By ROBBIE NEISWANGER
Arkansas News Bureau
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas offense is among the nation’s best through six games.
The Razorbacks are 17th in points scored (39.2 a game). They’re 23rd in total yards (466.2 yards a game). And, along with Alabama’s ground-oriented offense, possess one of the most dominant attacks in the Southeastern Conference.
But as Arkansas prepares for Saturday’s game at Ole Miss, quarterback Tyler Wilson and his teammates just aren’t satisfied. They believe that throughout the first half of the season Arkansas’ offensive capabilities were hampered at times by mistakes and other problems.
"I know there’s a lot left out there," Wilson said Monday. "I think there’s a lot of growth before we hit the ceiling for this offense."
So the Razorbacks (5-1, 1-1 in SEC) will try to amp up their productivity and efficiency on offense when they open the season’s second half against the struggling Rebels (2-4, 0-3).
Arkansas, despite the yards and points, knows it hasn’t fired on all cylinders yet (the Razorbacks gained 226 yards in the Alabama loss). The offensive line has struggled with consistency behind new tackles, the run game hasn’t produced much, and even Wilson has made mistakes while becoming the SEC’s top passer.
Maybe it’s nitpicking. Maybe the Hogs are being perfectionists. But the Razorbacks insist they’re nowhere close to their capabilities.
"There’s a lot still out there to accomplish," receiver Jarius Wright said. "We have gained a lot of yards, but watching film there’s still plays and still yards we leave out there.
"There’s still big plays we leave out there that we can convert on that are right there in our grasp if we do one thing better. We’ve just got to keep working to correct those little things."
One area Arkansas is targeting? The run game.
Arkansas’ passing offense leads the SEC and is ranked No. 8 in the nation (336.8 yards a game). But the Hogs have been lacking on the ground, averaging 129.3 yards (which is tied with Vanderbilt for eighth in SEC, 83rd in NCAA).
Arkansas guard Grant Cook said the offensive line and running backs understand the urgency to improve. It was vital during the second half of 2010, when Knile Davis emerged as a dominant force running behind a physical line.
No running back has stepped forward to shoulder the load so far this fall. But Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee said the Razorbacks have made strides recently and are anxious to see the results Saturday.
"We know who we are," McGee said. "We know what direction we’re headed in. We know which guys do which blocks best, which runners run the runs the best. ... Hopefully it comes to life."
It’s no secret what it could mean for the Hogs.
The precedent for second-half success was set last season after Arkansas averaged 480 yards and 32.2 points through its first six games. But with the run game’s improvement, Arkansas averaged 42.5 points and 498.5 yards over the final six regular season games.
"It seems like it was this time last year, really against us, when they took off and had a run game," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. "They’re running game got so strong, which really worked so well with the passing game."
Said Wilson: "The run game is picking up. If we’re able to run the football, that passing game is going to be that much more lethal."
Wilson and the passing attack were hampered by pass protection problems in games against Troy, Alabama and Texas A&M. The quarterback was rushed into some decisions and made poor choices with others while under constant duress.
It was much improved against Auburn, a game in which Wilson was sacked once. The overall efficiency has improved each game, too.
But Petrino said Arkansas, and Wilson in particular, still needs more consistency.
"We’re working on consistency," Petrino said last week. "We would like to be more consistent on offense and not have those drives where we’re three-and-out and not converting third downs."
As it stands, Arkansas is on pace to turn in its highest-scoring season under Petrino thanks largely to an offense that has scored on 25 of 26 possessions (19 touchdowns) in the redzone.
The Razorbacks are averaging seven more points a game than it did at the midway point last season (39.2 to 32.2) as a result. They averaged 21.9 points in 2008, 36 in 2009 and 36.5 last season.
So is there really more out there? The Razorbacks are confident there is and will aim at reaching their potential beginning Saturday.
"We know what we’re capable of," Wright said.