Leader Blues

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

SPORTS >> Rhinos rout ’Cats

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Arkansas Rhinos offensive coordinator Oscar Malone didn’t have much offense to coordinate last Saturday in Osceola.

Yes, the Rhinos scored nine touchdowns en route to a 62-24 rout of the Arkansas Wildcats, but they scored their first 27 points without running a play. Defense and special teams did all the damage early before the revamped Rhino offense took over the rest of the way, with Stewart Franks hauling in three touchdown passes.

The Rhinos bounced back from a 33-23 loss to Nashville on Aug. 1 and will have a chance at revenge when the Storm visit Jacksonville on Saturday.

“That’s going to be like the Cowboys and the Eagles,” said Malone, who owns the Rhinos. “We’ll be trying to keep the ball and run the clock and they’ll be trying to throw it down our throat. It’s become a real rivalry.”

The Rhinos actually trailed early on Saturday after the Wildcats marched 80 yard to take a 6-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. That lead lasted all of 14 seconds as Matthew Stewart returned his second kickoff in as many weeks, taking the ensuing kickoff and racing 80 yards for a 7-6 Rhino lead.

On the Wildcats’ next possession, Tyler Knight picked off a pass and raced 42 yards for the score and a 13-6 lead. It was 20-6 one play later when Anton Williams picked off another pass and went 52 yards for the score with 9:33 left in the opening period.

Jerald Marshall then recovered the ensuing kickoff in the end zone for a 27-6 Rhino lead. Twenty-seven points, and the Rhino offense had yet to get on the field. When it did, it showed no signs of rust, driving 55 yards and scoring on quarterback Damien Dunning’s two-yard sneak to make it 34-6 with 2:54 left in the first. The big play on the drive was Dunning’s 30-yard completion to Franks, who finished the night with seven catches for 135 yards.

The Wildcats tacked on a pair of touchdowns early in the second period to get back into it at 34-18, then added a 59-yard punt return to close the gap to 34-24 at the half.

But it took the Rhinos a little less than four minutes to extend the lead when Dunning hit Franks from 24 yards. Knight then hauled in his second interception of the game, returning it to the Wildcat 22. Bronson Taylor capped off that drive with a seven-yard run to make it 49-24, still in the third period.

Whatever hopes the Wildcats might have been holding on to were dashed when Dunning hit Franks for a 50-yard touchdown early in the fourth period. Terrance Keaton’s forced fumble and recovery set up Tye Forte’s two-yard touchdown pass to Franks at the 10:49 mark to cap off the scoring.

The Rhinos scored all their points with only 271 total yards. Dunning was 6 of 9 for 133 yards with two touchdowns, while Forte connected on 4 of 10 for 30 yards with a touchdown. Tim Mason caught three passes totaling 28 yards. The Rhinos added 108 yards on the ground.

The defense forced six turnovers and limited the Wildcats to 89 total yards.