Originally created 01/01/02

Sooners favored over Razorbacks in Cotton Bowl

DALLAS -- After a Cotton Bowl practice inside Texas Stadium, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt listened while somebody expounded on attacking a super-fast defense.

Run right at 'em, the guy said.

With a nod and a twinkle, Nutt encouraged more.

Fishing, the guy theorized that power back Brandon Holmes might carry 34 times, considering that Cedric Cobbs and Fred Talley had done little in practice.

"Maybe 42 times," Nutt said, teasing.

Tuesday's game against Oklahoma could be perfect for Holmes.

The Sooners run so well on defense, it is difficult to imagine the Razorbacks having much success getting outside. Arkansas quarterbacks Zak Clark and Matt Jones have decent arms, but neither has a rifle and anything without some zip could be intercepted. Putting together a 10-2 record, the Sooners picked off 20 passes and broke up more than 100.

Arkansas' offense cannot go into a shell, Nutt said. But, he said, punting is not always a bad thing.

During Arkansas' six-game winning streak, Jones made some big plays keeping on the option and running the draw. However, LSU shut him down during the second half of the season-finale and the Sooners have had plenty of time to identify No. 9. Plus, he has thrown three interceptions in his last five quarters.

On top of that, cold temperatures are expected and some precipitation is possible.

Both Nutt and OU coach Bob Stoops said they wouldn't change their game plans unless the weather is atrocious.

All that considered, Holmes could be the man for Arkansas.

Last year, Holmes was at his best in bad weather against Mississippi State and LSU. He made a total of 238 yards against those two teams after gaining 230 in the first nine games.

Holmes started twice this year and played in seven games, but carried only one time after he was disciplined by Nutt in October.

Although OU's defense has received most of the attention, Arkansas defensive coordinator John Thompson says the Sooners' offense is more diversified than any the Razorbacks have faced.

"We're playing a phenomenal defense," Thompson said. "We've got to match them in a lot of ways. We know what we're up against."

As always, Nutt says Arkansas must take care of the ball. He also says the Razorbacks' offensive line must have its best game. Center Kenny Sandlin says the Razorbacks have to be almost perfect. For sure, they need to avoid second-and-long or third-and-long.

All this seems like a tall order.


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