Davis leads newfound Arkansas running attack

While Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett keeps setting records,
Knile Davis is gradually changing the Razorbacks’ offensive
identity.

For the first time this season, the No. 13 Razorbacks (8-2, 4-2
Southeastern Conference) ran for more yards than they threw for in
a 58-21 win over Texas-El Paso on Saturday. Arkansas gained a
season-best 577 total yards in the win, 326 of that on the ground,
and its newfound running attack has resulted in a four-game winning
streak.

Mallett accounted for six touchdowns (five throwing, one
rushing) in the win, finishing 19 of 26 passing for 215 yards. The
total touchdowns tied the school record for most in a game, one in
a long line of record-breaking achievements for the junior.

His five touchdown throws also tied the school record for most
in a game, the fourth time he’s tied the mark in 23 games as the
starter at Arkansas. Mallett has now set or tied 35 school or
stadium records in his brief career with the Razorbacks, and he’s
now second on the school’s career list with 54 touchdown passes,
three behind Clint Stoerner’s 57.

”Ryan was very efficient,” Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said.
”He did a nice job again of being very focused, understanding what
the coverages were. He probably had maybe two errant throws, but he
was very good when we got in the red zone with his accuracy.

”He made some very accurate throws that resulted in
touchdowns.”

For all of Mallett’s success, leading country’s third-best
passing offense at 343.6 yards per game, Arkansas appeared out of
the hunt for a BCS bowl game after a loss to Alabama and another to
Auburn two weeks later. A factor in the Razorbacks’ slow start was
an anemic rushing attack that averaged just 103 yards per game
through their first four games.

Davis had 121 yards on just 20 carries through those first four
games, but since he has taken the reigns of the Arkansas running
game and hasn’t let go. The sophomore ran for a career-best 182
yards on just 11 carries in the win over the Miners (6-5, 3-4
Conference USA), and he now has 844 yards rushing on the season and
is averaging 7.2 yards per carry.

”Knile Davis is a great player,” UTEP coach Mike Price said.
”Ryan is a great quarterback, and they really have some good
athletes.”

After the loss to Alabama, Davis took over as the primary
running back in what had been a crowded Arkansas backfield. Since
then, he has run for 723 yards in six games – including 550 yards
rushing and nine touchdowns in the Razorbacks’ last four games.

”I’ve gotten better because of practice and all the reps I’ve
been getting,” Davis said. ”That’s been the key. I’m way more
comfortable in there. I feel really blessed with how things have
been going. Coach Petrino has always told me that I’m a good back,
and I’ve put my trust in him.”

The Miners led twice in the first quarter on Saturday. Leilyon
Davis’ 51-yard touchdown run put UTEP up 7-0, and Marlon McClure’s
winding 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown put the Miners up
14-7 early in the first quarter.

Davis answered on Arkansas’ next play with a 70-yard touchdown
run on a fake reverse, nearly equaling the career-best 71-yard
touchdown run he had against Mississippi last month. The run was
the start of 45 straight points by the Razorbacks, who travel to
Mississippi State this week before closing out the regular season
against LSU in Little Rock.

”Well, really, I’m speechless about having this kind of
season,” Davis said. ”I just hope it gets better and better. I’m
going to take it game by game, and if the carries keep coming, then
I’ll do the best I can with them.”