"We can't make the mental mistakes we did and win against good people like that," Smith said Monday when he met with the media at the Broyles Center.
Arkansas travels to Starkville to play Mississippi State in a 11:21 a.m. game this week. The Hogs are 4-6, 2-4 in the SEC. State is 7-3, but has lost three straight (to Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU).
"Had we not shot ourselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers," Smith said, "things we can clean up, we could have been in a tie game at halftime.
"We'll continue to get better and go to the practice field and work, like we have. Hopefully, we don't make those mental mistakes. There are going to be some young mistakes, but we just have to minimize them."
Smith was asked when the Hogs might get back running back Knile Davis, tight end Chris Gragg and linebacker Terrell Williams.
Davis has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury sustained against Ole Miss. Smith said Davis participated in the team run Sunday night. Williams was out with an indefinite suspension last week.
Smith said he's optimistic of Davis coming back this week, but "not as optimistic" on the return Gragg. Gragg has missed the last two games after aggravating an injury first sustained against Rutgers.
"In talking to Knile last night, he feels better," Smith said. "He had a good weekend of treatment. I'm more optimistic of him playing this week than with Gragg.
"With Gragg, it's a question of whether it's totally tightened up, or not. We don't want to put him out there before he's ready. We want him to be able to protect himself and not be out there and injure it again on one leg."
The Hogs will have to wait and see on the status of return specialist Nate Holmes, who added some plays at running back last week. He sustained what Smith said was an injury "above the shoulders" against Carolina.
"You keep your fingers crossed," Smith said. "That takes awhile. There is test after test as they monitor the progress."
Smith said there is no update on the status of Williams, suspended last week after an alcohol-related arrest. Williams had taken over the starting spot at middle linebacker after injuries to Tenarius Wright and Alonzo Highsmith.
"There is nothing to update," Smith said. "He's still earning his way back and working his way back on this team. There are still things for him to do. That's the best answer I can give you."
There was good and bad to the play of starting inside linebackers A. J. Turner and Otha Peters, both true freshman. It was the first start for Peters, third for Turner. South Carolina went after the linebackers early in the game.
"They could get us in certain coverages, then isolate (the linebackers)," Smith said. "They'd go in that direction. We just have to make sure we align correctly and can't lose our eyes for an instant as someone goes by. Those are young mistakes.
"They have to know where they fit in the run and who they have in pass. It would always be handy to have a vet beside them to direct traffic, when there is motion -- to tell them, you go from him to him."
The Hogs did shoot themselves in the foot in the first half. They turned loose receivers with their young linebackers and defensive backs, but their most experienced offensive players also made critical errors on offense. Cobi Hamilton was not lined up correctly for the illegal formation penalty that wiped out a 39-yard pass play on the first possession of the game.
Along with Hamilton's penalty for illegal formation, the Hogs had a critical illegal formation penalty that wiped out the potential tying touchdown in a loss to Ole Miss. Smith was asked what's causing the rash of illegal formation penalties.
"I think if you go back and look, there may not be any more this year than in past years," he said. "But we've had two big ones in our last two losses. The one that cost us a football game -- and I can't comment too much on officials -- wasn't right.
"If you talk to Cobi, he will tell you he was wrong. We tried to get his attention on this one (at Carolina). We did get the attention of the officials. We were yelling. But we didn't get Cobi's attention."
Smith said there are going to be times when the officials help you get the alignment right with a word to the wide out and sometimes they don't.
"They'll give you the benefit of the doubt at times and you see where a tackle in a punt formation might not be right, but they let that go," Smith said. "Most times they do. Then sometimes they don't give you that benefit of the doubt. Some do it, some don't."
Smith said he's pleased with the effort and improvement by a lot of the youngsters on the team.
"I compliment the young guys who are playing," he said. "A lot of them are stepping up. We are demanding more of them and asking them to do more. Guys like Jonathan Williams, D'Arthur Cowan, Mekale McKay, Nate Holmes, A. J. Turner, Otha Peters, Rohan Gaines, Will Hines and Trey Flowers -- they are really getting better each day, each practice and each game."
Smith said one of the challenges this week would be to meet the physicality of the State lines, on both sides of the ball. He said that's always where MSU has fielded solid players. The difference this year, the Bulldogs are getting solid play at quarterback from Tyler Russell.
So how have the UA linemen fared this year?
"Offensively, it's been sporadic (in the offensive line)," Smith said. "If I had to pick one, I'd say Travis Swanson has been pretty darn consistent. Everyone has their week to be up and down, but he's been our most most consistent lineman.
"Alvin Bailey, for the most part, has been pretty darn consistent, too. We all need to be more physical up front. I also have to credit Tyler Deacon for being pretty good.
"At tackle, we've been up and down all year. We've had some good practices and good games, but we need to be more physical right there."
Defensively, the line has held its own in most games.
"In terms of that side, Jared Green, Alfred Davis -- and all of those guys inside at nose and tackle -- they've been good and given us the chance to spell each other.
"At end, we've gotten good play from Trey Flowers -- he made some plays this past week -- and the week earlier (against Tulsa) Chris Smith did. The backups, with Colton Miles-Nash doing pretty well, have been providing consistent play.
"As I look at the defensive line, they have been pretty consistent. They have been more consistent and physical than the offensive line. But I can't fault all of those guys for the way they go to the practice field and work. They couldn't work any better."
The Bulldogs have improved their passing game with Russell. The 6-4 junior has tied the school record with six 200-yard passing games this season. He averages 224.9 per game and put up 209 (Bama), 212 (A&M) and 304 (LSU) the last three weeks.
"I'm not sure they have had the player at quarterback that they do now," Smith said. "They are getting great play this year and that is what really stands out."
The Bulldogs opened with a 7-0 start, but ran into three powerhouses the last three weeks. Smith said he'd always rather play a team coming off a string of losses.
"You'd rather play a team that has lost three straight than one that had won three straight," Smith said. "But all I know is that they have an awful good team. You know this, you better worry about yourself. We have to get better this week. That's our focus.
"You would like to be the one that goes and gives them their fourth straight loss. We can use that (as motivation)."
The Bulldogs have been good against the pass. State gives up just 216 passing yards per game and has intercepted 12 passes. The Bulldogs have been intercepted just four times.
"Pass defense is their strength," said Tyler Wilson, the Arkansas quarterback. "They've done a good job of creating turnovers. So they go get the ball and try to get it back in the hands of their offense. We have to study how they do that."
Someone suggested that the Hogs were now out of bowl contention after falling to 4-6, but Wilson said that's not the case.
"We know the number is six," he said. "We are going to continue to fight. We are going to be prideful. Everyone on the team is going to continue to go to the field and fight. I know you guys in 20 years can still go back an archive every one of my throws. So I'm going to continue to do everything to make them right and represent this state.
"We know that it's six wins (to become bowl eligible) and we can go to Mississippi State and get one and then have another chance the next week.
"We are going to work on our attention to detail because we know the difference between wins and losses is so small. We know having a guy on the ball one play and not the next is so small, but it can be the play that costs you. We take pride about everything. If we do it all right, I think we can win both these games."