Angry Arkansas hopes to snap skid against New Mexico State
(AP Photo/Gareth Patterson, File)
By KURT VOIGT
AP Sports Writer
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Bret Bielema saw how upset Arkansas' players were the day following last week's overtime loss to Texas A&M , a defeat that sent the Razorbacks coach to two games under .500 in his fifth year at the school.
Four losses in the last five games turned frustration into anger.
It's that feeling Bielema hopes Arkansas (1-2) brings into Saturday's game with New Mexico State, a non-conference contest that feels like a must-win for the Southeastern Conference school residing at the bottom of the league's West division.
"I know it's very frustrating, but I did encourage them to hold the rope and keep playing," Bielema said. "I think you're going to get an angry group preparing all week."
Regardless of Arkansas' mindset, the game isn't likely to be the usual out-of-conference pushover - not against an Aggies (2-2) team averaging 31.5 points per game and coming off a 41-14 win over rival UTEP .
Any win would be a welcome feeling for the Razorbacks. And especially for Bielema, who fell to 26-28 overall with Arkansas after last week's loss, 10-23 in the SEC.
Some other things to watch as Arkansas attempts to bounce back following back-to-back losses:
The Razorbacks enter the game without wide receiver Jared Cornelius, who is likely out for the remainder of the season after surgery this week for a left Achilles injury. The senior entered the season as Arkansas' top returning wide receiver, finishing with 32 catches for 515 yards a year ago, and Bielema is likely to look to junior Jonathan Nance to excel in an expanded role.
Arkansas allowed six sacks in last week's loss to Texas A&M, and it enters this week 125th in the country while allowing an average of 3.67 sacks per game. New Mexico State, meanwhile, has 12 sacks through four games - led by 3 + by linebacker Dalton Herrington and three from safety Malik Demby. Despite the statistics, Aggies coach Doug Martin had high praise for the Razorbacks. "Obviously, an SEC opponent is tough, the size and speed that you have to deal with at that level - especially with Arkansas," Martin said. "Their offensive line is an NFL offensive line."
Cole Kelley earned quite a following among Arkansas fans last week, and not only because the quarterback looked the part of an SEC quarterback at 6-foot-7, 268 pounds. As the backup to senior Austin Allen, the freshman was featured in what the Razorbacks called the "Steamboat" package four times against Texas A&M - receiving the ball in the shotgun each time and rushing for first downs on each of his four carries.
New Mexico State running back Larry Rose III moved into second on the school's career rushing list with his 144-yard performance in a win over UTEP last week. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound senior now has 3,990 yards rushing for his career, behind only Denvis Manns' 4,692 yards between 1995-98.
Arkansas running back Chase Hayden led the Razorbacks with 120 yards rushing in the season opener before only receiving two carries for one yard in the loss to No. 9 TCU that followed. Last week, the freshman returned to a featured role and led Arkansas with 13 carries for 77 yards rushing - including several carries following direct snaps. Both Bielema and offensive coordinator Dan Enos said they expect Hayden to see expanded playing time this week.
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Updated September 29, 2017