Arkansas duo looks to rebound against LSU
Arkansas came away from Mississippi State with a win in double-overtime last week, though it came at a cost.
Two key contributors this season - sophomore running back Knile Davis and freshman kicker Zach Hocker - both had key mistakes late in the game. How well they recover from the mistakes could determine how No. 12 Arkansas (8-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) closes out the regular season when it hosts No. 6 LSU (10-1, 6-1) on Saturday.
The Razorbacks held a 10-point lead over Mississippi State in the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs rallied and sent the game to overtime with a field goal as regulation expired.
The kick followed Davis' second lost fumble of the game, one that happened with less than two minutes remaining as Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino tried to milk the clock by keeping the ball on the ground.
It was Davis' second fumble of the game, following the first in 125 attempts for a player who has excelled since taking over as the Razorbacks' primary running back after a loss to Alabama on Sept. 25.
''I don't talk a whole lot about fumbling the ball,'' Petrino said. ''That's something I've never believed in. We work hard at it. We always have from Day 1 on the proper way to carry it, what you do when you get in traffic.''
Despite the fumbles, Petrino kept Davis in the backfield in both overtimes. After all, Davis has 910 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns over his past seven games, and he became the 10th player in school history to top the 1,000-yard mark in a season against the Bulldogs.
The decision paid off when Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett hit Davis for a 7-yard touchdown in the second overtime that proved the eventual game-winner.
''It just definitely showed (Petrino's) confidence in me, and I never take that for granted,'' Davis said. ''When I went back in, my team was like, 'We believe in you, we're 100 percent behind you.' I just felt like I had to give it my all for the rest of the game.''
Before the start of overtime, Mallett told Davis: ''Here's your chance to get back what you want.''
Davis made the most of that chance, getting help when defensive end Tenarius Wright sacked Bulldogs' quarterback Chris Relf to end the game.
Petrino said he isn't concerned about more fumbling problems from the SEC's third-leading rusher.
''Knile can take care of the ball,'' Petrino said. ''He's not going to fumble a lot. He's got to make sure he doesn't. One of the plays, they had a great defensive play. The guy hit the ball, leaned out, grabbed it. That happens.''
Hocker, who entered the game 11 of 12 on field goals, missed a 39-yard attempt in the first overtime that would have won the game. His only other miss this season came in the second quarter of a win over Texas A&M.
Mallett said Hocker apologized for the miss after the win, but he quickly told the freshman to relax and look forward to another opportunity at a game-winning kick. With all the equity Hocker has built up this season, particularly after late field goal misses last season cost Arkansas in road losses to Florida and LSU, it's easy to see why all of the Razorbacks were so forgiving.
''People make mistakes,'' Mallett said. ''Go back to the Alabama game. I threw a pick in the fourth quarter when we should have won that game. People make mistakes.''