Tuesday Grid Update, 9/3
It's a new month, but that's about all the Arkansas players said is different about Tuesday's practice compared to last week as 1-0 Arkansas prepares for Samford and the first Little Rock game of the season. Nothing else is different.
"We've still got a chip on our shoulders," said Travis Swanson, the Arkansas center who had an amazing 16 knockdown blocks in the season opening 34-14 victory over Louisiana.
"We put that game behind us. We know a lot of people picked us to lose and there is no reason to change our attitude. I think you have to play this game with an edge. I have felt that's the way to play football every since I got here.
"We haven't arrived or done anything yet. We went back to work. It's always going to be a big work day on Tuesday and Wednesday every week. We went hard today."
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said the game doesn't ever change in that respect.
"All good teams play with a chip," Chaney said. "Good teams understand that you get 12 tests on the season. To continue to pass those tests, you better continue to develop. I think they understand that.
"I thought today's practice was physical and their minds were in the right place. We emphasized finishing plays."
Swanson wasn't sure how to react to his 16 knockdown blocks.
"First, I never kept track," he said. "I wouldn't think I had ever been in double digits.
"I think what I took from the game more than that was the execution across the offense. That was the good thing I saw on tape, the overall play of the entire unit. The offense as a whole played well. Now we have to do it again."
Offensive line coach Sam Pittman said he does keep track each week.
"I was trying to look back and I had a center at Oklahoma, Matt O'Neal, with 16," Pittman said. "I don't believe anybody else had more than eight or nine. If you are over 10, that's pretty salty."
The game plan did include a lot of Swanson pulling on the edge, unusual for a center. Fullback Kiero Small was also featured on those perimeter plays.
"One of the schemes we had in the plan was with Small and Swanson leading," Pittman said. "Those are two of our better players."
Small also got seven touches in the offense, but said the blocking was enough to keep him satisfied.
"I really didn't think about how many I might get as far as touches," he said. "I just wanted to get a win. I feel good anytime we get a win. Touches don't matter. I'm not a pretty boy, any shape or form. As far as those three catches, I'm not (NFL receiver) Calvin Johnson any shape or form."
But although the running game was featured to the tune of 292 net yards, most who came in the offensive interviews Tuesday night were equally proud of the 230 passing yards.
"The big thing is that we were physical and we also had balance in our offense," Swanson said. "That is one of our goals, to maintain balance. We had a good game plan and accomplished that."
Pittman said pass protection was alright, but left room for improvement.
"We don't want our quarterback to be hit," Pittman said. "We allowed Brandon Allen to be hit once and sacked another time.
"We blocked the right people most of the time, but have to improve our protection. I thought we TRIED to play physical and played fast for the most part. But we got tired, but so did the other team and that helped us some.
"I was pleased for a first game, but there is a long way for us to go with this offensive line. What we worked on today is to pull into that hole a little better and finish a little better.
"I think that right side of the offensive line, Grady Ollison and Brey Cook, are starting to play together. And then, we have Travis and Kiero. We ran some to the right, on the weakside. But we have one of our strengths, our center and fullback, that we can go right or left with on the toss play. I'm not sure what (Louisiana) was doing with their boundary and field play, but we have the ability to go either way.
"We want a little better effort. I think we started out well with our pad level and maintained it through the end of the first half. The pad level was good to start the second half, but then we got tired and started playing a little too high. I think if we'd finished the game off by hunkering back down with good pad level, we might not have had to give up the ball and fun the clock out. That has to be our goal.
"I thought we had a good day today, with pad level. We worked on finishing and we did that today."
Running back Jonathan Williams called it a "good start to a 1-0 week, what we talk about every day. We practiced today with the 1-0 mentality."
Williams, who led the Hogs with 152 yards, said it was a pleasure to follow Small's lead blocks.
"I liked watching the tape at him moving to running back and seeing him get those first downs," Williams said. "He has a big impact on the game. He's cutting and knocking people down. I think the whole team was physical. That's what I saw in the tape."
The goal is to maintain the same focus this week. Chaney said Samford plays "an over front, similar to our defense with quarter coverage in the secondary, then they get exotic on third down. What we have to do is focus on ourselves and continue to grade ourselves against what we do. That's what we are going to do no matter who we play."
Pittman said, "As long as we beat what we've done and as long as we get better and as long as we continue to improve our leverage, our pad level, we are going to progress. We want to beat what we did the previous week."
Tight end Hunter Henry said he saw plenty of things to fix, including a fumble, a drop, penalties and just overall play.
"The fumble shouldn't have happened," he said. "First, I ran the wrong route. If I'd turned the right way, slipped into the zone the right way, I wouldn't have gotten hit that way. So taking care of the little things would have changed that play. And I didn't tuck it fast enough, either. I ran into traffic, instead of out of it and that was because of the route.
"We still have a lot of improvement we can make as a team. I can play better. I can work on pad level and play more physical.
"I think one of the good things is that we did show some balance with the passing game. That part was great. We go out with the mindset that balance is important every game. We want physical play, but balance is just as important."
Small thinks the Hogs will continue to have that balance.
"I think it's because we have a quarterback who understands the checks and reads," Small said. "I'm so proud of Brandon Allen. He's grown so much from the spring. He knows this offense and he understands the checks that will help us maintain that balance."
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