Arkansas regroups after winless October

Updated: October 27, 2003, 7:17 PM ET

LITTLE ROCK -- A promising start has turned sour for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

A woeful offense with more injured tailbacks than healthy ones has caused Houston Nutt's team to fall from 4-0 and No. 7 in the country to 4-3 and out of the polls following a winless October.

"It's been a tough three weeks, as tough as any since we've been here," Nutt said Monday. "You lose three backs and it's awfully tough, but you just have to keep going."

This was Arkansas' first winless October since 1997 and just the sixth in school history.

Arkansas (4-3, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) entered its 19-7 loss to Ole Miss minus two tailbacks and lost a third when senior Brandon Holmes injured a knee covering a second-quarter kickoff.

Leading rusher Cedric Cobbs didn't make the trip to Mississippi because of a pulled hamstring, and backup De'Arrius Howard suited up on his sprained ankle, but didn't play.

Nutt said he thinks both have a chance to be back this week at Kentucky (4-4, 1-3), where the Razorbacks will try to turn around their fourth straight 1-3 start in the SEC. Howard returned to workouts on Sunday.

If Cobbs and Howard can't go, junior DeCori Birmingham, a receiver for most of his career, and little-used sophomore Kyle Dickerson will play. Those two have a combined 251 career rushing yards.

"(Losing) three backs; number one, that is what has hurt us," Nutt said. "But we've got to get consistent. Our defense is playing well right now, and we just have to stay on the field (offensively) and we all have to be better."

The Razorbacks couldn't be much worse offensively right now.

Since its off week Oct. 4, Arkansas has fallen from second in the SEC at 37 points per game to seventh at 26.6. The Razorbacks averaged a league-worst 12.7 points per game during October.

Vanderbilt, who also was winless in October at 0-4, was 11th out of 12 teams during the month with 20 points per game.

Arkansas failed to score a touchdown against Auburn, and its only touchdown at Ole Miss came on a 12-yard drive after a fumble recovery. The only offensive spark in the past three weeks was a 21-point fourth quarter against Florida.

Quarterback Matt Jones completed 8 of 11 passes for 142 yards and three touchdowns during that quarter, but has been ineffective otherwise. Jones was 37 of 76 with three interceptions, no touchdowns and 465 yards for the rest of October.

With no running game to speak of at Ole Miss -- 82 yards on 32 attempts -- the SEC's top rushing team lost its strength. Nutt said not having three running backs hurt the most.

"I think that's the biggest reason and so is getting behind in the second half," Nutt said. "The numbers get skewed a little bit because that's not our game playing catch-up ball."

Arkansas has had fewer penalties than in 2002 when it had the second-most penalty yards per game in the SEC at 71.6. However, the Razorbacks haven't cut back on drive-killing or late-hitting penalties in the past month.

Against Auburn, a holding call negated a potential tying touchdown. Against Florida, a helmet-to-helmet penalty wiped out an interception that could have set up a game-winning drive.

At Ole Miss, Arkansas lost 75 yards on eight flags, including an interference penalty on a punt return and an illegal substitution penalty when the Rebels missed a field goal.

"We've cut down on penalties this year, but we've had penalties at the wrong time," Nutt said. "It seems like every time we have a big play there's a penalty. An 80-yard run called back, a 50-yard run, a 35-yard pass. If you look at that and field position, starting at the 15 to 18-yard line, that makes it tough."

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index