Leader Blues

Friday, July 24, 2009

SPORTS>>Revamped Rhinos host Jaguars

Leader sports editor

Oscar Malone is hoping that with a week of practice in their new scheme, the Arkansas Rhinos will finally get their offense untracked.

So far it’s been a real struggle, with last week’s 16-6 loss to St. Louis as the low point. The Rhinos, who fell to 2-1, managed only 166 yards in the loss. Malone, the Rhinos’ owner and new offensive coordinator, said he hopes the mistakes from last Saturday — missed blocking assignments, fumbles, interceptions — will keep to the sidelines when the Rhinos host the Arkansas Jaguars tonight at 7:30 at Jacksonville Middle School’s Bob Hill Memorial Field.

“We put in a lot of changes and a lot of new blocking schemes and we were a little confused over that,” Malone said of his team’s sluggish showing last weekend. “And then if we did execute the plays that were called and got our blocking and our schemes right, we didn’t take care of the football.”

The Rhinos trailed 3-0 with four minutes to go, and answered a late St. Louis touchdown with one of their own. St. Louis scored on a last-minute breakaway to set the final margin.

Malone said it is time for the Rhinos to enter the modern era offensively and took over control of the offense after it produced only 29 points in its first two games.

“We’ve pretty much gone away from the tight end and will run two backs and three receivers,” he said. “We want to stop being conservative and have more flashy plays and deep balls. We want to be more upscale.”

Meanwhile, the Rhino defense continues to shine, limiting St. Louis to a mere 133 yards. Arkansas had allowed only 30 points through three games.

“That’s the Rhino trademark is our defense,” Malone said. “We’ve just begun to become more of an offensive team the past four years.”

Last week, quarterback Jer-emiah Crouch struggled to a 6-of-18, 105-yard performance, while the running game didn’t fare much better. Leading rusher Jerald Marshall was held to 16 yards, while Brendan Medcalf managed 38. Stewart Franks had a big game with 93 yards on four catches.

Malone said his team is loaded with athletes, which should make for a successful transition to the more wide-open offense.

And though Crouch has been spotty on occasion, Malone said he has plenty of confidence in him, especially his experience and understanding of the offense.

“If you have a good running back, a good receiver and a good quarterback, you can run any offense,” he said. “We have athletes across the board. We have two of each.”

Malone said the big four are Marshall, Medcalf, Franks and wide receiver Tim Mason. Mason played at the University of Central Arkansas as well as the Arkansas Razorbacks, while Franks was a starter at UAPB.

Tickets for tonight’s game are $6. For more information visit the team’s Web site at www.arkansasrhinos.com.