Arkansas will have to face No. 14 Texas A&M Saturday in Arlington and a few other teams without starting defensive end Tenarius Wright, but the No. 18 Razorbacks could have their other big-play defensive end back this weekend.
Wright has a broken arm and the senior will be out four to six weeks according to Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino.
Jake Bequette (hamstring) didn't dress out for the game and then Wright went down on the first series of the Razorbacks' 38-14 loss to Alabama.
"Tenarius Wright is out," Petrino said. "He broke his arm, had surgery yesterday. Approximately four to six weeks. I'm encouraged that everybody else will be available to play. Jake ran last night, much improved. As the week goes on, we will know more."
"I'm looking forward to tomorrow getting here so we can get out on the practice field and get to work and get ready for this game Saturday," Petrino said. "It's going to be another good challenge for us."
The Razorbacks (3-1) and Aggies (2-1) will play at 11 a.m. Saturday inside Cowboys Stadium.
Arkansas will be trying to go 3-0 in the event in what will be Texas A&M's first game since it was officially announced Sunday the Aggies were joining the SEC.
"It will be a fun week," Petrino said. "I'm looking forward to it. We always enjoy going to Dallas. It's a great venue for our players their families and all our recruits form the state of Texas. Certainly looking forward to getting up early and playing an early game on Saturday."
Petrino doesn't think the A&M to SEC announcement makes the game anymore special than it already is.
"We were going to play them anyway," Petrino said. "We're excited that they are coming into the conference. I think that is good for us. It's good for our recruiting. There's been a number of guys in the last three or four years that we didn't get to come here and they grew up watching Big 12 football and maybe chose a different school because they were used to it so much. All of the publicity, exposure, everything that we get now with A&M coming in in the state of Texas, I think helps us a lot."
Petrino said it wasn't up to him about whether the game was moved from Arlington to home sites.
"You know, I don't think that's up to me," Petrino said. "I'm worried about this game, this weekend. We can think about that when the football season is over with. That is the one thing I've always wondered is why don't we just do all this stuff after football. I don't' get why we're doing it in the middle of the football season. Obviously, nobody cares what I think."
Texas A&M was eighth in the country until losing 30-29 at home to No. 7 Oklahoma State last Saturday in a game it led 20-3 at halftime.
"When you watch Texas A&M on video, they're a very good football team," Petrino said. "Really do a nice job with their defensive package. And, you know, they made it hard on us last year. We did move the ball well, we did get it in the end zone when we needed to, but they made it hard on us. They're doing a good job on offense. We're going to have to stop a really good running back and a quarterback that can make a lot of plays both with his arm and his feet, being able to run."
That quarterback is senior Ryan Taneyhill (6-4, 222), who took over for the Aggies last season after Jarrod Johnson struggled before and during the loss to the Razorbacks.
A&M went on a roll after the switch before losing to LSU in the Cotton Bowl.
"I think first he's brought a real calming, confident effect to the offense," Petrino said. "When we played them last year, they were a little out of sync. I think their quarterback was frustrated and threw the ball away a lot against us. He was not going to take a sack and just chucked it out of bounds a number of times. That was one of the things he was doing.
"Since Taneyhill has been in there, they have been very calm," Petrino added. "He operates the offense. He can makes plays running the ball, which is a concern. He is a very good athlete. He had a nice touchdown run the other night . He is doing that they ask him to in the passing game and he can throw the ball."
The Aggies also have two top running backs in Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael and one of the nation's best receivers in Jeff Fuller.
"That's the key, to be able to slow down their running game, put them behind the sticks, be successful on first down," Petrino said. "I think that number one key for us in defending A&M."
The Aggies' 3-4 defense leads the country in sacks at nearly five a game and appears to be even better than at that than they were last season with linebacker Von Miller, now in the NFL.
"The game the other night they blitzed the first four plays of the night," Petrino said. "That's what they do. They're going to show one way, bring it the other, bring an extra guy."
Tim DeRuyter is in his second year as the A&M defensive coordinator.
"It's something he has been doing for a long time," Petrino said. "Their defensive coordinator did a great job at the Air Force Academy and brought it there last year. So they're all experienced."
Petrino was not too down on how his defense ends played against Alabama, especially with his two starters out.
Chris Smith filled in for Bequette while true freshman Trey Flowers and defensive lineman D.D. Jones took the snaps when Wright got hurt.
"I thought they played pretty well," Petrino said. "Trey Flowers, we were talking Friday, ‘what's our plan for him?' We felt like we could get eight, 10, 12 good plays out of him, keep other guys fresh, that would be a good idea. He was in there for 30-something plus snaps and he played extremely hard. Didn't do everything right, but his effort and strength helped us. He held the point.
"I wish he would have made that catch," Petrino said of a possible interception that turned into Trent Richardson's 61-yard TD reception. "That would have helped, too. He's playing with a broken finger so we've got to get that thing healed up and ready to go.
"Chris Smith played hard," Petrino continued. "He does a good job rushing the passer. He did tire. He did wear down. So we've got to find some help there, some guys we can rotate."
Petrino has always prided himself on having a great offense, but says this year's offense does not have an identity yet and that is something he is unhappy about.
"Offensively we need to get better at doing what we do: running the ball, play action, throwing it and being consistent," Petrino said. "Not operating at a helter-skelter pace and really being consistent in how we operate."
The Arkansas coach said after Saturday's loss that some hard decisions had to be made.
"Well, I think really understanding what it is, what are we doing on offense? What are we operating on offense. How are we going to block the offensive front? How are we going to protect the quarterback better? You know? Those type of things about, I still don't feel good about what it is we do after four weeks into the season," Petrino said. "That's really what I was talking about. What's our identity? What are we going to hang our hat on offensively? How are we going to find a way to run the ball to take some pressure off the passing game?"
Petrino referred to a sign in his locker room when asked if that means possible moves and changes in coaching style.
"I mean, it includes everything." Petrino said. "It includes everything. The sign that we have up: ‘Every single thing matters.' So every single thing will be evaluated."
That includes on why quarterback Tyler Wilson is getting hit so much.
"It's everything," Petrino said. "It's protection. It's the timing of the routes. It's the offensive line one-on-one sometimes. It's getting the ball out of your hand sometimes in time. It's trusting in your protection sometimes and not moving in the pocket. So that's what I'm talking about, where we get everything working in sync."
He thinks he will learn a lot about his team this week in how it responds to the loss.
"We're going to find out really, I think," Petrino said. "We went down there and got beat in all three phases. That always challenges you, how we're going to come back, what our attitude's going to be, what our work ethic is going to be. I'm excited to get to practice tomorrow and see that, see what our players' attitudes are going to be, who's going to take over the leadership and provide the energy that we need in practice."