Hogs' 25 Memorable Games in SEC:

Colossal mismatch: Men of Troy make Hogs feel like ‘little kids’

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, June 18, 2017
Reggie Bush scores in the first quarter of USC's 70-17 win over Arkansas on Sept. 17, 2005, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, Calif.
Photo by Russell Powell
Reggie Bush scores in the first quarter of USC's 70-17 win over Arkansas on Sept. 17, 2005, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, Calif.

FAYETTEVILLE — When the Arkansas Razorbacks’ home-and-home series with Southern California was announced in April of 2001, the Trojans were mired in mediocrity.

A program known for producing national championship teams and Heisman Trophy winners was coming off a 5-7 record in 2000.

Why This Game Matters

Arkansas had the spotlight on its program playing No. 1-ranked and two-time defending national champion Southern California in Los Angeles, but the Razorbacks suffered their most lopsided loss since 1918.

Most Memorable Games

No. 25: Arkansas 29, Kansas State 16 - Jan. 6, 2012

No. 24: Florida 34, Arkansas 3 - Dec. 2, 1995

No. 23: Florida 23, Arkansas 20 - Oct. 17, 2009

No. 22: Arkansas 42, Texas A&M 38 - Oct. 1, 2011

No. 21: Arkansas 27, Auburn 10 - Oct. 7, 2006

No. 20: Arkansas 48, South Carolina 36 - Nov. 3, 2007

No. 19: Louisiana-Monroe 34, Arkansas 31, OT - Sept. 8, 2012


The Trojans struggled again in 2001 in Coach Pete Carroll’s first season, finishing 6-6 to make their combined record 37-35 over a seven-year stretch from 1996-2001.

It seemed Arkansas would be catching USC at the right time.

But that was all wrong as it turned out.

By the time the series began, on Sept. 17, 2005, in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the teams were headed in opposite directions.

Carroll had the Trojans back on top of the college football world and rolling better than ever.

USC brought a 23-game winning streak into the matchup and a 37-3 record since 2002 with back-to-back national championships that raised its total to 11.

Quarterback Matt Leinart in 2004 became the Trojans’ sixth Heisman Trophy winner when he helped lead them to a 13-0 record. He returned to USC for his senior season rather than enter the NFL Draft.

Arkansas, coming off a 5-6 season in 2004, the Razorbacks’ first losing record under Coach Houston Nutt, were breaking in new quarterbacks (Robert Johnson, then Casey Dick) after the departure of three-year starter Matt Jones.

The Hogs ended up 4-7 in 2005, Nutt’s worst record in 10 seasons, but they did unveil two freshman running backs that night at the Coliseum, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, who were used sparingly one week earlier.

McFadden (No. 1 on Arkansas’ all-time rushing list) and Jones (No. 3 all time in all-purpose yards) combined for 154 rushing yards on 25 carries against the Trojans, plus a 67-yard kick return by Jones, providing a tiny bit of solace to embarrassed Arkansas fans, who were still reeling after a home loss to SEC doormat Vanderbilt one week earlier.

The Razorbacks had talked in the week leading up to the game that they had everything to gain and nothing to lose in their matchup with a storied program and No. 1 team.

But it didn’t feel that way after USC routed Arkansas 70-17 and the Razorbacks allowed a school-record 736 yards in total offense.

“Their offense tore us apart and their defense tore us apart,” Arkansas sophomore fullback Peyton Hillis said after the game. “Personally speaking, they made me feel like a little kid out there.

“I thought we’d come in here and give them a game, but it looks like we gave them more pride than they could possibly handle.”

It was the most points scored by an Arkansas opponent since 1918 when Oklahoma beat the Razorbacks 103-0.

USC was among 11 opponents ranked in the top five that Arkansas played during Houston Nutt’s 10 seasons as coach from 1998-2007 — including three No. 1 teams — but he said there’s no doubt the Trojans were the best squad his Razorbacks faced.

“USC was so talented at every position and had a lot of experience, especially with Leinart coming back as a senior,” Nutt said. “You knew you were playing a team on another level from everybody else.

“We were really young in some spots and when you fall behind big so early on the road like we did in that game, your confidence really takes a hit.”

USC jumped out to a 28-7 first-quarter lead with touchdown drives covering 94 yards in 38 seconds, 29 yards in 13 seconds, 68 yards in 26 seconds and 70 yards in 15 seconds.

“It just snowballed on us,” Nutt said. “You’re thinking, ‘What can I do to change this?’

“It was just a very, very tough game for us.”

Leinart, playing three quarters before being replaced by Josh Booty, completed 18 of 24 passes for 381 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also rushed for a touchdown.

USC tailback Reggie Bush, who became the Trojans’ seventh Heisman Trophy winner that season, rushed 8 times for 125 yards — including a 63-yard touchdown run — and caught a 29-yard touchdown pass.

“Reggie Bush was just an absolute monster to try to stop,” Nutt said.

Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring said USC had the best offense he had seen.

“I’ve never been part of anything like this, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” Herring said after the game. “Some of it was self-inflicted, and some of it was flat-out helplessness.

“We just couldn’t stop them.”

Herring said Arkansas played primarily zone coverages designed to limit big plays, but it didn’t slow down the Trojans.

“It got to the point where it didn’t matter what was called,” Herring said. “Nothing was working and they were beating us every which way, with a receiver, with a running back.

“They executed. We didn’t. They got us down so fast that I think it really gutted our spirit pretty good.”

Carroll, a graduate assistant at Arkansas in 1977, called it the most dominating offensive game for the Trojans in what was then his fifth season as their coach.

“How much more can you ask of your offense?” Carroll said after the game. “It’s more than we could have pictured happening.”

Carroll credited Leinart — the first reigning Heisman Trophy winner the Razorbacks had faced since SMU’s Doak Walker in 1949 — with recognizing blitzes and coverages and changing into plays at the line of scrimmage several times to create mismatches that resulted in big gains.

“We scored pretty much any time we wanted to,” Leinart said after the game.

Texas beat the Trojans in the Rose Bowl to end the season and cost them a third consecutive national championship.

The good times still continued for USC through the 2008 season when the Trojans went 12-1 for a combined 82-9 record since 2002, but in the spring of 2010 the NCAA hit the program with massive penalties because of a lack of institutional control, including improper benefits for Bush.

The NCAA imposed a two-year bowl ban, reduced scholarships and placed USC on a four-year probation. The Trojans also had to vacate 14 victories in which Bush played, including the 70-17 pounding of the Razorbacks.

Bush eventually gave his Heisman Trophy back to the Heisman Trophy Trust amidst speculation he would be stripped of the award.

Carroll wasn’t around when the penalties hit the Trojans, having gone to the NFL to be Seattle’s coach after the 2009 season when USC slumped — by its standards —to 9-4.

But on the night of Sept. 17, 2005, no one could have known how the Trojans’ dynasty would end.

USC was at the height of its power and unleashed it on Arkansas.

“Any time somebody scores that many points on you, that’s hard,” Nutt said the Sunday after the game following a long flight home from the West Coast. “I hate it.

“I mean, it’s a terrible feeling.”

Box Score

Sept. 17, 2005

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Arkansas;7 3 0 7 — 17

Southern Cal;28 14 14 14 — 70

FIRST QUARTER

USC—Bush 76 run (Danelo kick), 12:26

ARK—Monk 12 pass from Jonson (Balseiro kick), 11:06

USC—Bush 29 pass from Leinart (Danelo kick), 10:53

USC—Jarrett 24 pass from Leinart (Danelo kick), 9:06

USC—Leinart 17 run (Danelo kick), 4:44

SECOND QUARTER

ARK—FG Balseiro 31, 13:22

USC—White 3 run (Danelo kick), 6:03

USC—Jarrett 8 pass from Leinart (Danelo kick), 2:21

THIRD QUARTER

USC—White 1 run (Danelo kick), 13:26

USC—Kirtman 21 pass from Leinart (Danelo kick), 6:26

FOURTH QUARTER

USC—Turner 21 pass from Booty (Danelo kick), 14:24

ARK—Monk 5 pass from Mortensen (Balseiro kick), 10:58

USC—Miller 4 pass from McDonald (Danelo kick), 1:25

Attendance—90,411

;ARK;USC

First downs;21;32

Rushes-yards;52-197;33-291

Passing;129;445

Comp-Att-Int;12-26-2;23-34-0

Return yards;188;127

Fumbles-lost;1-0;0-0

Penalties-yards;7-48;4-23

Time of possession;34:09;25-51

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHINGArkansas, McFadden 13-88, Jones 12-66, Dickerson 5-35, Hillis 8-19, Howard 9-4, Johnson 3-2, Mortensen 2-(minus 17). Southern Cal, Bush 8-125, White 10-60, Reed 3-50, Coleman 8-41, Leinart 2-8, Woodert 1-7, Griffin 1-0.

PASSINGArkansas, Johnson 8-16-1 91, Mortensen 4-10-1 38. Southern Cal, Leinart 18-24-0 381, Booty 4-9-0 60, McDonald 1-1-0 4.

RECEIVINGArkansas, Washington 5-63, Monk 3-33, Hillis 3-22, Jones 1-11. Southern Cal, Smith 4-129, Jarrett 4-79, Bush 3-70, Kirtman 3-46, White 2-30, Byrd 2-27, Turner 2-25, Hancock 1-21, Carlson 1-14, Miller 1-4.

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