Monday Grid Update 10/11

The University of Arkansas defense is praised by head coach Bobby Petrino, who also knows his offense will need to find the end zone several times on Saturday for the Razorbacks (4-1, 1-1) to win at No. 7 Auburn (5-0, 3-0), who has a big-time player in quarterback Cam Newton.

Five games into the season, the University of Arkansas' offense is struggling a bit and the Razorbacks' defense is ranked as the third-best in the SEC and top 20 nationally.

Talk about your role reversals – although it should be noted that the UA's offense is still the second-best in the SEC and a top 20 one nationally despite recent sputtering.

The defense – well, UA head coach Bobby Petrino is loving what he is seeing from a unit that has been at the bottom of the SEC the past couple of years, but is riding high after coming up big in a 24-17 win over Texas A&M on Saturday.

"After watching the video, it's much like I said after the game on Saturday – I was very impressed with our defense," Petrino said. " We did a really nice job in our gap control, using our techniques and assignments and really playing full speed for four quarters.

"Offensively, we got off to a fast start, and in the second half we really didn't do a good job of converting on third down or moving the ball," Petrino added." We did take care of field position. How do you use the clock, how do you use the field, that type of game, which we're not used to here, but it's a way to win the game. It was a way to have our defense play well, rely on our punter, and get the victory. It was a good, hard win for us."

That defense will need to come up with another big effort on Saturday when No. 12 Arkansas (4-1, 1-1) visit No. 7 Auburn (5-0, 3-0) in a 2:30 p.m. contest.

The two are part of four SEC Western Division teams that are in the top 12 nationally and there doesn't seem to be a lot of different in the quartet.

UA quarterback Ryan Mallett knows this is a big one.

"Any SEC game is big," Mallett said. "This one is a Western Division game, and they are a great team. They are undefeated, and we have one loss and could very easily be undefeated, too. We need to get mentally focused and prepare to go down there and put on a show."

Arkansas tailback Knile Davis, who had a career-high 82 yards on 12 carries Saturday, is excited for the contest.

We all know it's going to be a big game this weekend," Davis said. " I feel like if we focus and execute like we can for four quarters, then we can come out with a victory. I'm really confident, but it's going to start with us having a good week of practice."

The Tigers have the SEC's top statistical offense, one triggered by the running of quarterback Cam Newton.

Auburn boasts the SEC's top run game (276 per contest) while the Razorbacks have the league's top passing offense (354 yards per game).

"We're looking forward to the Auburn game," Petrino said. "Obviously, it's a big game for us. It's another game we want to be in, and we've got to go down there and come away with a victory. They're very good. They do a great job of running the ball and throwing it deep offensively, and they're very sound and physical on defense. So, we're just looking forward to the preparation and going down there and having a great game."

Newton led his team to a 34-31 win at Kentucky on Saturday night when he marched the Tigers down the field on a 19-play, 86-yard drive.

That is the SEC's longest scoring drive in terms of plays so far this season and resulted in a game-winning field goal as time ran out after Auburn have coughed up a 24-7 lead.

It was the fourth game this season in which the Tigers have had to win in the last few minutes of the contest.

"They've won the games in the fourth quarter," Petrino said. "When the game has been on the line they've found ways to win it in the fourth quarter. We always feel like, in this conference, that that is when the game is going to be won. We've got to do a good job of us finding a way to win. Whether it's scoring points, getting stops or changing field position; that's what it is about is being in a position to win the game in the fourth quarter."

Arkansas has struggled to finish off foes lately with Georgia rallying to tie in the fourth quarter, Alabama coming from behind to beat the Razorbacks and then the UA putting up just a field goal in the second half of the win over the Aggies.

Mallett notes that the Razorbacks have too many self-inflicted wounds lately including 13 penalties against A&M.

"We just need to execute better, and we don't need to shoot ourselves in the foot," Mallett said. That's what hurts us the most; when we get penalties and things like that. We move the ball and get a lot of yards, but what we need to go is get the ball in the end zone."

Petrino echoes that sentiment.

"We are just not executing," Petrino said. "We are not moving the ball and getting it in the end zone. We have hurt ourselves, but we have got to execute and move the football and get it into the end zone."

The lack of execution is not from lack of practice according to Petrino.

"We've practiced hard and executed well in practice," Petrino said. "It's a hard game, football, and we're playing against good football teams. You've got to just hang in there and find ways to win the game. We're used to moving the ball more and scoring more points. Yardage-wise, and a lot of things we're doing are good, but we've not scored points like we need to. Actually, all year long I've not been happy about the amount of points we've scored."

Petrino had praise for Auburn's defense, which is led by defensive tackle Nic Fairley, who leads the SEC in tackles for loss with 12.5.

The Tigers allow only 95 yards per game rushing, but have given up 237 through the air.

They s have allowed just three points combined in the fourth quarters of their three SEC games and just 13 overall in their five fourth quarters.

"Their front four are very big and physical," Petrino said. We've got to make sure we know where Fairley is and blocking him. He's explosive. He gets in the backfield, and he's disruptive. It's important that we do a good job of handling him. They've got experienced linebackers and it's almost like it's the same game as last year. When you watch the film it's almost like the same guys going against each other, both on our offense and their defense."

Newton has had a hand in 21 of his team's 28 touchdowns this season - which ties Kentucky for the league high - and had four of his own scores in the first half of his last game.

This will be the second week in a row that Arkansas has faced a mobile quarterback with Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson (6-5, 248) now giving way to Newton (6-6, 247) as the latest challenge.

Newton leads his team in rushing with 672 yards while also throwing 1,138 yards.

"You've got to hold this guy up and we've got to gang tackle him," Broadway said. "We have got to definitely Red Swarm this week. I have seen him break a lot of tackles. One game I saw him like getting tackled and throw the ball like some 50 yards down the field. That shows you how strong he is. You better pack your lunch when you go in there to hit him."

Former Little Rock Christian standout back Michael Dyer of Little Rock has 390 yards to lead the Auburn tailbacks in rushing and follows behind a line led by former Rogers standout Lee Ziemba.

Fort Smith Northside alum Kodi Burns has 1 catch for 33 yards, has rushed 3 times for 6 yards and completed 1-of-2 passes for 22 yards.

"They are some talented guys, and the quarterback has a nice strong arm. I think the main thing we have to do is not miss tackles on him and not concentrate our eyes back down the field, because these guys can really make plays."

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