Thursday Grid Update, 9/16

Mental toughness is the focus as Arkansas hits the road for SEC opener against Georgia.

Bobby Petrino didn't reveal any secrets as Arkansas finished practice Thursday. But he didn't dodge questions about the Hogs saving things for the conference opener this week against Georgia.

"You'll have to wait and see," he said, then noted that the Razorbacks have had an eye on this game for a bit.

"We did some things (for Georgia) in the spring and we had a Georgia week during camp," said the Arkansas head coach.

Petrino said the team has had an excellent week of practice.

"We look forward to getting on the road," Petrino said. "We are ready to go. I've been impressed with our team. We asked for a great week of practice and they've been focused. From Tuesday forward, I've been excited with the leadership and the concentration in practice. We are ready to go play a game."

Petrino said it's clear the Hogs know it's a big game.

"I think our players knew non-conference is over and they were ready to go," Petrino said. "I think they are excited. You could sense things were different when they came out to stretch. They obviously knew what was expected this week. I think it's the sign of a mature team."

The only UA personnel discussion at the Thursday briefing centered around the kickoff return specialist. Dennis Johnson is out after surgery for internal injuries. Petrino said Maudrecus Humphrey, true freshman wide receiver, would be the return man.

"He's extremely fast," Petrino said. "He can make one cut and go. We recruited him knowing he could return kicks. He was the return man on the scout team in our first scrimmage and he did a great job. We put him back there deep with Dennis last week because we wanted to see what he could do if he touched the ball."

Petrino talked about the start of the game and the finish.

"We hope we can move the ball early and score in the first quarter," he said, then later noted that the fourth quarter has been a focus for many months on the UA campus. And it was the focus in practice this week.

"We've worked on being mentally and physically ready for the fourth quarter," he said. "We talked about that yesterday. It was a hot, hard practice and we told our players that we wanted to see them fight to the end and they did that in practice. We talked about that with an eye towards the fourth quarter Saturday."

They moved up meeting times Thursday and finished earlier, in hopes of getting more rest before an 11 a.m. kickoff on what promises to be a hot, muggy day game.

"We wanted to get off the field early today," Petrino said. "We wanted to get a little more rest before the game."

The Hogs don't know if they'll see All-America wide receiver A. J. Green. The standout Bulldog is suspended by the NCAA, but an appeal is set for Friday morning.

"It's been a little weird, but obviously we are preparing like he's going to play," Petrino said. "You'd think they would make that decision at the beginning of the week."

Petrino was asked what kind of reception he expects in Athens.

"It will be a hostile environment," he said. "The noise level will be very loud. We are preparing to use our silent snap count. We know it's going to be like we see in every stadium when we go on the road. It will be an us-against-the-world atmosphere like it is every week in the SEC."

The focus has been on mental toughness since last year.

"I believe mental toughness is playing one play at a time," he said. "Whether you win that play or not, or you happen to be the nail in the hammer against the nail thing, you have to put that play behind you and focus on the next play. You have to get rid of all the distractions and keep that up."

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