Monday, November 5, 2007

WildHog is back in force for UA

WildHog is back in force for UA

Posted on Monday, November 5, 2007


FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas suddenly ran wild in the Wild-Hog.

The Razorbacks ran their Single Wing-style formation — originally known as the Wildcat — 16 times in their 48-36 victory against South Carolina on Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. With tailback Darren McFadden taking Shotgun snaps from center, the Razorbacks averaged 18. 6 yards a play the first seven times they used the formation against the Gamecocks.

The 16 plays was twice the amount the Razorbacks had used the formation in any previous game this year.

“We haven’t been really saving it,” Arkansas Coach Houston Nutt said. “It goes back to two things. How healthy was Darren ? In some nonconference games, it wasn’t a big part of [the game plan ].

“ Every time we’ve played a conference game, we’ve had it in there. To me, [Saturday ] was the best we’ve executed it. Best blocking, best running, best ballhandling, everything. We always had it as part of our plan, but it hasn’t been this good.”

McFadden tied an SEC record with 321 yards on 34 carries as the Razorbacks ran for 542 yards in the game. McFadden said recently he had been hampered by a bruised rib he sustained against Kentucky on Sept. 22.

A return to apparent full health and a return of his favorite formation worked wonders.

The highlight play out of the WildHog was a 35-yard reverse pass from Casey Dick to Lucas Miller in the second quarter that gave Arkansas a 28-10 halftime lead. It was a play Arkansas used last year in a victory against Mississippi State, and one that offensive coordinator David Lee has been begging to use.

“He said, ‘When we cross this 50, I’m dialing it up,’” Nutt said. “We said, ‘Dial it up.’”

The play worked because after McFadden handed off to Felix Jones, the entire defense was focused on Jones. When Jones flipped the ball to Dick, who had lined up at receiver, the defense split their attentions between Jones and McFadden, while Miller ran free down the middle of the field.

Nutt smiled when asked if the Razorbacks will use the play again. Whether they do or not, it’s something future opponents such as Tennessee this Saturday will have to prepare for.

“You have to make a decision: Are you going to bring that free safety up, are you going to bring those safeties up to stop Darren or Felix or are you going to play pass ?” Nutt said. “It keeps them where they’re not aggressive. They’re off-balanced.”

The Razorbacks didn’t really need to keep South Carolina’s defense off balance because they ran the ball so unmercifully. Arkansas attempted just one pass — a halfback pass for a touchdown from McFadden to Robert Johnson — in the second half, but the lack of variety did little to help the Gamecocks’ chances at stopping the run.

That’s because the game was a continuation of Arkansas’ success at the line of scrimmage. After the Razorbacks struggled to run the ball against Tennessee-Chattanooga and Auburn in October, Razorbacks offensive line coach Mike Markuson got on his players for failing to sustain their blocks.

“Mike Markuson got pretty upset a few weeks ago and said, ‘All y’all want to do is watch Darren McFadden and Felix Jones run. You ought to buy a ticket. You ought to go get some popcorn,’” Nutt said. “Everybody is eyeballing and overpopulating to stop us and, if we’re going to block 8-man fronts, you’ve got to at least block your man and maintain it. Every one of these guys maintained their blocks.”

The dressing-down worked. The Razorbacks have looked much better running the ball the past three weeks, and they were unstoppable when it mattered against the Gamecocks.

Arkansas managed to run the last 6: 42 off the clock in the fourth quarter. The Razorbacks made four first downs on 11 running plays before one last kneeldown to end the game.

“To eat up that much time, that helped,” Nutt said. “There wasn’t one complaint [from the linemen ]. They were ready, ready to go.”


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

No comments: