2005 Season OpenerArkansas Razorbacks (0-0)
Missouri State Bears (0-0)
-Fayetteville, Ark. - Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium-
-2005 Razorbacks Season Opener - Saturday, Sept. 3, 2005 @ 6 p.m.-
-Houston Nutt (56-37 overall in 13th year & 29-27 in eighth season at UA)-
-Randy Ball (94-77-1 in 15th year & 30-36 in sixth season at MSU)-
Arkansas opens the 2005 season with a home opener Saturday at 6 p.m. against the newly named Missouri State Bears.
New to this Razorbacks squad is the absence of NFL first-round draft choice Matt Jones at quarterback, but several starters return, and new starting QB Robert Johnson has shown poise and the ability to move the team down the field in practices. Johnson and rising-star wideout Marcus Monk should be a deadly combo this season.
"I never thought I'd be a starter at a Division I school, so it's a dream come true," Johnson said. "No interceptions, no mistakes – take care of the ball, basically.
"Marcus Monk, he's a great athlete and a great person, but if they double him you've got to take advantage of the rest of the receivers."
Also new to the Razorbacks this season is defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, who led North Carolina State from one of the nation's worst defenses to the nation's best, giving up just over 220 yards a game.
The opponent is little-known Missouri State. The Bears are coming off a 6-5 record last season and a 3-4 mark in Division I-AA Gateway Conference play. Head coach Randy Ball is the winningest coach in conference history with 94 victories. He is 30-36 at Missoui State.
"Well, what we know is just what we've seen on film," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "There's some athletic guys, and there's a lot of transfers. Their tailbacks are fast. They have a couple of defensive ends that are very athletic. A couple of corners are being watched by NFL guys, so they're a talented group. But other than that, we haven't studied them for a full year. We don't have a lot of history with them, so there's what you see on film, and there's some good things there."
Herring echoed Nutt's sentiments.
"We do know they have the same offensive coordinator. We know they will get in shotgun and throw the ball with three-wide, and they'll get in two-backs as well and try to and run the power game, play-action," Herring said. "Unfortunately, this'll be a game, men. It's Jack-in-the-Box. As soon as this thing pops out, we'll know what we've got."
Monk says the team will not look past Missouri State to upcoming games against Vanderbilt and No. 1 Southern Cal.
"They've got some transfers and everything, and they're going to come in ready to play, just like they should," Monk said. "We're not taking it easy on anyone. We're not looking over anybody. We'll respect them, just like hopefully they'll respect us. We'll just take care of business and go out there and try to win."
Arkansas and Missouri State (known as Southwest Missouri State in previous meetings) have met four times. Arkansas won 100-0 in 1911, 12-6 in 1918, 47-0 in 1924 and 39-0 in 2000 for a combined point total of 198-6. Arkansas is expected to have similar success this time around, but there are several question marks on both sides.
Concerning Missouri State, Arkansas coaches know what types of plays and schemes the team likes to run, but they are unfamiliar with several of the key players. Missouri State is loaded with transfers.
For example, A.J. Porter is the returning starter at quarterback, but he was beaten out by Purdue transfer Scott Carroll. Arkansas coaches have no film on him, but according to BlackandGold.com's Brian Neubert, he has a lot of ability.
"Scott came to camp at Purdue three years ago and had the best camp performance these coaches have seen, which is really a bold statement," Neubert said. "He was an erratic passer at times. Last August, he was passed up from day one by a true freshman and was buried on the depth chart."
Another player who just transferred into the program is former Georgia standout Michael Cooper. Cooper is not listed as the starter, but he is expected to receive significant action. His best season at Georgia came when he stepped into the starting lineup as a freshman midway through the season and rushed 156 times for 673 (4.3 per carry) and 6 touchdowns. Injuries buried him on the depth chart behind several talented UGA backs.
Arkansas is familiar with two players because they coached them. Former Arkansas walk-on Payne Hall transferred from Arkansas in the middle of the season last year while he was unhappy with the number of snaps he was receiving at tight end. Sophomore tackle Matt Gilbow was dismissed from the team after coaches questioned his dedication and commitment to the program. Hall will start at tight end, and while Gilbow is not listed on the two-deep, he is expected to play.
Other players to watch are cornerbacks Marcus Colbert and Greg Lovely. Daryl Johnson registered 105 tackles a year ago. Kicker Jon Scifres earned All-American honors last season after connecting on 15-of-15 field goal attempts.
The Bears will run a balanced attack at the Razorbacks. Last season, the unit averaged 170.8 yards per game on the ground and 177.6 through the air. They averaged 26.8 points and 348.5 yards of total offense. UA linebacker Sam Olajubutu is well aware of the relatively talented Division I-AA team.
"I know they've got a lot of talent," Olajubutu said. "They've got some good backs, some fast backs and some power backs. They've got a good tight end. They've got a good offensive line, and I know they've got a good, tall quarterback. They've got a lot of talent on offense."
The defense gave up 423.4 yards per game and 29.5 points given up per contest. This year's unit is different in many ways, one being the number of transfers from BCS Conference programs.
"We've got to throw it to our guys," Nutt said. "We can't force balls. We can't give them gifts, and that's what we talked about today, and all week, and all camp – win the turnover margin, take care of the football."
The big question for Arkansas defense is whether or not it will be a better tackling team. According to Herring, the coaches will not know what kind of tackling team they have until they go "live bullets" in a game.
"I don't know that yet," Herring said. "I would like to say that we've worked extremely hard. We work everyday on tackling. We work on tackling more than anybody in the country. The emphasis is there. You have to go live bullets. You have to be in a live battle to know if you've improved on tackling or not."
Otis Kirk: Hogs, RJ and Herring open with a bang, 38-7 Arkansas
Trey Biddy: Playmakers on O and a D that aims to please, 42-13 Arkansas
John Gworek: Johnson uses the weapons around him, 37-13 Arkansas
Marty Houston: 54-10 Arkansas
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