Arkansas, coming off its worst season in 38 years, isn’t interested in moral victories when it plays host to No. 3 Miami today at Fayetteville, Ark.
Coach Jack Crow said it’s not his intention to “cover up the ball, kick it down the field, cover up the ball. That’s not the kind of game plan we’re going to have. That’s not the kind of defensive game plan we’re going to have.”
The Razorbacks, whose 3-8 record last season was their worst since 2-8 in 1952, faces a team that is 55-5 the last five years, a span in which the Hurricanes finished no lower than third in the Associated Press poll.
“This is their opportunity to come out of the chute and beat a team that’s ranked third in the country, get that tradition back and get things going in the right direction,” Miami Coach Dennis Erickson said.
Despite its high ranking, Miami has only four returning starters on offense and six on defense, plus two others with some starting experience.
Erickson picked Gino Torretta over Bryan Fortay as the starting quarterback even though Torretta completed 18 of 44 in two scrimmages and Fortay was 28 of 47. After Erickson made his decision, Fortay transferred to Rutgers.
Other top games today have Louisiana Tech at No. 12 Houston, Georgia Southern at No. 17 Auburn, East Carolina at Illinois, Mississippi at Tulane, Pittsburgh at West Virginia and Weber State at Air Force.
Arkansas’ quarterback will be Gary Adams, who has attempted 12 passes in two years as the backup for Quinn Grovey. Jason Allen was supposed to push Adams this fall, but Allen has been on the sidelines since he hurt his hand on the first day of practice.
Crowe wants to redshirt freshman Doyle Preston, but he has worked with the second unit this week. Crowe says he plans to use two quarterbacks against Miami.
“We’re really going to try to play a second quarterback in this ball game at some point in time, and we’re giving Doyle Preston most of the snaps,” Crowe said. “But I will not know until I get in the ball game how I’m going to play the quarterbacks. That’s not going to change no matter what happens in practice.”
Adams was recruited as an option quarterback when Ken Hatfield was still Arkansas’ coach. Preston passed for 950 yards in a run-oriented offense at Mt. Vernon, Tex.
The strength of the Miami defense should be at linebacker, where juniors Micheal Barrow and Darrin Smith return and Jesse Armstead, an early season starter last year, is back from a knee injury.
Houston’s run-and-shoot offense, led by David Klingler, is expected to handle Louisiana Tech easily. The Cougars have gained 350 yards or more in 34 consecutive games, and had 801 against Arizona State in their final game last season.
Klingler had 54 touchdown passes in 1990, more than the combined career collegiate totals of Joe Namath and Joe Montana.
Whether Houston can contend for the national championship probably will depend on the defense, which gave up an average of 27 points last year.
John Jenkins, who spent four years as offensive coordinator before becoming head coach last season, said he expects the defense to be vastly improved.
“We’ve got the most defensive depth since I’ve been here,” Jenkins said. “We have 18 guys who I consider starters.”
One major change on offense for Houston will be in the single running back spot, where Chuck Weatherspoon is gone after setting a Southwest Conference record for all-purpose yards in a career.
“We don’t have a starter or a two-deep at that position,” Jenkins said. “It will go right down to the opening kickoff before we name a starter there.”
Louisiana Tech is coming off a 1990 season in which it finished 8-3 and battled Maryland to a tie in the Independence Bowl.
Gene Johnson needs 2,265 yards to become the school’s all-time leading passer, but Coach Raymond Peace must find receivers to replace Bobby Slaughter and Eddie Brown.