Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Initial hit can’t stop Johnson
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas running back Dennis Johnson made nearly half his yardage last week after first contact by Ole Miss defenders.
Johnson piled up career highs of 27 carries for 161 yards and a touchdown in the Razorbacks’ 30-27 loss, and 83 of those yards were what the Arkansas coaches call “bull” yards, or yards after contact.
“He ran hard,” Razorbacks offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said. “He did a great job.”
Petrino added Johnson seemed to have bounce in his step after the heavy workload.
“I was a little nervous about that myself,” Petrino said. “I was worried he’d be kind of banged up and having a hard time moving around, but he seemed great. I think he’s ready to do it again.”
Receiver Cobi Hamilton, a native of Texarkana, Texas, said Johnson’s will is undeniable.
“The mind frame he has on the field is that one person can’t bring him down,” Hamilton said. “I’ve been around D.J. a long time, and ever since I’ve known him, one person has not been able to bring him down. That’s still the case, playing at a high level as we are now.”
Junior receiver Brandon Mitchell practiced Tuesday, but his status for Saturday’s game against Tulsa has still not been resolved after he missed last week’s game due to a violation of team rules.
“He took reps, but until I get told that he’s in the game plan, you know, he’ll still know [the plan],” offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said. “He still works it. I’m kind of having a plan for both, to be honest with you.”
Tulsa has been hit with big-play passing by Alabama-Birmingham, Marshall and Texas-El Paso, and Arkansas has shown the ability to pile up passing yards.
Asked Tuesday if his team’s coverage issues had been resolved, Tulsa Coach Bill Blankenship said, “I sure hope so. We’ll get exposed pretty fast if we didn’t get them cleaned up. Tyler Wilson is an outstanding quarterback.”
Blankenship said Wilson fit right in with a quartet of quarterbacks the Hurricane faced last season: Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Boise State’s Kellen Moore and Houston’s Case Keenum.
Arkansas will face its second of three consecutive opponents who have had an open date to prepare when it plays Tulsa on Saturday.
“We’re going to have to do our best. We’re going to have to get prepared,” Arkansas Coach John L. Smith said. “They’ve had a week off to prepare for us, as it seems like almost everybody on the schedule does.”
Teams that have had all summer, extra time or an open date before taking on Arkansas: Jacksonville State, Louisiana-Monroe, Auburn, Ole Miss and Tulsa. Both Alabama and Texas A&M blew out nonconference opponents the week before Arkansas, giving them a chance to rest their regulars late in the games.
Arkansas cornerback Tevin Mitchel said he has been impressed by the heavy hitting of freshman linebackers A.J. Turner and Otha Peters.
“He’s a head hunter, a pretty good, hard hitter, him and Otha,” Mitchel said. “They do that in practice. And you do that in practice, it carries on into the game. That’s something they’re good at.”
Tulsa has four players who are Arkansas natives, including redshirt freshman quarterback Joseph Calcagni of Springdale. Calcagni is the son of former Arkansas quarterback Mark Calcagni, who lettered in 1984-1985. His uncle, Ron Calcagni, was an all-Southwest Conference quarterback for the Hogs in 1977.
Other Arkansans on the Golden Hurricane roster: senior offensive tackle Jared Grigg of Springdale Har-Ber, true freshman defensive back Jeremy Brady of Pulaski Academy, and freshman walk-on defensive end Hayden Carman of Little Rock Catholic.
Arkansas will face a second opponent in a row in which their series history includes a disputed decision.
Arkansas records show a 53-15-3 advantage in the Tulsa series, including a forfeit victory in 1922 with a claim that Tulsa used ineligible players. Tulsa won the game 13-6 on the field and claims it as a victory, so its records indicate Arkansas with a 52-16-3 edge in the series.
All times Central
Missouri at Florida, 11 a.m.
Texas A&M at Mississippi State, 11 a.m.
Vanderbilt at Kentucky, 11 a.m.
Troy at Tennessee, 11 a.m.
Tulsa at Arkansas, 11:21 a.m.
New Mexico St. at Auburn, 11:30 a.m.
Mississippi at Georgia, 2:30 p.m.
Alabama at LSU, 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, NOV. 10
Texas A&M at Alabama, TBA
Mississippi State at LSU, TBA
Arkansas at South Carolina, 11 a.m.
Missouri at Tennessee, 11:21 a.m.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Florida, 11:21 a.m.
Georgia at Auburn, 6 p.m.
Vanderbilt at Mississippi, 6 p.m.
Sports, Pages 25 on 10/31/2012