State of the Hogs: Confidence

Some questioned the offensive numbers early in the season, but not now. The Hogs will take an juggernaut offense to the Sugar Bowl.

There was a time this football season when some were questioning whether or not this Arkansas offense was going to score enough points. The Hogs had tallied 31, 31, 20 and 24 in games two through five.

The thought was the defense might be a bit improved to start the 2010 season, but the skeptics were rumbling.

What is wrong with this offense? Can the Hogs muster a ground game? Where are the big totals on the scoreboard? Are SEC defenses too much for Bobby Petrino's system? Did he just put up big numbers because he was in Conference USA?

I didn't ask the questions. But they were there. You could find them on the message boards or on talk radio.

They fell by the wayside as the Hogs scored 43 in a little more than three quarters against Auburn, then finished out the year with 38, 49, 41, 58, 38 and 31. That leaves them just 38 points shy of beating the school record for points in a season. Since they average 37.3, there's a decent chance that record will fall in the Sugar Bowl.

With a superb passing game and a running game that has blossomed since the Ole Miss victory, these Hogs have been nearly unstoppable of late. The man who sees this offense from the other side of the field the most knows it's an awesome task for any defensive coordinator.

"We go against them every day and it's tough," said Willy Robinson, Arkansas defensive coordinator. "I don't know what I'd try to do against this offense. I've seen them against about every call you can make in practice. They are really, really good. They prepare for everything.

"I remember seeing the UTEP defensive coordinator after their game with us this year. He wiped his brow and said, ‘I'm glad that's over.' He was telling me that our offense does so many things well, you don't know what you have to stop first."

And that's the key, the Hogs want to be balanced enough that a DC doesn't know where to start.

"What phase do you try to take away?" Robinson said. "You look across the country and there aren't many who can run the ball and throw like we can throw and catch it. You could try to take away the run against our offense. But that leaves a lot of things for a lot of dynamic players.

"The UTEP defensive coordinator told me after that game, ‘Isn't that a mess. They are unbelievable.' That's the way you feel when you play against our offense.

"I can't say enough about the way our staff prepares our players in practice to play each week. I don't have enough words."

One of the big keys for the Hogs will be if they can retain their sharpness after a month off. Well, here's a stat for you on what Bobby Petrino does with more than one week to prepare for a game. He's 24-7 in those situations.

There was a point this season when the offensive staff was disappointed in the numbers. Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee said the numbers didn't match expectations.

"We expect to be the best," he said. "We hold ourselves to a very high standard. We were looking at those scores and thinking that we weren't at the highest level.

"Maybe we were trying too hard to put up big numbers. So we had to go back to just trying to execute each play. When we did that, the numbers came."

It came down to execution and calm, steely play.

"We do take a lot of pride in not getting too excited, not doing too much jumping up and down," McGee said. "I think that's the way you play when you are prepared and confident. We try to make sure that our players have what they need to be ready for a game. That breeds confidence. I want to see that confidence in their eyes."

You hear it in their voices. These Hogs headed to New Orleans with respect for the Buckeyes, but they know the Sugar Bowl can be their showcase if they play to their capabilities.

Someone asked if the Hogs would be afraid of the big stage? I'll borrow one of Bobby Petrino's favorite questions when he sees something he thinks is just dead wrong.

Are you kidding me? That's what I'll say the next time it's hinted that Bobby Petrino's offense can't make it in the SEC -- or against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.

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