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ARKANSAS PLAYS HOST TO NO. 21 AUBURN: Arkansas returns to SEC action this weekend when the Razorbacks host the No. 21 Auburn Tigers at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. The Hogs are 2-3 (0-2 SEC) after breaking a three-game losing streak last weekend in a 44-15 win over Louisiana-Monroe. Arkansas won the season opener against Missouri State, but dropped decisions to Vanderbilt, Southern California and Alabama before getting back on the winning track last weekend.
Auburn (4-1, 2-0 SEC) enters this weekend’s game riding a four-game winning streak. The Tigers lost their season opener to nationally-ranked Georgia Tech, but have reeled off wins against Mississippi State, Ball State, Western Kentucky and South Carolina since that time. Combined with wins in its final two games of 2003 and a perfect 13-0 record last season, Auburn has won 19 of its last 20 games.
NOTING THE RAZORBACKS:
* Arkansas and Auburn will meet on the gridiron for the 15th time this weekend. Auburn leads the series 8-5-1 including a win in the first meeting between the two schools in the 1984 Liberty Bowl. Auburn has won the last two meetings.
* Arkansas is 1-1 all time against teams ranked No. 21 in the Associated Press poll. The No. 9 Razorbacks defeated No. 21 Texas A&M 34-0 in 1966. In 1991, No. 21 Baylor posted a 9-5 win over an unranked Arkansas squad in Fayetteville.
* Arkansas defensive line coach Tracy Rocker was a defensive tackle at Auburn from 1985-88. He was a two-time All-American and a three-time All-SEC selection. As a senior, he won both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award. He made 354 career tackles, including 48 behind the line of scrimmage, and was recently inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame.
* Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring served as the linebackers coach under Pat Dye at Auburn from 1986-91. During that span, the Tigers won three SEC championships and made five bowl appearances.
* Arkansas wide receivers coach James Shibest coached former Auburn standouts tailback Rudi Johnson and quarterback Daniel Cobb at Butler County CC. Shibest also played against Auburn as a Razorback wide receiver in the first meeting between the schools in the 1984 Liberty Bowl.
* For the sixth consecutive week, Arkansas ranks among the nation’s leaders in rushing offense. The Razorbacks rank third in the country averaging 286.4 yards per game. Arkansas led the nation in rushing offense in each of the first two weeks of the season.
* Arkansas is one of two Division I-A football teams to boast three running backs in the top 100 NCAA rushers this week. Freshman Darren McFadden ranks 56th (76.8 ypg), freshman Felix Jones ranks 74th (70.4 ypg) and senior De’Arrius Howard ranks 99th (61.6 ypg). Only Michigan State can match the Razorbacks’ claim of three rushers in the top 100 this week.
THE SERIES: Arkansas and Auburn have met on the gridiron 14 times previously with the Tigers holding an 8-5-1 advantage. Auburn has won the last two meetings including a 38-20 victory last season at Auburn. Auburn also won the last meeting in Fayetteville (10-3) in 2003.
The series in Fayetteville is tied at 2-2 with Arkansas winning in 1999 and 2001 and Auburn earning a victory in 1997 and 2003. Since joining the SEC, Arkansas and Auburn have split games played inside Arkansas. In addition to the Fayetteville games listed above, the two teams split a pair of games at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Auburn won the only meeting between the two teams prior to Arkansas’ SEC membership. The Tigers earned a 21-15 win over the Razorbacks in the 1984 Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.
* In the series, the team that has earned more rushing yards in the game has won nine of 13 meetings. In 1992, Auburn outrushed Arkansas but the game ended in a 24-24 tie.
* Arkansas tailback Fred Talley rushed for 241 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries against Auburn in 2002. Talley’s rushing performance is the second-highest individual rushing total in school history trailing only Dickey Morton’s 271-yard effort against Baylor in 1973.
* The team leading at halftime has won nine of the last 10 meetings between the two schools excluding the 2000 game which was tied at the intermission.
LAST TIME AGAINST AUBURN: The No. 4 Auburn Tigers clicked on all cylinders jumping out to a 30-7 halftime lead on the Plains. The Tigers never looked back on their way to a 38-20 win over the Razorbacks.
Auburn tailback Ronnie Brown rushed for 101 yards and Tigers’ quarterback Jason Campbell completed 17 of 19 passes for 297 yards and three scores.
Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones was injured on the first play of the game, but still managed to run for 54 yards and pass for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
LAST TIME IN FAYETTEVILLE: Defense dominated the day last season when the Hogs and Tigers met in Fayetteville in 2003. Arkansas held Auburn to only 278 yards total offense on the day, but the Tigers managed to score the only TD en route to a 10-3 victory over the Razorbacks.
Trailing by seven in the final minutes, Matt Jones marched the Razorbacks into Auburn territory. After carrying the ball inside the 10-yard line Jones fumbled as he was tackled to end the drive and hand the Hogs their first loss of the 2003 season.
LEGENDARY ROCKER: Before embarking on a college coaching career, Arkansas defensive line coach Tracy Rocker was one of the most decorated defensive linemen in college football history at Auburn. Rocker played for the Tigers from 1985-88 earning a bevy of awards including two All-America honors and three All-SEC accolades. As a senior in 1988, he became the first SEC player to win both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award. He was also named SEC Player of the Year in 1988. He finished his Auburn career with 354 tackles, including 48 behind the line of scrimmage. In August, Rocker was officially enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind.
HERRING CONNECTION: Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring is certainly familiar with this weekend’s opponent as well. Herring served as the linebackers coach for Pat Dye at Auburn from 1986-91. During that span, the Tigers posted a combined record of 52-16-2, won three SEC championships and made five bowl appearances.
ARKANSAS TIGER: Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville is no stranger to the state of Arkansas. Tuberville was born in Camden, Ark., and graduated from Harmony Grove High School. Tuberville then attended Southern Arkansas University where he played as a free safety on the football team. He graduated from SAU in 1976.
Tuberville began his coaching career as an assistant at Hermitage (Ark.) High School. After two years (1976-77), he was promoted to head coach for the 1978-79 seasons. Tuberville then traveled to Jonesboro to serve as defensive ends and linebackers coach for Arkansas State from 1980-84.
GROWING UP NEARBY: Although not from Alabama, Arkansas junior linebacker Sam Olajubutu knows plenty about the Auburn football program. Olajubutu played high school football at LaGrange (Ga.) High School just across the border from Auburn. He racked up 170 tackles in his senior season in leading his prep squad to a state championship. For his efforts, he garnered all-state honors and was named Georgia’s 3A Defensive Player of the Year and West Georgia Player of the Year. He also finished third in the state in wrestling in the 215-pound weight class as a senior.
EVEN MORE UA-AU CONNECTIONS:
* Arkansas linebacker Sam Olajubutu and Auburn freshman linebacker Tray Blackmon both played at LaGrange (Ga.) High School.
* Arkansas quarterback Cole Barthel played at Decatur High School in Decatur, Ala. Auburn offensive guard Jonathan Palmer and defensive back Jerraud Powers played at the same school.
* Auburn tight ends coach Steve Ensminger was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Clemson while Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring was a linebackers coach for the Tigers.
* Auburn offensive line coach Hugh Nall was on the same staff as Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring at TCU in 1993-94.
* Auburn defensive coordinator and secondary coach David Gibbs joined the Tigers this season after serving four seasons as a secondary coach with the Denver Broncos. Among his players in Denver was former Arkansas free safety Kenoy Kennedy.
ALABAMA RAZORBACKS: Arkansas has a total of six Alabama products on its 2005 football roster.
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.
BIRTHDAY PRESENT: Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt is hoping for a birthday present from his squad this weekend. Nutt, who will celebrate his 48th birthday on Friday, is hopeful the Razorbacks can deliver a win over No. 21 Auburn in the matchup between the two SEC Western Division squads.
Nutt is 7-5 in his head coaching career in games played nearest his birthday including a 4-3 record at Arkansas. This will be the fourth time Nutt has coached the Razorbacks against Auburn during his birthday week. Auburn has won two of those three meetings.
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 136-51-2 (.725) and are 18-1 under Nutt. In its history, Arkansas is 155-62-3 (.711) in games played in Little Rock.
DENTING THE SCOREBOARD: Including the first five games of the 2005 season, Arkansas has scored in 115 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 67 of Nutt’s 91 games (.736) as head coach. Arkansas is 50-17 (.746) when scoring 20 points or more including a 24-8 mark (.750) in the last four seasons.
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 visits Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium this weekend.
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 third in this week’s statistical rankings.
The Hogs are averaging 286.4 yards per game on the ground through the first five games of the 2005 campaign.
Arkansas racked up 483 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 51 carries against Missouri State in the season opener. Arkansas tailbacks Felix Jones (137), Peyton Hillis (135) and De’Arrius Howard (120) all topped the 100-yard rushing mark in the victory. The Hogs’ total of 483 rushing yards against the Bears still ranks as the top team rushing output by an NCAA Division I-A team this season. Arkansas also registered among the NCAA’s single-game highs with 321 yards in a win over Louisiana-Monroe.
Arkansas finished 22nd in the nation last season in rushing yardage averaging 187.4 yards per game.
LEADING THE LEAGUE: Arkansas is also pacing the SEC in rushing yards per game. The Hogs’ 286.40 average out-distances second-ranked Georgia (198.0 ypg.) by nearly 90 yards. Arkansas is also leading in yards per attempt with 6.1 yards per rush.
Arkansas has led the league in rushing in two (2002 and 2003) of the last three seasons. The last SEC team to lead the conference in rushing three times in four seasons was Auburn (1983-85).
RUSHING AGAINST NO. 1: Arkansas came into the USC game leading the nation in rushing yards per game. While the Razorbacks didn’t reach their gaudy average for yards on the ground, they did manage to do something that the Trojans’ last 36 opponents failed to do.
Arkansas rushed 52 times for 197 yards in the loss to the top-ranked team in the nation. The Hogs’ total was the most rushing yards given up by the Trojans’ defense in their last 37 games. The last team to rush for as many yards against USC was Washington State (201) in an overtime game in 2002.
GROUND SCORE: While Arkansas did have success rushing the ball against No. 1 USC, the Razorbacks failed to score a rushing touchdown for the first time this season. The Hogs scored five rushing touchdowns in the opener against Missouri State and added another against Vanderbilt.
The USC game marked the 18th time in the Houston Nutt era that Arkansas failed to score at least one rushing touchdown. The Razorbacks are now 4-13 (.235) in those games including losses in the last seven contests without a rushing score. The last time Arkansas won a game without a rushing touchdown was in 2002 when the Hogs topped South Carolina 23-0 on two passing scores and three field goals.
Arkansas is 51-22 (.699) when scoring at least one rushing touchdown since 1998.
STEMMING THE TIDE: Arkansas also racked up big rushing yardage against another of the nation’s top defenses. The Razorbacks earned 237 yards rushing in a 24-13 loss at Alabama.
The Crimson Tide defense entered the game ranked first in the SEC and 24th in the nation in rushing defense. They had allowed only 114 rushing yards in their first three games combined.
In fact, Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden’s 70-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter accounted for nearly double the real estate of Alabama’s average rushing defense total (38.0) in the first three contests.
TOTAL EFFORT: While the rushing game has been the primary catalyst, Arkansas is among the league leaders in total offense as well. The Razorbacks rank third in the SEC and rank 33rd in the nation averaging 414.60 yards per game.
Arkansas is third in the nation in rushing offense (286.40 ypg) and ranks 113th (128.2 ypg) in passing offense.
HOGS LEAD NATION IN INDIVIDUAL RUSHING LEADERS: Arkansas is one of two teams in Division I-A football to boast three running backs among the top 100 individual rushers in the nation.
Freshman Darren McFadden ranks 56th (76.8 ypg), freshman Felix Jones ranks 74th (70.4 ypg) and senior De’Arrius Howard ranks 99th (61.6 ypg). Only Michigan State can match the Razorbacks’ claim of three rushers in the top 100 this week.
TRIPLE DIGIT RUSHERS: The Razorbacks’ early-season rushing success has already resulted in six 100-yard rushing efforts in five games this season. Senior tailback De’Arrius Howard topped the 100-yard mark in the first two games this season (120 vs. Missouri State, 139 vs. Vanderbilt) while Felix Jones (137) and Peyton Hillis (135) earned 100-yard rushing efforts against Missouri State. Jones (102) and freshman Darren McFadden (125) both topped the century mark in rushing in a win over Louisiana-Monroe.
Arkansas earned a total of five 100-yard rushing efforts all of last season with a pair of those coming from quarterback Matt Jones.
In all, Arkansas’ players boast 233 100-yard rushing performances with 48 of those coming in the Houston Nutt era (1998-2005).
FRESHMEN FEAT: Freshmen tailbacks Darren McFadden and Felix Jones made some history when both players rushed for more than 100 yards in Arkansas’ win over Louisiana-Monroe. They became the first UA true freshmen to earn 100 yards or more rushing in the same game. McFadden rushed for a career-high 125 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Jones racked up 102 yards and two scores on 14 attempts.
The two 100-yard rushing performances marked the 11th and 12th time a true freshman has eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards in a game.
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 in his first season as a Razorback. The tailback from Little Rock leads the Razorbacks in rushing with 384 yards and four touchdowns on 42 carries. His 76.8 yards rushing per game ranks sixth in the SEC and 56th in the nation. He has earned 70 or more yards rushing in four of his first five collegiate games. His 9.1 yards per carry average is the highest of any SEC running back rated in the top 10 of rushing leaders.
McFadden tallied a career high 125 yards and two touchdowns on only 11 carries in the Hogs’ win over Louisiana-Monroe. His 125 yards tied for the fifth-best rushing output by a UA freshman. He ran 26 yards on the Razorbacks’ opening play and scored touchdowns from 39 and 15 yards.
McFadden launched his Razorback career with nine carries for 70 yards and a touchdown against Missouri State. After only one carry against Vanderbilt, McFadden earned a team high 88 yards on 13 carries against two-time defending national champion USC. McFadden also returned two kickoffs for 37 yards to tally a total of 125 all-purpose yards against the No. 1 Trojans.
Against No. 20 Alabama, McFadden tallied 95 yards and a touchdown including a 70-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter. The Crimson Tide defense entered the game allowing only 38.0 yards per game in their first three contests.
FELIX FORTUNES: Freshman Felix Jones is making the most of his opportunities in the backfield this season. Jones has racked up 352 yards and three touchdowns on 45 carries. Only fellow freshman Darren McFadden (384) has earned more real estate than Jones through five games this season.
Jones ranks ninth in the SEC and 74th in the nation with an average of 70.4 rushing yards per game. He also has tied a freshman school record with two 100-yard rushing games. Jones tallied 137 yards in the season opener against Missouri State before collecting 102 yards against Louisiana-Monroe. Only former Razorback quarterback Matt Jones can lay claim to that accomplishment in UA history.
Jones got off to a quick start as a Razorback by rushing for a game-high 137 yards and one touchdown on eight carries in leading the Hogs to a 49-17 win over Missouri State in the season opener. Jones’ became just the ninth freshman running back in Arkansas history to earn 100 yards rushing in his initial season. For his efforts, Jones was named the inaugural SEC Freshman of the Week.
His 137 yards ranks third in Razorback frosh history only trailing Darryl Bowles (169) in 1979 and Brandon Holmes (143) in 2000. Jones holds the distinction as the only Arkansas freshman to rush for 100 yards or more in his Razorback debut.
Jones’ second career rush from scrimmage also etched his name in the UA record books. The 80-yard touchdown run was the longest scoring run by a freshman in school history and the longest rush from scrimmage by a Razorback since Fred Talley raced 81 yards against Central Florida in 2001. The Tulsa, Okla., product tallied 10 yards or more on four of his eight carries against Missouri State and finished the contest with a 17.1 yards- per-rush average.
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 – Darren McFadden vs. Louisiana-Monroe, 2005
125 – James Rouse vs. Texas, 1985
121 – De’Arrius Howard vs. Mississippi State, 2002
118 – Oscar Malone vs. LSU, 1992
110 – Matt Jones vs. Ole Miss, 2001
107 – Cedric Cobbs vs. Tennessee, 1999
103 – Chrys Chukwuma vs. Louisiana Tech, 1996
102 – Felix Jones vs. Louisiana-Monroe, 2005
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 ninth 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 five 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.
In addition, Jones ranks second in the SEC and 26th in the nation in all-purpose yards. He is averaging 138.8 yards per game in that statistical category.
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 five 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 20 catches for 242 yards and four touchdowns. Monk has made at least three catches in 11 of his 16 career games as a Razorback including four of five games this season
Monk’s 48.4 receiving yards per game ranks him 12th in the SEC. His 4.00 receptions per contest rates him tied for seventh in the SEC and tied for 89th in the nation.
RAZORBACK OFFENSE TIDBITS:
* Sophomore wide receiver Cedric Logan hauled in the first touchdown reception of his career against Louisiana-Monroe. Logan caught a five-yard TD pass from Robert Johnson in the third quarter. He earned a total of two catches for 17 yards and a score. He had only one career catch entering the game.
* Arkansas offensive guard Chase Pressley earned his first start on the offensive side of the ball at right guard against ULM. With center Kyle Roper out with an injury, starting right guard Jonathan Luigs moved to center opening a spot for Pressley. It was actually Pressley’s second start as a Razorback. He started in his first collegiate game against Tulsa at defensive tackle.
* Arkansas starting right guard Jonathan Luigs earned his first career start at center against Louisiana-Monroe. Luigs moved to center after starting snapper Kyle Roper wasn’t able to play due to a sprained knee.
* Arkansas freshman wideout Reggie Fish earned his first carry as a Razorback against ULM. Fish earned seven yards on his first career rushing attempt in the third quarter. He also returned two punts for 21 yards against the Indians.
* Arkansas quarterback Robert Johnson completed a pass to an unlikely target against Louisiana-Monroe. Johnson had a pass swatted down by a ULM defensive lineman in the first quarter. The ball deflected back to Johnson and he made the catch. He was able to get back to the line of scrimmage to avoid a loss on the play. It was Johnson’s first career reception.
MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: After a tough stretch to begin the season, the Razorback defense is moving in the right direction. Arkansas allowed an average of 494.0 yards per game in the first three contests including yielding 736 yards to No. 1 USC.
In the last two games, Arkansas’ defense has allowed only an average of 314.0 yards. Arkansas allowed 301 yards at Alabama and 327 yards last weekend to ULM. The Indians had only 241 yards of total offense prior to an 86-yard drive late in the fourth quarter against the Razorback defensive reserves.
In the interest of averages, Arkansas would be averaging 343.5 yards in total defense if the USC game was not included in the computation.
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.
THIRD DOWN DEFENSE: Arkansas’ defense ranks among the league leaders in stopping opponent drives on third downs. The Razorbacks rank fifth in the SEC in opponent third-down conversion percentage (32.9 pct). Arkansas has allowed only 24 third-down conversions in 73 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 10.20 stops per game. His average also places him 26th in the nation in rankings compiled by press box totals. Olajubutu ranks 19th in the country in solo tackles per game with an average of 6.40 per contest.
Based on Arkansas coaches’ film, Olajubutu has compiled 61 tackles including five tackles for loss (-15). Vickiel Vaughn is next on the list with 34 tackles. Olajubutu has recorded double-digit tackle games in three of five 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 high 16 tackles including two tackles for loss (-10).
He tied for the team lead with eight tackles, including a tackle for loss (-2) in the Hogs’ win over Louisiana-Monroe.
He has six double-digit tackle games in his career including three this season.
BUTU ADDED TO LOMBARDI AWARD WATCH LIST: Arkansas linebacker Sam Olajubutu literally played his way onto the national scene after the Razorbacks’ first four games. The LaGrange, Ga., product was added to the Rotary Lombardi Award watch list on Oct. 3 by The Rotary Club of Houston.
The Rotary Lombardi Award is celebrating its 36th year of honoring the finest linemen in college football. The 2005 winner will be announced on Dec. 7 at the Hilton Americas Hotel in Downtown Houston. To be eligible for the Rotary Lombardi Award, a player must play on the line of scrimmage (including tight ends on offensive) or must be a linebacker who lines up within five yards of the football.
An initial list, based on 2004 postseason and 2005 preseason honors, was compiled prior to the start of the season. Olajubutu was one of several players garnering recognition as a mid-season addition.
Olajubutu is the first Razorback to be named to the Lombardi Watch List since offensive tackle Shawn Andrews was one of four Lombardi Award finalists in 2003.
VAUGHN SETS NEW CAREER HIGH: Senior strong safety Vickiel Vaughn tied and set 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 34 tackles, including 24 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 BREAKOUT 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 three of the Razorbacks’ first five games. He missed both the USC and Alabama games while nursing an ankle sprain. He returned to action against ULM and earned six tackles and a pass deflection.
Despite his two-game absence, he still ranks third on the squad with 28 tackles. He earned a career-high 15 stops against Missouri State in the season opener.
RAZORBACK DEFENSE TIDBITS:
* Redshirt freshman Zach Snider earned a career-high six tackles including two tackles for loss (-9) in Arkansas’ 44-15 win over ULM. His two TFL led the team and also was a career best. He earned the first sack (-7) of his career against the Indians as well.
* Freshman free safety Elston Forte snagged the first interception of his career on the final play of Arkansas’ win over ULM. Forte picked off ULM quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster and returned the ball 27 yards before being tackled.
* Forte’s interception marked the first offensive turnover by a Razorback opponent in 13 quarters. The last turnover prior to the ULM interception came on an interception in the third quarter of the Vanderbilt game.
* Junior defensive end Desmond Sims turned in another solid performance last weekend. He earned eight tackles a week after tallying a career high nine tackles against Alabama.
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 five field goal attempts including a career-long tying 42-yard field goal against Louisiana-Monroe. His 83.3 percent field conversion percentage ranks second among league kickers. His average of 1.0 field goals made per game places him in a tie for fifth in the league and 59th 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 16 of his last 19 field goal attempts dating back to 2003. His five field goals through the first five games this season already has eclipsed his season output from 2004. Balseiro made four of seven attempts last season.
Balseiro has made 17 of 18 PAT attempts this season. He had converted 33 straight PAT until his first extra point against Louisiana-Monroe was blocked this season. He ranks fifth in the SEC in kick scoring with an average of 6.4 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 21st in the nation in net punting averaging 38.17 yards in field position every punt. He has landed eight punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line and forced seven fair catches. He only recorded five punts inside the 20 last season. He owns 29 career punts inside the 20 and 17 forced fair catches.
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 23 times this season for 930 yards (40.4 avg.). His 40.4 yards per punt average ranks ninth in the SEC and 56th in the nation this week.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS: Arkansas freshmen Felix Jones and Darren McFadden are proving to be a threat not only in the backfield but on kickoff returns as well. Thanks in large part to the freshman duo, Arkansas ranks sixth in the nation in kickoff returns with an average of 28.00 yards per attempt. Despite that average, Arkansas ranks third in the SEC in the category. This weekend’s opponent, Auburn, leads the nation and SEC with an average of 36.36 yards per return.
Jones leads the SEC and rates ninth in the nation with an average of 32.11 yards per return while McFadden ranks fifth and 30th, respectively, with an average of 27.33 yards per return.
SPECIAL TEAMS TIDBITS:
* Sophomore Weston Dacus led the Razorbacks with four special teams tackles and made one of the biggest plays of the game in the Hogs’ win over Louisiana-Monroe. His jarring hit on ULM kickoff returner Mason Denham in the first quarter forced a fumble that was recovered by the Hogs. Arkansas scored on the ensuing offensive play to extend its lead.
* Freshman Reggie Fish returned two punts for 21 yards against ULM including making a 17-yard return after hauling in an over-the-shoulder catch on a punt.
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.
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.
LOCKS OF LOVE: Arkansas junior punter Jacob Skinner has always had one of the most recognizable haircuts on the Razorback football team. But now he is growing his long wavy locks of hair for a good cause.
Skinner is growing out his hair to use in the Locks of Love program. The program takes hair donated by individuals and uses them to make wigs for those cancer treatment patients that have lost their hair due to chemotherapy.
Download: 2005 Arkansas Game Notes – Auburn.pdf