Road Trip

Arkansas head coach John L. Smith talks about trying to keep his team positive during its current struggles and what kind of challenge that Texas A&M will present this Saturday.

While this Saturday's Arkansas game at Texas A&M will likely be nothing like the three previous match-ups between the two, Razorback coach John L. Smith is holding onto one thing.

That's the fact that the Razorbacks (1-3) have beaten the Aggies (2-1) those last three match-ups – albeit all were at Cowboys Stadium and not Kyle Field, where this Saturday's 11:21 a.m. contest will be held.

"Even though it doesn't mean anything, they can look back and say, we have played well against these guys," Smith said on the SEC Teleconference. "We have been able to come back against these guys, we have been able to beat these guys. So let's approach it as such. I think it is a benefit for us and it's something we try to point to as well as coaches, saying that we've been fortunate in the past to go down there and play well."

Smith is searching for positives with his team having lost three straight home games , including a 35-26 decision to Rutgers last weekend.

"We hung in there and battled last week and there were some very positive things that I think we've tried to build on this week," Smith said. "The fact we did believe, and we battled, and we fought as hard as we have done this year. So that was a positive.

" ... There were some portions of our team that really played their best game," Smith added. "For instance, our D-line probably played their best game, so we've tried to build on those things ... But the bottom line is consistency and making sure we play good enough to win. We're trying to correct those things, and we're going out and preparing for Texas A&M, wanting to go down there and win."

The Razorbacks may have to play without injured star tight end Chris Gragg, who suffered a leg bruise in last week's loss.

"We have to kind of plan that Chris is going to be limited at best," Smith said. "So what we try to do is say, ‘OK, where can we look? How can we throw it? How do we spread it around?' And do all of those things. We do have some tight ends that can step in and play, and (Austin) Tate has done a good job up to this point, and will continue. He'll be thrown into that situation, and he'll do a good job."

Smith notes that Arkansas' first road game this season will also be his first trip to College Station.

"This is our first road trip of the season," Smith said. " I guess a true road trip, even though we've been to Little Rock. We're excited about that. Our vets will help with our young guys on how we travel and what's expected of them.

"I know I've never been to College Station," Smith added. "I'm sure most of our players have not. Going to a historic place and playing is a great challenge for us, and they're an awful good football team. ... We're preparing to go down and get that done and looking forward to it."

Texas A&M is led by elusive quarterback Johnny Manziel, who has led a balanced attack has exploded for 119 points in wins over SMU and South Carolina State the past two Saturdays.

"The biggest thing is they're up-tempo, they're running a number of plays," Smith said. "Their ability to throw the football. We have to be able to get guys in, get guys out, get guys substituted, all of those things, to stay fresh enough to keep fighting that battle. That's one thing we've been working on a bunch as far as trying to get what guys we have in and substitute without making mistakes ... That's been a big deal for us."

Sumlin had a high-powered, up-tempo offense at Houston and has brought that to Texas A&M.

"What they do and what Kevin always does with the offense is tremendous," Smith said. "He gets rid of the ball and throws it around, and they're able to score a lot of points. But I think their quarterback is a special kid, so that stands out.

"Defensive side of the ball, they're very sound, very well coached team, in all three aspects of the game," Smith added. "I look at their defense and they're very strong, very good. But again, the one thing, as I look at all of the film, and it just jumps at you, is that kid pulling the trigger for them."

The Aggies also have a special teams star in punt returner Dustin Harris, who had 246 yards on eight returns last week.

"You look at him on film, and at least right now he's probably the best return guy in the country," Smith said. "Very special. Does a great job of catching the ball, of course ... Guys like that come around and it's not a matter of coaching, it's a matter of getting them started and then they have great vision, and great ability. It's just like Joe (Adams) was for us a year ago."

Smith refused to use injuries as an excuse for his team's struggles.

"We're going to go to the field and prepare as best we can, and whoever is thrown out there, whoever is going to go out there and play, they have to do the very best job," Smith said. "… Even though there's been inconsistencies with that, we can't use that as an excuse. We have to gain consistency and not lose consistency, even though we may be losing players. We just have to fight through that and play good enough to win."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories