"I just have to force the issue and run it more," Petrino said Wednesday after the Hogs concluded another tough day of practice in the wake of a 24-20 loss to Alabama.
"It's about me calling more runs. When you look at the video of the (Alabama) game, I was impressed with Knile Davis. I have to force the issue, particularly when the game is on the line."
The Hogs ran the ball only seven times for 13 yards in the second half of the Alabama game.
"I thought Knile was a real positive in that game," said Petrino.
It sounds like a matter of going with three backs available. And it doesn't sound like junior Dennis Johnson will return this year.
Petrino was asked about Ronnie Wingo's ability to help in the running game. He did not get a carry against Alabama.
"He's done a great job as a receiver," Petrino said. "When he's had the opportunity there, he's made big plays. He should get more opportunities. He's a big play maker.
"But against Georgia when he had a chance in the running game, he missed the running lanes. He's working to get better in that area."
Petrino joked after his media briefing Wednesday that the Hogs were spending the open week "putting in the wishbone." But it was clear that is not what they were doing.
"Really, we are going back to some of the things we did in camp, some fundamental work," Petrino said. "We did some ones versus ones to get good, fast technique work against speed. We've got a lot accomplished in the two days of practice this week."
After spending several days on the Alabama video, what surprised Petrino?
"Not a lot surprised me," he said. "It shows up on film that every play was important. You see there were a couple of plays in the first quarter if we had done something slightly different, we would have won the game. You see a couple of plays in the second quarter the same way. It's like that throughout the game. You see where we didn't quite play our technique here or there. So that's what we worked on.
"Every single play is important. You need to play your technique right.
"What we've done this week is try to identify exactly where we are, what we do good and what are our strengths. What is that we do well."
The thought is that the Hogs run the ball better than they might have guessed. The point of attack, the offensive line blocking, might be better than thought.
Certainly, Petrino thinks there is defensive improvement.
"I see things on defense that we are doing well," he said. "I see that we are improved in a lot of areas as far as technique in our pass rush, in our coverage. We win more one-on-one battles. We've had some sacks as far as pass rush pressure and technique and we've had some sacks that were a result of good coverage. I've seen sacks where coverage held up and because we were in our pass rush lanes that a sack resulted.
"I'm happy with the way we've played on defense. I see that we have better knowledge and technique."
One of Petrino's defensive concerns is stamina. He wants to help that by utilizing some younger players to help depth.
"We've had some times where we didn't substitute on defense in the Georgia and Alabama games early," he said. "The problem is that there weren't a lot of plays early for the defense, but to be rested for the fourth quarter, we have to make sure we force the issue and play some of the younger defenders early."
Petrino said the Hogs also worked on conditioning during the open week to try to alleviate that concern, too.
One of the points of emphasis this week has been the kickoff coverage and kickoff return. He said the blocking on kickoff returns has been missing. He also noted that Cobi Hamilton and Lance Ray are also getting work on kickoff returns along with Maudrecus Humphrey.
"I'm not happy with kickoff return," Petrino said. "We are working hard on that area. We have to hit it up in there full speed and be reckless. We have to block it better.
"The other focus this week has been to run the ball and take care of the ball."
Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said the consistency of the execution wasn't good enough against Alabama.
"I do think we played hard," he said. "I think with our players there was a belief afterwards that they could have done better. They know there were plays where they didn't get it done."
Robinson asked if it seems the defense is better after the first four games than it was last year.
"Obviously, right now we are not satisfied," he said. "There are things about this last game that mirrored some things that happened in losses last year.
"I know that there was a somber feeling in the locker room after this loss. They were upset at how they played. I think the fact that they noticed some things that they could have done differently or better is a sign of where they've grown. They see it.
"I think a year ago they might have had a feeling that there was a call that produced a magical moment.
"(Alabama) gave us some tough things in the running game. The long run in the first half, we didn't fit it right. We missed two tackles. We just have to get him down. You do that, we have enough talent and enough character to live for another down and get them stopped.
"We are getting closer. We still have some issues with communication, some things where they are substituting and making changes that we have to make adjustments to as far as personnel. But we are playing hard and we gave everything we had."
Robinson wants to get more players on the field earlier in the game.
"We've had some games where there were not many plays in the first half for the defense because of the way our offense plays," he said. "We still have to make changes, rotate. Maybe we don't take everyone out. Maybe we leave in our bell cows. But we can get some younger ones some time and create depth and then have fresh legs to play a little better in the fourth quarter."