three bowl games and was part of teams that finished in the top 15 for three consecutive seasons.
HERRING RANKED AMONG NATION’S BEST: New Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring was recently recognized as one of the top five defensive coordinators in the nation by Rivals.com. In an article published on Aug. 17, Herring was rated tied for fifth along with Penn State’s Tom Bradley in the informal ranking by Andrew Skwara. Skwara noted that Herring made a significant impact on North Carolina State’s defense in 2004 turning them from one of the lowest ranked defenses in the country to the top-ranked defensive unit in college football.
Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster was ranked as the top defensive coordinator in the nation by Rivals followed by Bo Pellini (LSU), Gene Chizik (Texas), Mickey Andrews (Florida State), Herring (Arkansas) and Bradley (Penn State).
HALL OF FAME ROCKER: Arkansas has its own Hall of Famer on the sideline in defensive line coach Tracy Rocker. One of the most decorated defensive linemen in college football history, Rocker won both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award as a senior at Auburn. Last December, Rocker was honored by the National Football Foundation and the College Hall of Fame in New York City.
In August, he was officially enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind. Rocker became the 15th Razorback player or coach to be honored in the College Hall of Fame.
Other Razorback coaches enshrined include head coaches Hugo Bezdek (1954), Frank Broyles (1983) and Bowden Wyatt (1997) as well as assistant coaches Johnny Majors (1987), Barry Switzer (2001), Doug Dickey (2003) and Hayden Fry (2003). Former Razorback players inducted are Wear Schoonover (1962), Clyde Scott (1971), Lance Alworth (1984), Loyd Phillips (1992), Chuck Dicus (1999), Billy Ray Smith Jr. (2000) and Wayne Harris (2004).
Rocker also added to his resume last summer when he was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. The Atlanta, Ga., native was honored June 12 in a ceremony in Birmingham, Ala.
HOG CAPTAINS: Arkansas players selected five seniors to serve as team captains for the 2005 season. Those selected include center Kyle Roper, fullbacks Kyle Dickerson and Brandon Kennedy, strong safety Vickiel Vaughn and strong side linebacker Pierre Brown. The season-long captains will rotate as game captains throughout the season.
HOGS AND THE HURRICANE: For Arkansas senior Darius Vinnett and junior Stephen Parker, Hurricane Katrina was more than just a devastating story dominating the news in late August. Louisiana natives, Vinnett and Parker had family members dramatically affected by Hurricane Katrina. Vinnett’s family left their home in St. Rose and evacuated to Fayetteville. Parker’s family moved from Mandeville to escape the on-coming storm.
RAZORBACK PLAYERS AND STAFF AID HURRICANE RELIEF: Arkansas players and football staff members pitched in to help with the financial aid needed by victims of Hurricane Katrina. The 80-member Razorback dress squad for the Vanderbilt game along with the football staff combined to donate $1,000 to relief efforts. Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt personally matched the team’s donation to bring the total donation to $2,000.
HOG FANS LEND HELPING HAND: Arkansas fans have done their part in helping those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Thanks to donations from fans attending the Missouri State and Vanderbilt games, a total of $34,795 was raised for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The University of Arkansas partnered with the local chapter of the American Red Cross to collect donations from fans as they entered Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. All proceeds from the donations went to the American Red Cross for its use in assisting those affected by the devastation of the hurricane.
NEW THREADS: When Arkansas took the field in the season opener it was sporting a new look. The Razorbacks’ debuted new uniforms in their 49-17 win over Missouri State. The cardinal and white jerseys feature "Arkansas" on the front and the individual player’s name on the back. The new uniforms also feature an SEC logo and Hogs on the sleeves.
It is believed to be the first time that "Arkansas" has been used on the front of the Razorbacks’ football jerseys. Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt said he thought about changing the Hogs’ look after watching Little Rock native Jermain Taylor defeat Bernard Hopkins for the undisputed middleweight boxing championship of the world in July. Taylor wore cardinal trunks with "Arkansas" across the waistband. Thousands of Arkansans flocked to Las Vegas for the event and numerous of the traditional Hog Calls were heard throughout the fight at the MGM Grand.
COMING TO A TEAM MEETING NEAR YOU: Razorback football players never know who might be stopping in for a team meeting. Last spring, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb stopped by to visit with the Razorbacks while on campus shooting a Campbell’s Chunky Soup commercial. McNabb encouraged the Hogs and even gave them an update on former Razorback All-American offensive tackle Shawn Andrews. Andrews is in his second year with the Eagles. Donovan wasn’t the only McNabb to attend the meeting. Wilma McNabb, Donovan’s mother and co-star in the Chunky Soup campaign, also spent some time with the Hogs.
On Aug. 31, 2005, Little Rock native and die-hard Razorback fan Jermain Taylor paid a visit to the Hogs. Taylor defeated Bernard Hopkins on July 16 to win the undisputed middleweight boxing championship of the world. Taylor spoke to the Razorbacks about dedication and the commitment it takes to be a champion.
Download: 2005 Arkansas Game Notes – Alabama.pdf