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
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.