There was no mistaking the hurt felt by the Arkansas players and coaches after losing to No. 1 Alabama. Not all of that hurt is gone. But players and coaches alike thought some of it was gone by the time practice began on Tuesday.
"You could sense the attitude had come back when we got to the locker room today," tight end D. J. Williams said. "You sensed it from Ryan Mallett. Then, when we got out here, it was a good attitude."
Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee said the coaching staff was pleasantly surprised by how well the practice went Tuesday after two days of off days following the 24-20 loss to the Crimson Tide.
"Practice was really good," he said. "We showed a lot of character. We wanted to use what happened to push forward.
"It was like a light came on. We came back really good. I think we know that we have talent, we have the scheme and they all know that.
"I saw really good focus from Ryan Mallett. Obviously, it was not his best in the last five minutes of the game. We talked about that Saturday evening and again yesterday.
"But he understands the position. He's built to be a quarterback. He knows that you can play well for 72 snaps and if the last five are bad, it's those last five is all anyone is going to remember."
McGee said the plan was to get back in the grind with a hard practice. The players attacked the workout.
"Today was a tough day," McGee said. "We wanted to work it out of them. They showed up with a better attitude than we thought we would as a staff. I'm really proud of them for that."
McGee said the attitude showed up well when practice hit the team segment.
"As a staff, we decided to back off of them at that point and see how they would handle it," McGee said. "The players considered that the start of the fourth quarter and that's when they really picked up the tempo.
"A lot of times when you get bit, you see how you are going to react. You see then if it's important. I was proud of the way they practiced today."
In some ways, McGee was proud of the way the team fought in the game, too.
"I think what you see is that we do have a really good ball club," he said. "We have offense, defense and we have a good kicking game. We don't have to shy away from anyone.
"We didn't finish. When the game was on the line, we didn't run it. They were tougher than we were."
Mallett said he watched video of the fourth quarter and his mistakes "over and over" several times since the loss.
"What you see is that we had them by the throat and didn't finish it," he said. "What I feel is motivation to get better. Every time I watch it, I see that we had the No. 1 team and let it slip by. I see it over and over."
Mallett said he appreciates McGee trying to lift his spirits Saturday night.
"I guess it kinda helped, but it still hurts," Mallett said. "I don't think you can ever take the hurt away.
"I expected that from him and from others. You know that people who are in your inner circle are still going to be there for you. So that didn't surprise me.
"What hurts the most is knowing that we left a lot of points out there on the field. We shot ourselves in the foot."
Mallett said the team segment of practice was good, just as McGee noted.
"It was different," Mallett said. "The coaches were still there to call the plays. But when they'd call them, they got away from us and let us see what how we would handle things. If there was a mistake, we took care of it ourselves. We worked things out. We figured it out and helped each other move forward."
Williams said, "I think there were back-to-back mistakes at one point and the players stopped things and it was said, 'No, we aren't going to practice like this. We are going to get things fixed and get after it.' I think you saw the mental attitude of the leadership coming to the front today. I think we had a good day.
"Losing isn't easy and it has been tough the last couple of days. We had to push through it and we did. We are going to have a good year."
The Hogs produced 421 total yards of offense against Alabama, but most of it was through the air. The 20 running plays netted just 64 yards. That isn't the goal, but it didn't look so bad on film, according to some coaches.
"We made progress," said Tim Horton, coach for the running backs. "I think we made progress from say our performance in Athens to the Alabama game.
"Our backs ran better. They ran harder. I think it was a continuation of what we did in practice after the Georgia game. It is not where we want it to be yet, but we moved forward.
"Yes, there is still frustration because we haven't made the big run. But our backs made some catches and some big plays in the passing game. Gosh, we just need to get that big run and it would look so much better. We are making baby steps and we just need to take some bigger steps."
Ronnie Wingo didn't get a carry. Horton had an explanation.
"No carries? Not to degrade anyone, but he didn't run to his ability in Athens," Horton said of Wingo. "Broderick Green and Knile Davis had better practices last week.
"I don't think you are going to see another game where (Wingo) gets no carries, because I think he's the kind of player who is going to respond. Ronnie is a good back. All three of our guys are good backs."
Horton thinks all three had good practices Tuesday. He did say that it's been a learning experience for them to be out there without Dennis Johnson, out with internal surgery.
"I think they had to get used to Dennis not being out there," Horton said. "To be honest, Dennis was the leader of that group and they missed that leadership. I think they are used to it now."
McGee said it was a solid practice from the running backs.
"I thought Knile and Broderick were different today," McGee said. "Sometimes you need a slap in the face. I think we used what happened to us. I think when you evaluate video, our backs ran hard. But I think what we saw today was that after they evaluated video, maybe they didn't always hit their tracks right. They did today."
Line coach Chris Klenakis liked the effort from his group, too.
"I saw our guys play hard," Klenakis said. "I thought we were wearing on their linemen at times. We are getting better. You'd sure like to score more. But as a unit, that was our best performance. We played hard. I thought our guys worked. Everything is moving forward. We are getting better.
"I think as long as we keep working like this, good things are out there for us. They came ready to work today, too. I don't think they liked losing. What I saw is that losing motivated them to work even harder today. They didn't dwell on it. They went out and did something about it."
Tuesday Grid Update, 9/28
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