Razorbacks did it the old-fashioned way

Monday, October 9th 2006, 9:54 pm
By: News On 6

LITTLE ROCK (AP) _ Arkansas ran left. Arkansas ran right. Arkansas ran up the middle.

Rinse and repeat _ 36 times in the Razorbacks' last 38 plays. Auburn knew what was coming, but couldn't do a thing to stop it.

``It's one of the greatest feelings there is in football to me,'' Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said Monday. ``The greatest feeling is to know that you can run the ball and your offensive line's telling you on the sideline, 'Hey coach, keep running it. Keep running it.'''

There was nothing complicated about the Razorbacks' 27-10 win at Auburn on Saturday. Arkansas just plain whipped the Tigers at the line of scrimmage. The Hogs rushed for 279 yards and held Auburn to 213 yards total.

Arkansas' reward is its first Top 25 ranking in almost three years. The Razorbacks are No. 17 in this week's poll _ the Tigers dropped from No. 2 to No. 11.

After two seasons of trying to convince fans better times were ahead, Nutt is now having to rein in expectations.

``I told our guys yesterday, 'After today, I don't want to hear about Auburn anymore. It's done,''' Nutt said. ``I don't want to hear talk about a bowl. I don't want to hear talk about this _ what could happen. It's useless. It's really wasted oxygen to do that.''

That won't stop many in this football-crazed state from looking ahead. With winnable home games against Southeast Missouri State, Ole Miss and Louisiana-Monroe coming up, there's no telling how high Arkansas' ranking will go.

And then there's the fact that the Razorbacks lead the SEC West _ and their toughest remaining league games (Tennessee and LSU) are at home.

Arkansas has won four straight since a season-opening loss to Southern California, but the wins over Vanderbilt and Alabama went down to the wire. Last weekend's game was less of a nail-biter. Arkansas executed its low-risk offensive game plan to perfection _ and didn't allow a point in the second half. The Razorbacks sacked Brandon Cox five times.

``Everybody contributed, but it really was won in the line play,'' Nutt said.

Arkansas' offensive line includes three senior starters _ Stephen Parker, Tony Ugoh and Zac Tubbs. Sophomore Jonathan Luigs has also played well for a deep unit that was one of the team's strengths last year as well.

The Razorbacks led the Southeastern Conference in rushing in 2005 for the third time in four seasons, although that was small consolation as Arkansas struggled to its second straight losing year. In the offseason, the Razorbacks added freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn _ Mustain's high school coach.

Mustain has provided the threat of a big passing play, like his 50-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Monk that put Auburn behind 10-0.

But Arkansas didn't win this game through the air. Mustain threw only 10 passes. McFadden rushed for 145 yards _ including a 63-yard touchdown _ and Felix Jones ran for 104.

``It just comes to show how good a job our offensive line was doing. They knew we were going to run the ball, and they still weren't stopping it,'' McFadden said. ``That's why I give all the credit to the offensive line and the fullbacks. They were doing a great job up front.''

The Razorbacks are last in the SEC in time of possession, but they controlled the ball for 31:50 against Auburn.

``We weren't as tired when we went on the field. We didn't have to play as many snaps,'' defensive end Jamaal Anderson said. ``Plus there was a rotation that we were doing with the defensive front, so each player was able to go out there full speed without any fatigue.''

In the third quarter, as the Auburn defense was wearing down, the Razorbacks did run one completely unpredictable play _ adding another clip to their growing YouTube archive.

Reggie Fish _ all 5-foot-7, 161 pounds of him _ squatted behind the offensive line as Mustain took the snap out of a bunched formation. Several Razorbacks ran to the right as if the play was heading that way, but Fish had the ball and ran to the left. He gained 28 yards to the Auburn 6, setting up the touchdown that made it 24-10.

``He's the smallest guy on the team,'' Nutt said. ``Gets behind Tubbs and Parker _ you can't find him.''

This team is having fun now _ and the outlook is a lot brighter than after the 50-14 loss to USC in the opener.

``There was a lot of negativity during that time,'' Nutt said. ``I knew one thing _ we had to keep our team together, keep believing. Don't listen to the naysayers. ... You're trying to keep your team together, but because of senior leadership we were able to do that.''

Always an optimist, Nutt said last year the Razorbacks weren't far off from being successful. They lost by three points at Georgia and by two at LSU.

Now Arkansas is turning those close calls into wins.

``Last year, we felt we were very close, but you know it's not horseshoes,'' Nutt said. ``You've got to finish. You've got to be able to make some plays. This year, we're making plays.''