State of the Hogs: Why Run?
LITTLE ROCK - We've heard it before, Bobby Petrino questioning whether he should have called a single run against another eight-man front that left juicy man-to-man coverage against one of the best sets of wide receivers in the country.
That was the way the Arkansas head coach felt after Arkansas slugged it out with Louisiana-Monroe for four quarters en route to a 31-7 victory Saturday night at War Memorial Stadium.
"I was probably too stubborn," Petrino said. "We probably should have thrown it every down."
The Hogs finally loaded up the protections and did just that to get the offense going in the second half. For the game, there were just 31 rushes for a net of 99 yards. Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee kind of saw it coming, too.
"I've played against that style of defense, that philosophy, before when I was coaching at UNLV," McGee said. "They played that way at New Mexico, just blitzed on every play. They were saying, 'You aren't going to run it.' Against that defense, you are not going to run it. It's so unorthodox and we did really want to push the ball with the run.
"Good teams do runs the ball. We did want to run it. We thought, keep running it and we are going to get a crease and get a big play. We wanted to just hang in and hit one."
In some ways, that's a good news story.
"We've been telling our guys that no way was it going to be easy and there would be games where we are tired and just worn out. If there is a blessing, we got battle tested. This team took us to the limit. Our guys were tired. I told them this is the way it's going to be. We have to play when we are tired.
"We didn't play as well as we wanted to, but we won. That's good news."
Defensive end Jake Bequette saw the silver lining, too.
"I think our expectations of our offense are so high that it's not a good game when we score just 31," Bequette said. "That's pretty good when you get to that point.
"I think the defense started fast and just held the rope until the offense got going. That's the way it's going to be sometimes. You have to hold on until the other parts of the team get it going. We knew they would and they did."
The defense had the War Hawks shut out until the lead got to 24-0 in the fourth quarter.
"I like the way we played," said Willy Robinson, the defensive coordinator. "I like the way we made adjustments to what they were doing. We had not seen some things they did. We had to make adjustments on the run and we have a veteran, mature group and can do that.
"We understand the pace of what we are trying to do. We get to the ball with numbers. We are executing our scheme at a fast pace. We are playing much faster. This was a much faster pace tonight than in the first game."
Not everything clicked on offense, that's for sure. And there were three turnovers, including one by the star of the game, wide receiver Greg Childs. The big junior caught 12 passes, just one short of the school record shared by James Shibest and Wear Schoonover. But he lost a fumble trying to claw for extra yards.
"They were in that blitz-a-thon and Child was getting one-on-one coverage," Petrino said. "He played well except for the fumble. He ran with it twice without two hands."
Childs knows he'll hear about ball security all week as the Hogs prepare for their SEC opener with Georgia.
"I'm going to get some practice on that, I know," he said. "The worst thing you can hear in a game is what I heard tonight -- the last play is under review. You don't want that. I don't want to put my team in that situation. I heard it tonight and it's not a good feeling.
"I can't blame anyone but myself. I knew I had to make up for that one and get it into the end zone the next time we had the ball."
Told he was one short of the school record, Childs just shrugged.
"Doesn't matter, if I get that, I get it," he said. "But really, it doesn't matter. I don't have any jealousy as far as who gets the catches. If it goes to one of the other guys, that's great. Seriously, getting a win -- I'm GOOD!! If I have two or three catches, I'm good."
But he knew it might be a good night because of the scouting report.
"You knew they were going to be in man," he said. "You knew they were going to blitz and blitz. That puts me on an island with a cornerback. I thought it might be something like this and you just try to catch them all.
"But 12. I've never been close to that, not even in high school. Remember, in high school at Warren, we had plenty of other guys catching passes, too. And if you remember, the score was out of hand at halftime and we were sitting on the bench."
This time, the feeling wasn't so good at halftime.
"No, it wasn't," he said. "We had to pick it up in the second half. We had to go up a notch, but we did. We played way better in the second half."
Petrino said, "We just decided we'd max protect and throw it. We did a much better job of finding the stakes and converting the third downs. That was one of the problems in the first half, not converting."
McGee said Mallett was a little off.
"We had some drops, but I think part of it was Ryan's fault," McGee said. "He was not throwing on time and he was slightly behind his receivers on some of them."
Mallett acknowledged the problem.
"I'm just glad our defense held on to the rope and played like that until we could get it going," Mallett said. "We had to adjust our protections a little and make some adjustments. But we did that."
Even with that, Mallett took some shots. Trainers worked on his left shoulder in the second half after one series of hits.
"Hey, it's football," Mallett said. "You are going to get knocked around some. It felt good to get out there and bang around. Give credit to them. They did hit me. They have a fast defense. We were winning the one-on-one battles outside and I just had to get them the ball in better position."
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