It remains to be seen if Paul Haynes can take the Arkansas defense all the way to No. 1, but he did the tighten up in the last four weeks and it will likely land the Razorbacks in the top five.
"That's all we did different, just tighten things up a little," Haynes said. "We had to tighten up the defensive ends and stop the run on first and second down."
The Hogs were plenty tight on the way to a 29-16 victory in the Cotton Bowl. They stopped the north-south running of Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein perhaps better than anyone could have imagined.
Klein had befuddled fronts all season with his tough inside running and slight of hand in the option. The 6-5, 225-pound junior presented just the kind of dual threat ability at quarterback that had befuddled the Hogs for several seasons.
Klein made just 42 net yards on 24 rushes, thanks to six sacks for 29 yards in losses. But it was the way the ends controlled the K-State tackles on running downs that set the tone for the sacks.
"We just had to be gap sound," Haynes said. "It was all up to our front seven against Klein. It started with stopping his running.
"What they did up front gave us a chance. Then our back end guys did a great job of keeping their eyes right."
Haynes did admit that the change in technique with the defensive ends "was a little bit different." He said he wanted them "to sacrifice for the team."
That came in the form of fewer up the field moves to limit the inside holes for Klein.
"It's option football," Wright said. "We had to play a tight five-man front. We had to play a physical game instead of a speed game. Then we really worked on getting our tackling tighter. We were in a tackling mode with drills really all through our bowl practices.
"We had to get our hands on their offensive tackles and control them. We had to hold our gaps and be sound."
Haynes said it was "fun" to watch it all unfold on the field.
"It really was," he said. "A lot of fun. I thought it was a team effort. It was a team effort from both our assistant coaches and our players. To see it come together was a lot of fun."
Bequette and Wright were at the forefront of the effort.
"Instead of playing them wide, we had to tighten them down," Haynes said. "We had to stop the run and key on their quarterback. Then, as we did that, we were able to get the edge guys loose to rush him in certain situations.
"We told them they were going to have to make a sacrifice for the team. They were going to have to sit in there a little longer. They did that. I think what they did set a great example for the younger players who saw them do that and it will be great for us as we move forward."
Wright said it was a "more patient approach. We knew their quarterback saw his holes well. All week we preached tackling him on every play. We knew that we had to control those offensive tackles with our hands and keep things inside."
It led to pass rush opportunties as the game progressed.
"He's not a pocket passer, but that's what we wanted to make him," Wright said. "And we made it tough for him to find any holes. We did sacrifice. And we did get after him pretty good."
Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino was asked to recall the difference in the defense from the last time it played in Cowboys Stadium -- without Wright and Bequette.
"That's right, they weren't with us then, were they?" Petrino said. "The first thing they did a nice job of was understanding they were going to play a huge role in stopping the run.
"Jake loves to rush the passer and so does Tenarius. This game was about us needing them to stop this run, stop this quarterback. We tightened them up.
"They did a great job on the tackles, did a great job of keeping our linebackers free. They really understood the situations of the game.
"Once it became third down, they widened out and teed off, made huge plays for us. The turnover early and the sacks helped. They're both very, very good players."
Bequette said the defense had something to prove in the Cotton Bowl.
"We came into this game with kind of a chip on our shoulders," Bequette said. "Coach Haynes did an excellent job preparing us. We knew that on first and second down if we could stop the run, get them in third-and-long, we'd have a great chance to tee off on the quarterback.
"We stayed patient, played our gaps, didn't bounce around too much. When we had the opportunity to get off, really make things happen in the passing game, we did that."
Petrino liked the plan.
"Coach Haynes and our defensive staff did a really nice job on the plan," Petrino said. "Our players came out and executed it well. I thought we played very, very fast.
"Our defensive front controlled the line of scrimmage, both when they ran the ball and in the pass rush. I think we held them to 87 yards rushing, which was a spectacular job by our defense. We also pressured the quarterback, hit him, caused fumbles.
"I think that's the key. Anytime we made them throw, our defensive front teed off and had, what, six sacks."
Haynes didn't want any credit.
"Really, this wasn't about me," he said. "I tried to keep from doing too much. There were just a few things I wanted to do at this point. I just wanted us gap sound and to concentrate on tackling.
"We stressed tackling in our preparations. We just had to make sure we tackled. It felt great to watch them compete tonight.
"As far as what I did, it was about fitting in with the coaches and the players. I wanted to fit in with this senior class and make sure it was about them. That was important for this game.
"It's always going to be about stopping the run. That's where it starts. So we stressed that. We challenged them to get the run stopped. When you do that, then it's going to be third and long and then you can turn those guys loose."