Opening Week

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has never lost an opener as a head coach, but knows that the University of Louisiana - formerly known at Louisiana-Lafayette - will put that perfect mark to the test Saturday in Fayetteville at 3 p.m.

New Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema is 7-0 in season openers, but he knows to keep that clean sheet that the Razorbacks will have to play very well Saturday at 3 p.m.

That's because they will face the football team formerly known as Louisiana-Lafayette - going officially now by the University of Louisiana - is not your normal sacrificial lamb and has in fact won 18 games and two bowls in that time.

"It hasn't all been easy," Bielema said of the unbeaten record. "This is probably not your typical opener seeing as it is a bowl win team that won nine games, won 10 games before that. The thing about openers is that it really does get down to how you handle adversity. Something is going to pop up and you can't have that 'woe is me,' you can't have anybody flinching, you have to have people focusing on getting the moment right.

"I go back to my first-ever opener as a head coach," Bielema added. "We were at Cleveland Browns Stadium, playing Ball State and they just went right down the field and scored a touchdown. Our offense answered right away and then they came right back down the field and our defensive guys settled in and went on and played a pretty clean game and went on to win 12 games that year.

"Again, as coaches we have to weather the storm," Bielema continued. "We have got to give them great examples on how to handle those situations."

While a double-digit underdog to Arkansas, Sun Belt favorite Louisiana is nevertheless rated above the Razorbacks in polls because of an easier 2013 schedule.

The Ragin' Cajuns nearly upset Florida last season in Gainesville with the Gators needing to score twice late to avoid the upset.

"Well, they come in with tremendous confidence," Bielema said. "I've seen it in their coach's comments, you know... Again, a lot of those kids last year had Florida down to the wire. They're going to look at film from a year ago and my guess is they've looked at some Wisconsin film. You know the game of football is so much driven by confidence that they've won a lot of games.

"On the same account, we're a team that's in the SEC," Bielema added. "We expect to have success. The great thing about these early season games, a lot of it can swing on emotion. I'm glad we're playing at home. I like the fact that we've got a group of guys that have been a little bit picked to be the underdog.

"I know in the preseason rankings, I saw where their program was ranked in the 30s to 40s in the country and we were ranked in the 80s," Bielema continued. "I think there's fuel to the fire wherever we look. Now we've just got to be able to go perform."

Louisiana is led by head coach Mark Hudspeth - looked upon as one of the rising stars among coaches - and quarterback Terrance Broadway (6-2, 211), a University of Houston transfer.

"The University of Louisiana basically has got everybody back that makes them go," Bielema said. "A tremendous challenge for us out of the gate here, one that I think our kids are very, very much locked into."

Broadway took over after an injury last season and passed for nearly 3,000 yards while rushing for over 700.

"Coach (Hudspeth) has done a tremendous job," Bielema said. "Offensively they are very very creative, led by their quarterback, No. 8 is an exceptional player. I was very shocked to learn that he got that starting role after an injury just because he looked like a natural. Obviously he makes that whole offense go."

Some of the other top players for Louisiana include junior running back Alonzo Harris (881 yards last season) and junior middle linebacker Justin Anderson, who had 105 tackles last season.

"I think they are very, very talented at the skill positions," Bielema added. " I think the running back, No. 46 is an exceptional player. They have a host of wide receivers, some they lost a year ago but it sounds like they have a number of guys who have stepped into that role.

"Offensive line wise they had to replace a couple of starters but they are very, very active," Bielema continued. "Defensively I think they are going to be led up front. Their defensive ends are very, very good, very big players. Their Mike linebacker is the most active guy from a year ago. I just like the way he plays and have a lot of respect for what he does. They are replacing some guys on the edges at the corner position. The safeties have played a lot of football."

Bielema said he has just his normal coaching attitude going into this week's game.

"It really doesn't feel any different for me," Bielema said. " Obviously, different environment, different setting. Walk into a new facility. Got a new coaching staff, I think that probably is where all my thoughts are, really, more than anything. Excitement.

"We're going to change some things game day wise," Bielema said. "You're going to see some new things. Really try to embrace some traditions of old. We'll run out through the A, but we're trying to be a lot more interactive with the student section, in particular.

"I've asked for some things to be created," Bielema continued. "I really like the fact our student section is called the trough. We want to appeal to that to our players to make sure they connect with the students they go to school with on a daily basis, kind of build that up. I'd like to increase some things. I know we've got a great crowd; I know they're full of energy ... 3 o'clock, they've got a couple of hours of tailgating in them that they should be full of fun, if we give them that product."

He did note that he wanted the crowd to be especially loud when the opponent had a third down.

"Just a little thing, we might do a modified Hog call," Bielema said. "... I wanted something on defense where we can kind of hang our hat so when we're going against an opponent and it's third down, I'd like to get that crowd as loud as we can to make it very, very difficult to make any checks at the line of scrimmage, any post-snap communication, something I know this crowd's very, very capable of doing."

Monday was the first day of school for Arkansas and an off day for the Razorbacks, who had a Sunday practice.

"I know I'm excited, just because it's a chance for me to see exactly what we have," Bielema said. "You have a certain indication, a certain belief, but as a head coach you really don't know what you've got until the bullets start flying. We did some team goals the other night and I was very excited, one of the first things out of their mouths offensively was 'no pre-snap penalties.'

"I mean, that's something I've been saying since Day One, but for it to come out their mouth, it means everything to me," Bielema said. "They talked about being a champion in adverse situations. That's something that we talk about, harp about constantly. I don't think they're just giving lip service. I think these kids know what we expect. I think they're buying into it 100 times over.

"The energy, the excitement around campus has been second to none," Bielema continued. "I think when we can marry those things together, some good things might happen."


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