If Tuesday is an indication, Arkansas will play its best football Saturday when it travels to Athens to play its SEC opener against Georgia.
The Hogs haven't done well the last two Tuesdays, according to coaches. Things changed this week.
"It was really good," said Garrick McGee, offensive coordinator. "It was our best Tuesday. Our attitude, our concentration and our focus were very good. It was a good practice."
Running backs coach Tim Horton said, "We had flopped around the last two Tuesdays. But today was really good."
Offensive line coach Chris Klenakis had the same take. He called the effort and work rate solid and assignment error well below what had been the norm the last two weeks to start game preparation.
"I think it's just about trying to get better every day," Klenakis said. "That's what we come out to do. I think it was a good practice, but that's what we expect. And we expect them to put another and another and another practice with it. Today we did practice the way we expect to practice.
"It was a good, hard work day and our focus was good. That's the goal every day. When we get that every day, we'll play better. I don't want to get too excited because you should get that every day."
Offensive tackle Ray Dominguez said it was simple.
"I think it's just a better attitude," he said. "I think we know it's Georgia week. We know what we face this week. When you know that it is your first SEC game and know the opponent, you realize how important this week is for our team. It was a better focus and attitude."
The result was just as simple.
"I think you saw our assignment errors were way down," he said. "Guys didn't make mistakes. It was the realization that we are playing an important game."
It's off the scales important to Dominguez. He's a native of Bainbridge, Ga. He has several old friends on the Georgia team. He said roommate Elton Ford, another Georgia native, are fighting over tickets.
"Some of our teammates don't need them, so we are busy trying to take care of extra family members this week," Dominguez said. "It's a big game for all of the Georgia guys. I think it is a competition for the extra tickets. It's a special week."
Dominguez thanks the Bulldogs for inviting him to campus for an unofficial visit the last time the Razorbacks played in Athens.
"I went to that game and saw Darren McFadden and Felix Jones play and got a great feeling for the Razorbacks," Dominguez said. "I have Georgia to thank for me being at Arkansas."
Dominguez made an early commitment to Arkansas and the Bulldogs quit calling.
"I made my decision early so that was it," he said. "I still follow Georgia, though. I still watch them because I know so many players there. This will be a great feeling to go back there and play. I will have a bunch of family members there. It's 13 hours to drive to Fayetteville, three from Bainbridge to Athens. So there are a great number of my family that can come to this game that never could come watch me in Fayetteville."
Dominguez has great respect for the Georgia defense. He watched the video of its loss to South Carolina. He saw the Bulldogs in position to make tackles, but some great play from the Gamecocks' tailback.
"I think what you see is they were in position, but the back really made some great runs," Dominguez said. "I don't expect them to miss those tackles again this week. I have enough respect for them that I expect them to correct their mistakes after watching that. We have to improve our blocking and not expect them to miss tackles."
Horton knows the Hogs will have to do it with one less body at running back. Junior Dennis Johnson is out after surgery due to internal injuries following the victory over Louisiana-Monroe.
"We'll miss Dennis because he's a home run threat, but by the same token I think our other three backs will step up," Horton said. "They did a good job today and I expect them to play well in the game."
The running game was not productive last week. The Hogs made just 99 net yards. Horton said part of the problem was the scheme deployed by ULM.
"We didn't get the run game to where we would like, certainly," he said. "As much as anything, it was the scheme they played. They put seven, eight and even nine in the box and made themselves susceptible to the pass."
Horton didn't like all things he saw in the execution from his backs.
"We did some good things, but we missed some assignments, too," he said. "We gave up a sack. Ronnie Wingo missed a protection and it cost us a sack. I will say that Dennis Johnson did a nice job on protection. He had two pancakes in pass protection. We are getting better in our protections."
McGee was asked about the mindset in Georgia that the Bulldogs are up against the wall after an 0-1 SEC start.
"I don't know about that, but I do know what the talk is around here," he said. "It's that we aren't producing enough on offense and not running the ball and not protecting the ball. That's what we are talking about."
The bottom line is that both need a victory. McGee said it's time to find out if the offseason focus on improved play int he fourth quarter bears fruit.
"We didn't play well in the fourth quarter on the road last year," he said. "That's been the emphasis in the winter, all spring and all summer. That's what we talked about. We talked to them about grinding it out for three quarters and then finding a way to win in the fourth quarter. We'll find out if all that work pays off."
The Hogs will also find out if all of the experiences of the last two years pay dividends.
"We are a mature team," McGee said. "I think we've grown up. We've learned lessons. Most of these guys have played Alabama when they were in the top two. They played Florida when they were ranked at the top. They went to Texas when they were ranked No. 2 two years ago.
"All of those experiences are a part of who we are. I think we are confident because of those lessons. I think we will be fine. Now, we just have to put another good practice with the one we had today and then another one, then take those to the game."
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