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RAZORBACKS HEAD TO THE ROCK: Arkansas will make its first season appearance in Little Rock when the Razorbacks take on the Louisiana-Monroe Indians in a non-conference game at War Memorial Stadium. The Hogs are 1-3 (0-2 SEC) and will be looking to break a three-game losing streak. Arkansas won the season opener against Missouri State, but has since dropped decisions to Vanderbilt, Southern California and Alabama.
ULM (2-3, 2-0 Sun Belt) enters the Arkansas game sporting a two-game winning streak. The Indians earned consecutive league victories over Florida Atlantic (28-21) and Arkansas State (31-27) in the past two outings. ULM dropped its first three games of the season losing to Northwestern State, Wyoming and Georgia.
NOTING THE RAZORBACKS:
* Arkansas and ULM will meet for the sixth time in school history this weekend. Arkansas has won the five previous meetings including last season’s 49-20 win at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
* Arkansas is 6-6 after an open date during Houston Nutt’s tenure (1998-2004). The Hogs have dropped five of the last six games after an open date dating back to 2001.
* Arkansas is 17-1 in games played at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock since 1998. The Razorbacks recorded a total of 18-consecutive wins at The Rock before dropping last season’s finale against LSU.
* ULM head coach Charlie Weatherbie served as an assistant coach at Arkansas from 1990-91. Weatherbie coached Razorback quarterbacks including Quinn Grovey. Also on that coaching staff was Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt.
* ULM defensive coordinator Kim Dameron is a former Razorback player and graduate assistant. Dameron was a defensive back and wide receiver at Arkansas from 1979-82. He served as a GA on the Arkansas coaching staff in 1983.
* For the fifth consecutive week, Arkansas ranks among the nation’s leaders in rushing offense. The Razorbacks rank fourth in the country averaging 277.8 yards per game. Arkansas led the nation in rushing offense in each of the first two weeks of the season.
* Arkansas is the only school in the nation to boast four running backs in the top 100 national leaders in rushing yardage. De’Arrius Howard (76th), Darren McFadden (84th), Felix Jones (92nd) and Peyton Hillis (93rd) are all among those listed in this week’s NCAA statistics.
* Arkansas linebacker Sam Olajubutu ranks second in the SEC and 18th in the nation with 10.75 tackles per game according to press box totals. Olajubutu also ranks tied for eighth in solo tackles per contest with an average of 7.25 solo stops. Based on UA coaches film, Olajubutu has earned a team-leading 53 tackles which averages out to 13.25 per game.
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 1-3. 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.
AFTER AN OPEN DATE: Arkansas will return to action against ULM after enjoying an open date on Oct. 1. In the Houston Nutt Era (1998-2005), Arkansas is 6-6 following an open date.
Arkansas won its first five games after an open date under Nutt, but have won just one of six games after an open date since 2001. The last time Arkansas won after an open date was in 2001, when the Hogs beat Auburn 42-17.
THE SERIES: Arkansas and ULM have met on the gridiron five times with the Razorbacks winning all five meetings. The Hogs recorded a 38-21 meeting over then-Northeast Louisiana in 1996 in Fayetteville in the first meeting between the two schools. Arkansas earned wins over ULM in 1997 (28-16) and 2000 (52-6) in games played in Fayetteville. The Hogs also defeated the Indians in 1999 (44-6) in Little Rock. The last meeting between the two squads came last year at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Arkansas came away with a 49-20 victory.
Arkansas and ULM are scheduled to meet in Little Rock in 2006, 2008 and 2010.
LAST TIME AGAINST ULM: Arkansas had all the answers in last season’s 49-20 win over Louisiana-Monroe at War Memorial Stadium.
ULM accounted for 331 yards of total offense in the first half, but was limited to 65 in the second. UA’s DeCori Birmingham and De’Arrius Howard each ran for more than 100 yards. They combined for 123 yards in the third quarter alone when the Hogs maintained possession for 11 minutes and extended a 15-point advantage to 42-20.
ULM’s Steven Jyles passed for 298 yards, but UA’s Matt Jones countered by throwing for 272, including a career and school game-tying record four touchdowns.
Jyles threw for 278 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but was picked off twice in the second half by Lerinezo Robinson and threw for just 20 yards.
ULM receiver Drouzo Quillen made three catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. UA’s Steven Harris recorded career highs of six receptions, 133 yards and two touchdowns.
The Indians scored four times in the first half. The last three scores cut a 14-point deficit to 14-10, 21-17 and 28-20. Each time ULM got close, the Razorbacks responded with scoring drives and took a 35-20 lead into the half.
Louisiana-Monroe generated 396 yards of total offense. Arkansas accounted for 571 – the 13th-most in school history. UA rushed for 289 and threw for 282.
Jones’ four TD passes tie Robby Hampton (ULM, 2000), Brad Taylor (Rice, 1983), Joe Ferguson (TCU, 1972) and Ronny South (SMU, 1967) for the school single-game record. He was 18 of 28 for the 272 yards with one interception. The yardage total is the second-highest of his career to last year’s 299-yard effort against Florida. Robinson’s two interceptions in a game were the first for a Razorback since Bo Mosely had a pair against Mississippi State in 2003.
PLAYING THE STATE: ULM will be spending a second consecutive weekend playing a team from the state of Arkansas. ULM defeated Arkansas State 27-24 last weekend in Monroe. ULM and Arkansas State are both members of the Sun Belt Conference.
The Indians will also be facing their second Southeastern Conference opponent of the season. ULM dropped a 44-7 decision at Georgia earlier this season.
FAMILIAR FACE: Arkansas fans will see a familiar face on the ULM sidelines when the Hogs take on the Indians. ULM head coach Charlie Weatherbie spent two years (1990-91) with the Razorbacks as an assistant coach under then UA head coach Jack Crowe. Weatherbie tutored Arkansas’ quarterbacks during his tenure in Fayetteville including All-Southwest Conference selection Quinn Grovey. He served on the same staff as current Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt and current UA director of football operations Louis Campbell.
Weatherbie is in his third season with ULM after head coaching stops at Utah State (1992-94) and Navy (1995-99). The Sedan, Kan., native also served as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State, Wyoming and Air Force before coming to Arkansas in 1991.
Both Weatherbie and Nutt played their college football at Oklahoma State. Weatherbie was a three-year starter at quarterback from 1974-76. Nutt played his first two seasons at Arkansas before transferring to Oklahoma State in time for the 1978 season. Nutt redshirted before playing two seasons (1979-80) for the Cowboys.
Weatherbie is 0-1 against Arkansas as a head coach after the Razorbacks defeated the Indians 49-20 last year in Little Rock.
LINK TO LEAHY: ULM associate head coach Bob Leahy will coach against one of his former players when the Indians take on the Razorbacks this weekend. Leahy was the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator from 1979-82. Among his players at OSU was Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt. Nutt transferred from Arkansas and redshirted the 1978 season. Nutt then went on to play for the Cowboys in 1979 and 1980.
Nutt also served as a graduate assistant on the same staff as Leahy in 1981-82. In 1982, Nutt was the offensive graduate assistant working with running backs.
Leahy also coached with Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring. Herring was a graduate assistant in 1981 and was on the same full-time staff as Leahy in 1982.
DAMERON CONNECTION: A native of Rogers, Ark., ULM defensive coordinator Kim Dameron has plenty of connections to the University of Arkansas and the Razorback football program. In addition to playing with the Razorbacks, Dameron has either coached or coached with five of Arkansas’ 10 full-time coaches.
Dameron was a defensive back and wide receiver at Arkansas from 1979-82. He earned his degree in physical education in 1983. As a senior, he caught 16 passes for 186 yards and rushed twice for 34 yards. In his first three seasons, he played in the Razorbacks’ defensive secondary. He earned 97 career tackles at Arkansas including 36 in his junior campaign. He also intercepted three passes in his junior season.
Following his playing career, Dameron served as a graduate assistant with the Razorbacks during the 1983 season. Also serving as a graduate assistant that season was Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt. Arkansas wide receivers coach James Shibest was also on that 1983 Razorback squad.
Dameron hooked back up with Nutt a decade later at Murray State. In his first head coaching job, Nutt named Dameron his first defensive coordinator. Dameron served in that role from 1993-95. In addition to Houston Nutt, Dameron coached with current Razorback assistant coaches Danny Nutt and Mike Markuson. Dameron also coached current Razorback safeties coach Chris Vaughn as a player at Murray State. Vaughn was a linebacker for the Racers from 1994-97.
After stops at Cincinnati and with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL, Dameron coached two seasons (2000-01) at Eastern Illinois. Arkansas quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Roy Wittke was on the Panthers’ staff for 13 seasons including the two years Dameron coached at EIU.
RON RETURNS: ULM running backs coach Ron Dickerson Jr. will be in familiar territory when he returns with the Indians to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Dickerson was a four-year letterman at Arkansas from 1989-92 playing both running back and wide receiver.
He rushed 133 times during his career earning 602 yards and four touchdowns. He racked up 74 catches for 975 yards and eight scores. In 1992, he led the Razorbacks in receiving with 25 catches for 372 yards and three touchdowns.
Dickerson went on to play professionally for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe. Following his playing career he spent one year at Temple as director of football operations and wide receivers coach. He added run-game coordinator to his title at Alabama State (1997-2000). Dickerson then spent three years at Southwest Missouri State as the running backs and special teams coach. He joined the ULM staff in Jan. 2005.
EVEN MORE UA-ULM CONNECTIONS:
* ULM offensive line coach Steve Farmer and UA quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Roy Wittke served on the same offensive coaching staff at Eastern Illinois in 2000-01.
* ULM linebackers coach Vince Okruch and UA cornerbacks coach Bobby Allen were graduate assistants at Colorado together in 1983-84.
* ULM offensive coordinator Todd Berry was a graduate assistant at Oklahoma State in 1985. On the Cowboys’ full-time staff that season were Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt and UA Director of Football Operations Louis Campbell.
* Arkansas associate sports information director Robby Edwards spent 10 years working in the sports information department at Northeast Louisiana (now Louisiana-Monroe). Edwards was an assistant SID for five years before serving as the sports information director for five more years. Edwards joined the Arkansas sports information staff in 2000.
BACK IN THE STATE: A pair of ULM football players will be making a return trip to their home state this weekend. Safety Kevin Payne was born in El Dorado, Ark., and played high school football in Junction City, Ark. Through five games, Payne is leading the Indians in tackles with 42 stops.
Dumas, Ark., product Robert Mingo is also listed on the ULM roster. The true freshman has not appeared in a game for the Indians this season.
LOUISIANA RAZORBACKS: Arkansas has two players on its roster that hail from Louisiana. Junior starting offensive guard Stephen Parker is from Mandeville, La., and played at St. Catholic High School. Cornerback Darius Vinnett, from St. Rose, La., attended West Hill [Calif.] College before transferring to Arkansas. He played his prep football at Destrahan High School in Louisiana.
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 four games of the 2005 season, Arkansas has scored in 114 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 209 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 66 of Nutt’s 90 games (.733) 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.
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 fourth in this week’s statistical rankings.
The Hogs are averaging 277.8 yards per game on the ground through the first four 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 277.75 average out-distances second-ranked Georgia (198.0 ypg.) by nearly 80 yards. 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 50-22 (.694) 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 fourth in the SEC and rank 39th in the nation averaging 408.25 yards per game.
Arkansas is fourth in the nation in rushing offense (277.75 ypg) and ranks 112th (130.5 ypg) in passing offense.
HOGS LEAD NATION IN INDIVIDUAL RUSHING LEADERS: Arkansas is the only team in Division I-A football to boast four running backs among the top 100 individual rushers in the nation.
Senior De’Arrius Howard (69.75 ypg. – 76th), freshman Darren McFadden (64.75 ypg. – 84th), freshman Felix Jones (62.50 ypg. – 92nd) and Peyton Hillis (61.75 – 93rd) all rank in this week’s NCAA rushing statistics.
Michigan State is the only other Division I-A team to boast as many as three different backs in this week’s individual rushing leaders.
TRIPLE DIGIT RUSHERS: The Razorbacks’ early-season rushing success has already resulted in four 100-yard rushing efforts in four games this season. 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.
McFADDEN MAKING MARK: Freshman Darren McFadden appears to be coming into his own four games into his first season as a Razorback. The tailback from Little Rock has earned 70 or more yards rushing in three of his first four collegiate games.
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.
For the season, McFadden owns 259 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. He ranks second on the team, eighth in the SEC and 84th in the nation with his 64.8 rushing yards-per-game average. In addition, he has returned five kickoffs for 100 yards in the Hogs’ first four games.
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 sixth in the SEC and ranks 76th in the nation with an average of 69.57 yards per game. He also leads the Razorbacks in both rushing attempts (47) and rushing yards (279).
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.
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 third on the squad with 250 yards on 31 carries. He is averaging a 8.1 yards per carry average.
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
FELIX PACING THE LEAGUE IN KO RETURNS: In addition to his rushing production, freshman Felix Jones has given the Hogs a new weapon on kickoff returns.
Jones leads the SEC and ranks sixth in the nation with a kickoff return average of 32.11 yards per attempt. He tallied a season-long 67-yard kickoff return to set up a touchdown against No. 1 USC. He has nine kickoff returns for 289 yards in the Hogs’ first four 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.
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.
Poole has seven catches for 35 yards in the Hogs’ first four 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 18 catches for 216 yards and four touchdowns. Monk has made at least three catches in 11 of his 15 career games as a Razorback including all four games this season
Monk’s 54.0 receiving yards per game ranks him seventh in the SEC. His 4.50 receptions per contest rates him tied for fourth in the SEC and tied for 75th in the nation.
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.
IN NEED OF TURNOVERS: After forcing five turnovers in the season opener, Arkansas has only forced one turnover in the past three games. The Razorback defense pressured Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler into an interception in the third quarter of the second game of the season, but that is the last turnover by a Razorback opponent. Arkansas opponents have gone nine quarters without committing a turnover including error-free games by No. 1 USC and No. 20 Alabama.
The drought of turnovers is unusual for a Houston Nutt squad. Coming into 2005, Arkansas boasted the best turnover margin average of any SEC team since 1998 (+.476 per game). After four games this season, Arkansas ranks 11th in the SEC and 99th in the nation with an average of -1.00 turnovers per game.
THIRD DOWN DEFENSE: Arkansas’ defense ranks among the league leaders in stopping opponent drives on third downs. The Razorbacks rank fourth in the SEC in opponent third-down conversion percentage (31.5 pct). Arkansas has allowed only 17 third-down conversions in 54 attempts. Only Alabama (25.0), Florida (28.1) and Vanderbilt (31.3) have done better at stopping opponents on third down attempts.
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 10.75 stops per game. His average also places him 18th in the nation in rankings compiled by press box totals. Olajubutu ranks eighth in the country in solo tackles per game with an average of 7.25 per contest.
Based on Arkansas coaches’ film, Olajubutu has compiled 53 tackles including four tackles for loss (-13). Vickiel Vaughn is next on the list with 33 tackles. Olajubutu has recorded double-digit tackle games in three of four outings in 2005. 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. In the Hogs’ last game against Alabama, Olajubutu made a career high16 tackles including two tackles for loss (-10). He has six double-digit tackle games in his career including three this season.
BUTU ADDED TO LOMBARDI AWARD WATCH LIST: Arkansas linebacker Sam Olajubutu has literally played his way onto the national scene in 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.
VAUGHN SETS NEW CAREER HIGH: Senior strong safety Vickiel Vaughn has tied and set a new career high for tackles all in the first four 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.
He currently ranks second on the Razorbacks with 33 tackles, including 23 solo stops.
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.
BROWN’S BREAK OUT SEASON: Senior middle linebacker Pierre Brown will be looking to build on the momentum of his breakout 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 despite playing in only two of the Razorbacks’ first four games. He missed both the USC and Alabama games while nursing an ankle sprain. Despite the absence, he still ranks fourth on the squad with with 22 tackles. He earned a career-high 15 stops against Missouri State in the season opener. He is probable for this weekend’s game against ULM.
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 been perfect on his next four field goal attempts. His 80.0 percent field conversion percentage ranks second among league kickers with a minimum of four attempts. His total of four field goals places him in a tie for fifth in the league and 52nd in the nation.
The Miami, Fla., native has been almost automatic inside 40 yards in his career. He has made 17-of-20 field goal attempts from that range in his career including four-of-four from that range in 2005.
Overall he has made 15 of his last 18 field goal attempts dating back to 2003. His four field goals through four games this season already ties his season output from 2004. Balseiro made four of seven attempts last season.
Balseiro is also perfect on 12 PAT attempts this season. He ranks sixth in the SEC in kick scoring with an average of 6.0 points per game.
SKINNER DROPPING PUNTS INSIDE THE 20: Junior Jacob Skinner has been a valuable weapon for the Razorbacks in the battle for field position this season. Skinner is the primary reason Arkansas ranks 26th in the nation in net punting averaging 37.62 yards in field position every punt. He has landed seven punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line and forced six fair catches. He only recorded five punts inside the 20 last season.
Skinner has also successfully navigated keeping the ball away from some of the top return men in the nation. USC’s Reggie Bush didn’t get to return a punt against the Razorbacks. Skinner forced three fair catches and pinned two inside the 20 against the No. 1 Trojans.
Against Alabama, Tyrone Protho returned only two punts for a total of 10 yards. Skinner pinned the Crimson Tide at the one-yard line and the two-yard line on consecutive punts in the second quarter.
Skinner has punted 21 times this season for 839 yards (40.0 avg.).
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 adittion, 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.
Download: 2005 Arkansas Game Notes – ULM.pdf