The Arkansas Defense and It's Uncanny Ability to Hand Out Career-Best Games

Wesley Hitt

Raise your hand if you've had a career day against the Razorback defense.

Growing up the son of a long-time Arkansas Razorback fan, I quickly learned who Paul Eells was by listening to his once-in-a-lifetime voice say "Touchdown Arkansas!" I vividly remember watching the Razorbacks on the muted television in the living room with my dad, the ARSN radio broadcast with Eells and Keith Jackson bringing the sound of the game into the room.

But just as clearly as I remember hearing Eells say those magic words when a Razorback crossed the goalline, I also recall my dad saying, "I wonder who Arkansas' defense is going to make look like a Heisman winner today," after allowing opponents the week(s) prior to have huge days.

Playing football as a kid, I was knowledgable of the game at a relatively young age. I certainly understood what he was saying, but never made the effort to take a deep look at why he said it with regularity. But as a Razorback fan his entire life, and him telling me stories about the various historic moments of the program, my dad has forgotten more about the Razorbacks than I'll ever know, so I never questioned him when he made that statement.

But after Saturday's loss to Auburn, in which the Hogs' defense gave up a career-high four rushing scores to running back Tre Mason, I finally decided to look into my dad's famous line. What real backing does his line have? What has happened in order to make him say this and continue to say it? I knew there had to be some truth to it, or else the phrase would have never originated, but I wanted to find out for myself.

So I did some research. I reached back as far as the 2008 season, and went through each game from the 2008 season opener to the Razorbacks' most recent loss to Auburn searching for opposing players who had career or season-best games against the Arkansas defense. I also threw in some players who gave the Hogs fits, and whose play was noteworthy.

What I found, only going back 5 1/2 seasons, was astonishing.

2008 season

  • RB Herb Donaldson - Western Illinois University – Did not have a career-best day vs Arkansas, but ran for 157 yards and a score on 35 carries. Donaldson also caught a TD pass in the game.
  • WR Anthony McCall - ULM – Career-best 125 yards receiving and 2 TDs as a freshman.
  • RB Glen Coffee - Alabama – Rushed for career-best (at the time) 162 yards and 2 TDs on just 10 carries.
  • QB Colt McCoy - Texas – Shredded the Arkansas defense for three passing scores, and a pair of rushing TDs.
  • RB Jeff Demps - Florida – Rushed for career-high (at the time) 103 yards and two TDs on seven carries.
  • RB Alfonso Smith - Kentucky – Career-high 108 receiving yards and a touchdown on five catches. His score in this game was one of two TD catches in his career.
  • WR Charles Clay - Tulsa – Tied a career-high with 112 receiving yards and a touchdown. Clay also ran for a touchdown in the game.
  • WR Kenny McKinley - South Carolina – Reeling in seven passes for 130 yards and a touchdown, Arkansas was the only 100+ yard receiving game of the season for McKinley.
  • RB Anthony Dixon - Mississippi State – Ran for a career-best (at the time) 179 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Dixon also caught a pair of TD passes in the game. He then rushed for 176 yards and 2 TDs in 2009.

2009 season

  • QB Joe Cox - Georgia – Threw for a career-best 375 yards and 5 touchdowns. WR AJ Green also caught seven passes for 137 yards and two scores.
  • QB Greg McElroy - Alabama – Also threw for a career-high 291 yards and three scores. (Cox and McElroy's performances came in back-to-back weeks.)
  • RB Ben Tate - Auburn – Rushed for a career-high 184 yards on 22 carries, finding the endzone twice.
  • QB Tim Tebow (!) - Florida – Threw for a season-high 255 yards.
  • WR Dexter McCluster - Ole Miss – Set career-bests in receiving (137) and rushing (123). QB Jevan Snead threw for a career-high 322 yards and 2 TDs. It was Snead's only 300+ yard passing game in his career.
  • QB Stephen Garcia - South Carolina – Threw for a season-high and career-best (at the time) 327 yards and a touchdown. Garcia also ran for a score in the game.

2010 season

  • WR Kris Durham - Georgia – Set a career-high (at the time) with 101 yards receiving on five catches, the second highest yardage total in his career.
  • RB Mark Ingram - Alabama – Rushed for a season-high 157 yards and 2 TDs on 24 carries.
  • QB Jeremiah Masoli - Ole Miss – Tied a season-high with 3 passing scores. WR Markeith Summers also set a career-high with a pair of touchdown grabs.
  • WR Kris Adams - UTEP (Yes, really.) – Set a career-high with 148 receiving yards, and hauled in a TD pass on five catches.
  • RB Vick Ballard - Miss. State – Rushed for a career-high (at the time) and season-best 150 yards and 3 TDs on 33 carries. The 150 yards was the second highest output of his career.
  • QB Terrelle Pryor - Ohio State – Rushed for a career-high 115 yards on 15 carries in the Buckeye's now-vacated Sugar Bowl win.

2011 season

  • RB Christine Michael - Texas A&M – Ran all over Arkansas for a career-high 230 yards and 3 TDs on 32 carries.
  • WR Donte Moncrief - Ole Miss – As a freshman set a career-best (at the time) with 73 yards receiving and two touchdown grabs.
  • QB Jordan Rodgers - Vanderbilt – Threw for a career-high (at the time) 240 yards and a touchdown.
  • WR Reuben Randle - LSU – Set career-highs in receptions with nine, and receiving yards with 134.

2012 season

  • QB Kolton Browning - ULM – Shocked the nation with a career-best 412 passing yards and three touchdown passes. Browning also ran for a touchdown, the game-winning score.
  • QB Gary Nova - Rutgers – Threw for a career-best 397 yards and 5 TDs in Fayetteville.
  • QB Johnny Manziel - Texas A&M – Threw for a 2012 season-best 453 yards and 3 TDs. Also ran for 104 yards and a TD in the game. Manziel has only two games in his career in which he's thrown for more yards: 2013 Alabama, and 2013 Auburn, both losses.
  • WR Emory Blake - Auburn – Had a career receiving day, hauling in 10 passes for 118 yards and a score.
  • PK Bryson Rose - Ole Miss – Yes, really. Rose was a perfect 3/3 against Arkansas, including a career-long 53-yard field goal.
  • WR Keyarris Garrett - Tulsa – Made a career-high 12 catches against the Hogs on Homecoming.
  • WR Bruce Ellington - South Carolina – Set a career-high (at the time) with 104 receiving yards and a touchdown on five catches.

2013 season

  • WR Solomon Patton - Florida – Caught a pair of TD passes en route to a career-best 124-yard receiving day.
  • WR Bruce Ellington - South Carolina – Tied his career-high with two touchdown grabs.
  • RB Derrick Henry - Alabama – Rushed for a career-high 111 yards and a touchdown on six carries as a freshman.
  • RB Tre Mason - Auburn – Shredded Arkansas for a career-best four TD runs. Mason rushed for 168 yards on 32 carries in the game.

Just in case you lost count along the way, or maybe weren't counting, that is a list of 39 players who have had phenomenal games, or season or career-best games against the Hogs in less than six years.

The teams with the most players having season/career-best performances in that time span are Ole Miss with five, while South Carolina and Alabama have four. Florida, Mississippi State and Georgia each have three.

That type of history isn't what you'd like opposing you heading into Oxford this weekend and Mississippi State remaining on the schedule. I guess all we can do is hope for the best, and for history (at least the last 5 1/2 years worth) not to repeat itself.
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