No. 12 Arkansas OK for now with pass-first offense
Bobby Petrino doesn't sound all that concerned about the apparent lack of a running game for No. 12 Arkansas.
Considering that the Razorbacks lead the Southeastern Conference in both passing and total offense through two weeks, it's hard to argue with the Arkansas coach.
The Razorbacks (2-0) open SEC play this week when they travel to Georgia (1-1), which is coming off a 17-6 loss to South Carolina. While Arkansas has piled up an average of 509 yards of offense in its opening wins, the rushing game is 10th in the conference with an average of 147.5 yards per game.
The Razorbacks opened the season with 196 yards rushing in a win over Tennessee Tech, averaging 7 yards per carry. However, in last week's 31-7 win over Louisiana-Monroe, they managed just 99 yards on the ground on 31 carries, an average of 3.2 yards per rush.
Petrino credited the Warhawks' defense, which was designed to stop Arkansas' running game.
''I felt like (against Monroe) we should have just (thrown) it more,'' Petrino said Monday. ''Maybe we were being stubborn when there was nine or 10 guys down in the box.''
Despite the struggles on the ground, Arkansas junior quarterback Ryan Mallett still threw for 400 yards on 28 of 43 passing in the win. However, the Heisman Trophy hopeful wasn't satisfied with the Razorbacks' performance, not with SEC play about to begin with a brutal one-two punch - No. 1 Alabama follows Georgia.
''Obviously, there's got to be improvement,'' Mallett said. ''You know, we didn't run the ball great against (Monroe), but it's hard to do when they put nine people in the box. But we've got to have the mentality that, `You can put all 11 in the box and we'll be able to run the ball.'''
Arkansas has thrown for an average of 361.5 yards per game in its opening two wins, averaging 36.5 pass attempts per game compared to 29.5 rushing attempts. The overall pass/run ratio doesn't bother Petrino, who is more concerned with first-down balance in play-calling, as long as the Razorbacks are still gaining yards.
''If we keep running the ball and getting 5 yards a crack, then we'll feel good about that,'' Petrino said. ''But there is a time when you need to get chunk plays running the ball also. That really helps your momentum when you can do that.''
The rushing attack took a step back on Monday when Petrino announced that junior Dennis Johnson will miss the Georgia game because of a ''bowel injury'' suffered during last week's win. Johnson, the school's career leader in kickoff return yards, has 85 yards rushing on eight carries this season, including a team-best 49-yard run in the opening win over Tennessee Tech.
Arkansas has rotated its carries among four different running backs so far this season, a fact Petrino said will continue in Johnson's absence.
Petrino also said junior De'Anthony Curtis would likely see extra time in practice while Johnson is out, as well as possibly senior fullback Van Stumon.