FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas hosts Vanderbilt in the conference football opener at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday at 6 p.m. Check out the official Razorback game notes for the battle between the Razorbacks and Commodores.
HOGS OPEN SEC PLAY WITH VANDERBILT: With only one non-conference game under its belt, Arkansas will open the SEC portion of its schedule this weekend when it hosts Vanderbilt at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The Hogs are coming off a season-opening 49-17 win over Missouri State. Vanderbilt is also coming off an opening win. The Commodores traveled to Winston-Salem, N.C. and captured a 24-20 victory over Wake Forest. Saturday night’s meeting will be the first football contest between the two schools since 1995.
NOTING THE RAZORBACKS:
* Arkansas leads the series with Vanderbilt 4-1. The last time the two teams met was in 1995 in Nashville. This weekend’s game will be the first time the two schools have played in Fayetteville.
* Arkansas is 7-6 in its previous Southeastern Conference openers since joining the league in football in 1992. The Hogs are 4-3 in conference lidlifters under Houston Nutt.
* Arkansas leads the nation in rushing yards per game this week after posting 483 yards on the ground against Missouri State. Only Texas (418) tallied more than 400 yards rushing in the first week of the season among other NCAA Division I-A teams.
* Arkansas ranks No. 1 in rushing offense in the SEC during Houston Nutt’s tenure (1998-2004). The Hogs have averaged 183.3 yards per game in Nutt’s seven-year tenure.
* Tailback Felix Jones recorded the second-highest rushing total (137) in a single game by a UA freshman in school history against Missouri State. Jones also set a new school mark for freshmen with an 80-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
* 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.
* The Hogs have scored 20 points or more in 65 of Houston Nutt’s 87 games (.747 percent) as head coach.
* Arkansas has scored in 111 consecutive games, the second longest streak in school history. The last time the Razorbacks were shut out came on Nov. 18, 1995, in a 28-0 loss to LSU. Arkansas has not been shutout in a home game since 6-0 loss to Memphis on Sept. 25, 1993, in Little Rock. The Razorbacks have not been shut out in Fayetteville
since the 1966 season when Baylor blanked the Hogs 7-0.The longest scoring streak in Razorback history is 125 games set from 1973-83.
* Arkansas is 10-2 under Houston Nutt when the Razorback defense scores a touchdown including last weekend when Darius Vinnett returned a fumble for 44 yards and a touchdown.
AHOY COMMODORES: Vanderbilt will travel to Fayetteville to kick off the conference season on Sept. 10. It has been a long time since the Hogs and the Commodores have battled on the gridiron. In fact, the last meeting between the two programs came in Nashville during the 1995 season.
Arkansas leads the overall series 4-1 with the first meeting coming in 1949. In that season, Arkansas won a 7-6 decision over Vanderbilt in Nashville. The following year, Vanderbilt recorded its only win in the series 14-13 in Little Rock. In 1978, Arkansas was ranked No. 2 in the nation and posted a 48-17 win over the Commodores in the season opener at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
In the last meeting, UA quarterback Barry Lunney led the Razorbacks to a 35-7 victory in Nashville. In the only other SEC meeting, Arkansas won 42-6 in Little Rock in 1994.
GOOD OMEN: Arkansas hasn’t played Vanderbilt on the football field in a decade, but the Razorbacks hope to parlay similar momentum from that memorable 1995 season this year when the two teams meet again. Arkansas defeated Vanderbilt 35-7 in Nashville on the way to its first SEC Western Division Championship in 1995 under then head coach Danny Ford.
Since that time, Arkansas has clinched a share of SEC Western Division title on two occasions. The Razorbacks topped the SEC West in 1998 and 2002 both under current head coach Houston Nutt.
LAST TIME AGAINST VANDERBILT: Madre Hill rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns and Arkansas’ defense blanked Vanderbilt until midway through the fourth quarter as the Razorbacks earned a 35-7 victory over the Commodores at Nashville on Sept. 30, 1995.
Hill ran 20 yards for Arkansas’ first touchdown and 12 yards for the second as he became the first Razorback in eight years and only the seventh Hog ever at that time to gain as many as 200 yards in a game. He earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts.
Barry Lunney, bothered by the flu before the game, passed only 11 times but hit six for 69 yards and a touchdown. He found Anthony Eubanks open for a four-yard scoring toss late in the first quarter. Lunney also scored early in the fourth quarter on a three-yard run. Marius Johnson completed Arkansas’ scoring with a 17-yard burst.
The Hogs chased Vanderbilt quarterback Ronnie Gordon all night, sacking him five times. He completed only 12 of his 27 passes for 87 yards. The Commodores managed only 104 rushing yards. The victory raised Arkansas’ SEC record to 3-0, the first time the Razorbacks started with three wins since becoming a member of the SEC in football in 1992.
VANDY ALUM: Arkansas Senior Associate Athletic Director Derrick Gragg will see a familiar set of uniforms on the visitors’ sidelines when Vanderbilt plays Arkansas in Fayetteville. Gragg was a four-year letterman for the Commodores from 1988-91 under coaches Watson Brown (1988-90) and Gerry Dinardo (1991). Gragg, a wide receiver, was a member of Commodores squads that upset No. 20 Florida 24-9 in 1988 and No. 17 Georgia 27-25 in 1991.
Gragg earned his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt in 1992 and was a member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll. He served in athletic administration roles at Vanderbilt, Missouri and Michigan before coming to Arkansas in 2000. Gragg earned his doctorate from the UA in 2004.
SWITCHING BROADCAST BOOTHS: Longtime voice of the football Razorbacks Paul Eells is in his 28th season of calling every play of the Arkansas football season. But before taking over the microphone for the Razorbacks, Eells was the play-by-play announcer for the Vanderbilt Commodores. Eells broadcast Vanderbilt football for 11 seasons (1967-78) while the sports director at WSM TV Radio in Nashville, Tenn. Prior to Vanderbilt, Eells was the voice of Iowa Hawkeyes’ football on the student radio station for four seasons. In all, Eells has served as the play-by-play voice for a college football team for 43 consecutive seasons.
In 1978, Eells took a job at KATV in Little Rock and began broadcasting Razorback football. Ironically, Eells’ first game as the Hogs’ play-by-play announcer came in a matchup between Arkansas and Vanderbilt in the 1978 season opener at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Arkansas won the game 48-17. That was the first of more than 300 Arkansas football games Eells has called since that time including broadcasting 195 Razorback victories and 19 bowl games.
OTHER ARKANSAS-VANDERBILT CONNECTIONS: Three players on Vanderbilt’s current roster are Arkansas products. True freshman offensive lineman Drew Gardner is from Hoxie, Ark. Redshirt freshman fullback Zach Logan is from Wilson, Ark., and played at Rivercrest High School. True freshman defensive end Steven Stone was a teammate of Razorback tailback Peyton Hillis at Conway (Ark.) High School.
In another connection between the two schools, Vanderbilt freshman wide receiver Alex Washington was a high school teammate of Arkansas cornerback Michael Grant at Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, Ga.
EARLY CONFERENCE START: With only one game under its belt in the 2005 season, Arkansas will open Southeastern Conference play against Vanderbilt. The game will mark the earliest start to the conference season for the Hogs since Arkansas played Tennessee in the second week of the 2001 campaign. In that game, the Volunteers posted a rain-soaked 13-3 win at the newly-renovated Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
When Arkansas entered the SEC in football in 1992, the Razorbacks played a conference foe in the second week of the season in five-consecutive seasons (1992-96). The Hogs played South Carolina in the conference opener from 1992-95 and battled Alabama in 1996. Combined with the Tennessee game in 2001, this weekend’s game will mark the seventh time in 14 SEC seasons that Arkansas has played a league game after only one non-conference contest. Arkansas is 3-3 in the previous six conference openers played in week two of the season.
ARKANSAS IN SEC OPENERS: Arkansas will kick off its 14th Southeastern Conference season this weekend against Vanderbilt. The Razorbacks are 7-6 in their previous 13 conference openers since joining the league in football in 1992. Arkansas has won its last two inaugural SEC contests including a 34-31 double-overtime win at Alabama in 2003 and a 27-10 win over the Crimson Tide in Fayetteville in 2004. The Razorbacks are 5-3 overall when opening the conference slate in the state of Arkansas since 1992.
In the Houston Nutt era (1998-2004), the Hogs are 4-3 in SEC opening games including a 3-2 mark at home.
ON THE HOME FRONT: With two home stadiums, the Razorbacks have proven to be tough to beat on both home fronts. Arkansas holds a 139-68-2 (.670) mark at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium including a 21-8 (.724) record under Houston Nutt. Overall, Arkansas is 265-100-11 (.719) 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 2005 season opener, Arkansas has scored in 111 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 205 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 65 of Nutt’s 87 games (.747) as head coach. Arkansas is 49-16 (.754) when scoring 20 points or more including a 23-7 mark (.767) 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 has 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 travel to the Los Angeles Coliseum on Sept. 17 to take on the defending national champions. 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 defnese.
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 LEADING THE NATION IN RUSHING: After one week of the college football season, Arkansas finds itself atop the national rankings in rushing offense. The Razorbacks 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.
Arkansas (483) and Texas (418) were the only two teams in the country to rush for 400 or more yards in the season opener. Wisconsin (388), Michigan State (354) and Missouri (317) round out the top five nationally in rushing offense after one game. Arkansas finished 22nd in the nation last season in rushing yardage averaging 187.4 yards per game.
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 second-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.
SURVIVING TURNOVERS: Arkansas had a relatively easy time disposing of Missouri State in a season-opening 49-17 win last weekend, however, the Hogs found it extremely difficult to hold on to the ball in the victory. Arkansas turned the ball over five times against the Bears matching a team-high for turnovers in the Houston Nutt era. The Hogs lost four fumbles and an interception in the non-conference win. Arkansas actually fumbled the ball five times, but recovered the other loose ball. Fortunately, the Razorback defense forced Missouri State into five turnovers of their own to aid the winning cause.
Under Nutt, Arkansas has now committed five turnovers in a game four times. Oddly enough, Arkansas is 3-1 in those games since 1998. Below is a list of the games in which Arkansas has had five turnovers under Nutt.
Year Opponent Fum Int. Result
2005 Missouri State 4 1 W 49-17
2003 LSU 3 2 L 55-24
1999 South Carolina 3 2 W 48-14
1998 Auburn 3 2 W 24-21
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 in the Razorbacks’ season opener against Missouri State. Freshman Felix Jones rushed for a game-high 137 yards and one touchdown on eight carries in leading the Hogs to a 49-17 win over the Bears.
Jones’ became just the eighth freshman running back in Arkansas history to earn 100 yards rushing in his initial season. His 137 yards ranks second in Razorback frosh history only trailing Brandon Holmes’ 143-yard effort against LSU 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. His one-game rushing total places him 12th in the nation in rushing yards per game.
Single Game Rushing Yards by a Freshman
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
PAYDIRT FOR PEYTON: Arkansas sophomore tailback Peyton Hillis proved against Missouri State that three times is the charm when it comes to rushing touchdowns. Hillis rushed 14 times for 135 yards and three touchdowns in the Razorbacks’ 49-17 win over the Bears. 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. His 135 yards in the opener has him ranked 13th nationally in rushing yards per game this week.
With his three touchdowns on the ground in the opener, 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.
RACKING UP 100-YARD RUSHING EFFORTS: Senior De’Arrius Howard wasted little time in adding another 100-yard rushing effort to his Razorback resume in 2005. The tailback tallied 120 yards on 12 carries in the Hogs’ season-opening win over Missouri State. It was the fourth 100-yard rushing game of Howard’s career.
Howard racked up 121 yards as a freshman at Mississippi State in 2002 and then repeated the feat with 125 yards in Starkville last season as a junior. His other 100-yard rushing effort also came as a junior against Louisiana-Monroe when he garnered 109 yards rushing. Howard needs only one more century topping rushing effort to move into a tie for 12th on the UA career 100-yard rushing game record list.
Howard also 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.
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.
HILLIS HELPS THE CAUSE: Sophomore Peyton Hillis will look to build on a solid freshman campaign of his own in 2005. Hillis was picking up steam logging time at both fullback and tailback before suffering a fracture of the transverse processes of vertebrate in his lower back.
Initially thought out for the season, Hillis returned to action just three weeks later. He finished the year with 63 carries for 240 yards and six touchdowns. Hillis also proved his worth in the passing game racking up 12 catches for 97 yards and two scores. Hillis is healthy and should get plenty of work in the backfield in 2005.
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.
Defensive Touchdowns Since 1998
Year Player TD Play Game Result
2005 Darius Vinnett 44 FR UA 49, Missouri State 17
2004 Marcus Harrison 15 FR Georgia 20, UA 14
2002 Bo Mosley 50 INT UA 23, Troy State 0
2001 Jermaine Petty 88 INT UA 42, Auburn 17
2001 Lawrence Richardson 45 INT UA 14, UNLV 10
2000 Quinton Caver 33 INT UA 14, LSU 3
2000 J.J. Jones 14 INT UA 52, ULM 6
2000 Eddie Jackson 39 INT UA 38, Boise State 31
1999 David Barrett 43 INT UA 28, Tennessee 24
1999 Jamel Harris 36 FR UA 48, South Carolina 14
1999 Kenoy Kennedy 41 FR Alabama 35, UA 28
1999 Orlando Green 27 FR UA 44, ULM 6
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.
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 tied for the team lead with 10 tackles on 57 defensive snaps in Arkansas’ 49-17 season-opening win over Missouri State. Eight of his 10 tackles against the Bears were of the solo variety. 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.
VAUGHN TIES CAREER HIGH: Senior Vickiel Vaughn kicked off the 2005 season with a stellar performance in Arkansas’ season-opening win over Missouri State. Vaughn racked up a team-high 10 tackles in the 49-17 win over the Bears. Teammate Sam Olajubutu also earned 10 stops in the opener. Vaughn tied his career high of 10 tackles set last year against Texas.
Vaughn registered seven solo stops and three assisted tackles. He also earned two tackles for loss (-7) doubling his previous career output in that department. In addition, he forced a fumble and recovered a fumble against the Bears.
VETERAN VAUGHN: Arkansas will boast a veteran presence in the secondary as senior Vickiel Vaughn returns to the Hogs’ defensive backfield. 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. Vaughn enters the season as the returning starter at strong safety.
In addition to helping younger players on the gridiron, Vaughn has also pitched in to mentor a couple of other Razorbacks close to his heart. Vickiel is the older brother of Lady Razorback basketball players Rochelle and Brittney Vaughn.
BROWN’S BREAK OUT SEASON: Senior middle linebacker Pierre Brown will be looking to build on the momentum of his break out 2004 campaign when the Hogs open the 2005 season.
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. He is listed as the starting strongside linebacker heading into the 2005 season.
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 197rom 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 Dumas, Ark. to escape the on-coming storm.
HOG FANS LEND HELPING HAND: While more than 66,000 Razorback fans went home happy after Arkansas’ 49-17 win over Missouri State, the impact of the season opener will be felt for months to come. Thanks to donations from fans attending the game, a total of $21,535 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. Volunteers will once again be accepting donations for the American Red Cross at this weekend’s game against Vanderbilt.
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.