No. 19 Razorbacks not looking past Vanderbilt

It’s been anything but business as usual for Arkansas and

Vanderbilt this week.

For Arkansas, the week started with a five-hour game against

Mississippi, including two lightning delays, and featured multiple

injuries to top players and one arrest. At Vanderbilt, a lackluster

offensive showing in a loss to South Carolina led to a change at

offensive coordinator.

Both teams will be trying put distractions behind them when the

Commodores (2-5, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) take the field at the

No. 19 Razorbacks (5-2, 2-2) Saturday.

Arkansas enters without second-leading receiver Joe Adams, who

hurt his ankle in last week’s 38-24 win over Ole Miss. Adams was

one of three Razorbacks to leave the game early with injuries,

including quarterback Ryan Mallett (bruised throwing shoulder) and

leading receiver Greg Childs (ankle).

Mallett and Childs are expected to play against Vanderbilt, but

starting defensive tackle Dequinta Jones won’t. Jones was suspended

by Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino after he was arrested for marijuana

possession during a traffic stop on Wednesday. The sophomore, who

has started all seven games and has 22 tackles this season, likely

will be replaced by junior Lavunce Askew.

Despite the distractions, Petrino isn’t concerned about a

possible letdown against the struggling Commodores. He pointed to

Vanderbilt’s 7-0 lead over South Carolina last week as all the

evidence the Razorbacks needed to take the Commodores seriously,

despite entering the game a 20 1/2-point favorite.

”It always challenges your maturity and your leadership,”

Petrino said. ”But I’ve been very happy with our team responding

every game this year.”

The game was the second straight Mallett has left early due to

injury, coming on the heels of a concussion he suffered at Auburn.

However, the 6-foot-6 junior practiced all week and said he is

healthy entering Saturday’s game.

Childs missed practice early in the week but returned midweek.

His 41 catches for 572 yards and six touchdowns this season are

tops on the Razorbacks, who lead the SEC in passing offense at

351.2 yards per game.

Also, a once-dormant rushing attack for Arkansas woke up last

week against the Rebels. The Razorbacks rushed for 197 yards in the

win, with sophomore Knile Davis rushing for a career-best 176 yards

and three touchdowns.

”When you got a quarterback there that looks like he is as tall

as Abdul-Jabbar throwing it over everybody,” Vanderbilt coach

Robbie Caldwell said. ”Plus if you shut down the pass they are

going to run it. What do you do? You rush two and drop nine?

”We’re in a dilemma but they are working hard at it, trying to

get something done.”

While Vanderbilt’s defense, next-to-last in the SEC, faces one

of its toughest challenges against the Razorbacks, it’s been the

Commodores’ offense that has made headlines this week. More

specifically, it was a lack of offense in the 21-7 loss to South

Carolina that led to Caldwell elevating running backs coach Des

Kitchings to offensive coordinator on Monday.

Vanderbilt has scored just seven points in each of its past two

games, against Georgia and the Gamecocks, after a 52-point effort

against Eastern Michigan. The Commodores are last in the SEC in

total offense (305.9) and scoring (18.9).

Larry Smith passed 1,000 yards in passing last week for

Vanderbilt, one of the few bright spots for the offense. Smith has

also rushed for an average of 56.4 yards this season, making him

the fourth straight mobile quarterback Arkansas has faced –

following Ole Miss’ Jeremiah Masoli, Auburn’s Cam Newton and Texas

A&M’s Jerrod Johnson.

”We’re kind of used to it by now,” Arkansas safety Jerico

Nelson said. ”In the conference we play in, there’s something

you’re used to seeing, somebody who is very athletic and (a)

quarterback and can throw the ball as well as run.”

AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tenn., contributed

to this report.