Tuesday Grid Update, 9/24

Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and several players talk about shaking off last week's loss at Rutgers and correcting both execution and effort headed into this weekend's game with visiting Texas A&M.

While Arkansas redshirt sophomore starting quarterback Brandon Allen did take a few snaps in Tuesday's practice, he still can't even throw a pass according to Razorback offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.

So it's full speed ahead with back-up junior signal caller A.J. Derby and true freshman quarterback Austin Allen as Arkansas (3-1) prepares to host No. 10 Texas A&M on Saturday night at 6 p.m.

But Chaney made it clear that everybody on the team had a hand in what turned into a 28-24 loss at Rutgers and things must change quickly.

"I wouldn't single out any group at all, but I just don't think that anybody played at the level that we wanted them to play at," Chaney said after Tuesday's practice. "I don't think anybody was happy with the we performed.

"It was not necessarily the MAs (missed assignments) and mistakes we made, but it was the way we competed," Chaney added. "We are better than that. We can play harder than that, we can play with more discipline than that and I think our kids witnessed that on video and they showed today by going out and practicing a little harder.

"We will see how that goes tomorrow," Chaney added "Every day is a step in college football and we will see if we continue down the right path. Expectations are that we will."

True freshman tailback Alex Collins, who was held to 69 yards rushing and under 100 for the first time in his four-game career, felt like his team relaxed in the fourth quarter after being up 17.

"During the fourth quarter we just didn't have any motivation," Collins said. "We weren't into the game anymore and that is just something that we have to work on – finishing strong.

"We were up on them, had a big lead and I guess everybody just relaxed a little bit," Collins added. "It hurt us in the end."

Collins says the loss didn't shake his confidence or that of backfield partner Jonathan Williams.

"We had a rough game and we just have to bounce back from it," Collins said. "It doesn't hurt my confidence at all. I am still going to run the ball hard. It is not about stats, necessarily. It is about doing what it takes to help our team win. If 69 yards is what it takes to get the team a win, I am fine with that."

All-SEC center Travis Swanson was disappointed in how his group played in the loss.

"The biggest thing is that obviously it was not up to par with what we wanted," Swanson said. "It wasn't good. But I think the thing that I took away from it is that there were easy things to fix and it is not real catastrophic things that are going to make everything fall apart.

"It was frustrating, obviously," Swanson said. "But looking back at film, it was just good to see that and we can take it into this week and fix them as we head into this game."

Teams are loading the box against Arkansas and that was certainly something that Rutgers did.

"I have always had the thought that they have just as many guys on that side of the ball as we do on our side," Swanson said. "So we have to line up and play smash mouth football, which I think is our identity here.

"People can say they are going to load the box and you can't run it, but I think we are always going to go for the balanced look that we have tried to get this year and it will open things up."

Chaney was asked if the offense would be opened up with A&M expected to load the box, too.

"I think it is like anything we do," Chaney said. "The more familiarity that we have, the better we are at it. As far as opening up the offense, we would love to do that. If we have to do that, we want to do that.

"We are sitting there this past week at 24-7 almost through the third and my mindset was not ‘hey, let's start winging it all over.' My mindset was let's do what we do in the fourth quarter.

"Unfortunately, we were unable to do so," Chaney added. "We couldn't manufacture first downs and we put the defense in bad situations and we didn't get it done on the offensive side of the ball. We are real disappointed about that.

"But as far as opening it up, I think our kids understand the passing game enough that if we need to go out and throw it a bunch (this week), we could do that," Chaney continued. "We would prefer not to do that if we don't have to, but our wide receivers and quarterbacks are ready to do that."

The passing game should get a boost with the return of sophomore wide receiver D'Arthur Cowan, who the Razorback coaches deemed the most impressive receiver in preseason camp.

That was before he injured his foot and had to miss the first four games. He went through his first full in-season practice on Tuesday.

"We have a great game plan going into Saturday," Cowan said. "… We are just focusing in on the game plan and trying to stay on the field and do what we have to do to win the game."

Chaney praised the work of Derby in practice on Tuesday.

"I think he did a real good job today with all the new install," Chaney said. "I think he is improving all the time. The quarterback position – you can't manufacture that experience and every time he is walking into the huddle now he is doing it with more confidence than he did a week ago.

"That's a good thing and I am excited about him," Chaney added. "I think he got better today."

Does Chaney believe there has been progression in the passing game with Derby?

"Certainly I do," Chaney said. "There is no question about it. I am getting more comfortable with him throwing the football and he is getting more comfortable within the system."

Austin Allen continues to improve as well according to Chaney.

"Sure he is," Chaney said. "Just calling plays. Sometimes the plays get awfully wordy and young kids have so much to think about and it is hard on them. It is hard on these true freshmen to come in here and you ask them to do things.

"But he is better today than he was a week ago and he will be better in a week than he is today," Chaney added. "That is our job – to continue the growth and development of those young kids."

Chaney stated one clear difference in Derby – who played quarterback in three games at Iowa as a redshirt freshman and 10 games as a sophomore in junior college.

"He (Derby) has been there in the huddle before," Chaney said. "It matters."

Collins said Derby has the full support of his teammates.

"We all have a lot of faith in him and think he is a leader and going to get it done for us this weekend," Collins said. "We all have to do it together."

Arkansas will be facing a Texas A&M defense that has not been that great this season.

The Aggies are giving up an average of 475.2 yards of total offense in wins over Rice, Sam Houston State and SMU and a 49-42 home loss to No. 1 Alabama.

That includes an average of 218.2 yards rushing and 257 yards via the air.

"I think they are not void of talent," Chaney said. "They have a bunch of big kids and they are trying to find their way a little bit, but I tell you what when they get it right they play very solid defense. They have athletes all over the field.

"Like I say, it's week in, week out," Chaney added. "It is just the way it is. We are going to go up against some good football players and we are excited about it. I look for them to come in here hungry and ready to play."

Chaney knows keeping the Texas A&M offense – averaging 50 points and 602 yards of total offense per game with quarterback Johnny Manziel pulling the trigger – off the field is a key.

"I think if we have the ball that benefits us a lot," Chaney said. "Our job is to go out there and execute our offense. It is all about execution and we have got to be able to go out there and do that from the beginning of the game to the end of the game.

"We can not have valleys," Chaney added. "We have got to stay in front of the chains and we have got to enjoy doing what we are doing. We will see how it goes."

Jonathan Williams

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