Giving No Ground

There was no doubt what the highlight of Saturday's scrimmage was for the defense - seven straight stops on 4th-and-ones in a mano-a-mano session late in the workout.

Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson always likes to look at the film of a scrimmage before he pronounces how good an effort his defenders had during the encounter.

But he is confident in saying the effort was excellent late in Saturday's scrimmage when the defense stopped the offense on seven straight 4th-and-1 running plays.

It basically was a chance for the offense and defense to bow up and get after each other and Robinson's crew won every snap.

"We have a lot of variety in our calls at that down and distance," Robinson said. "The kids seemed to execute and they got more confident each rep.

"Obviously it was very positive and I think it came at a time when everybody was tired," Robinson said. "That was a key and I think a point was made for both sides of the ball. Coach making his and us executing when we were fatigued and they seem to do that very well."

There were a variety of different players in on the seven stops.

"We try to keep them fresh, but the thing is – as far as making the plays – it has a lot to do as far as the calls that we make, too," Robinson said. "They did a great job executing their position."

Defensive end Jake Bequette was thrilled with how his team rose to the occasion during the series.

"That was an awesome sequence," Bequette said. "Anytime a team can stop an offense like ours on seven straight plays, it is pretty exciting."

It was clear that there was going to be no passing in the mano-a-mano session.

"I think after the first two or three plays we got the message that it was going to be a run play every time," said Bequette, who had a pair of sacks. "We just kept going back and getting hyped up."

Young defensive end Chris Smith, who had two sacks of his own, was another thrilled participant.

"That was a great series for us," Smith said. "We've got to keep on working hard, but we are good as a defense now. Arkansas is mostly known for their offense, but now the defense is stepping up."

The defensive ends were key in not letting the offense get a yard – in fact, many times tossing them for a loss.

"It is our deepest position," Robinson said. "With Bequette and (Colton Miles) Nash and Tank (Tenarius Wright) and Smith – not all in that order obviously – it is our deepest position. You have really good size and we are very, very fast at that position."

Robinson was tempered in his assessment of the overall effort of the defense.

"It didn't seem like we gave up a lot big plays in the air, but we could have done a lot better against the run," Robinson said. "It didn't seem like we ran to the ball well enough.

"There was ebb and flow in this scrimmage," Robinson added. "We have to figure out the ebb. We had some positive plays and then we had some negative plays. We just have to go back and see it. I thought our effort for the most part was decent. The kids got a lot of reps."

It is clear to Robinson that the defense - led by Ross Rasner and Greg Gatson with 10 tackles each on Saturday - is playing quicker this spring.

"It seemed like we had a better understanding, but we have kept it simple this spring and allowed them to play fast and work on their technique," Robinson said.

One of the other highlights for the defense on Saturday morning was another one-handed interception near the goal line by safety Tremain Thomas.

He had one last Saturday, too -- and a long return -- and leaped to make this one and prevent what would have been a touchdown toss while Elton Ford had a red zone pick and returned it for a score.

"Especially as a veteran, I have to come in and make plays for our secondary," Thomas said. "I need to spark our defense and give us that extra confidence where the defensive line and linebackers don't have to worry about us. The secondary is holding it down for us. I was just able to go out there and make a play and get our defense off the field.

"I don't know what it is, but I probably catch better with one hand so I can just going to keep doing it," Thomas said. "I'm just trying to get it done."

Eric Bennett 8 tackles

Alfred Davis 3 tackles, PBR

Jerry Franklin 5 tackles, PBR

Greg Gatson 10 tackles, PBR

Tramain Thomas 6 tackles, INT

Jerry Mitchell 7 tackles

Tenarius Wright 5 tackles

Ross Rasner 10 tackles, fumble recovery

Ryan Farr 3 tackles, INT

Chris Smith 3 tackles, 2 sacks

Lavaunce Askew tackle

Elton Ford 4 tackles, INT, 90-yard TD return

Jarrett Lake 7 tackles

Jared Green 3 tackles

Jerico Nelson 6 tackles

Braylon Mitchell 2 tackles

De'Anthony Curtis tackle, PBR

Villegas 6 tackles, PBR

Alan Turner 2 tackles

Bret Harris 5 tackles

Jake Bequette 3 tackles, 2 sacks, PBR

Zach Stadther tackle

Tyler Gilbert 5 tackles

Austin Moss 2 tackles

Robert Thomas 2 tackles, sack

Terrell Williams 2 tackles


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