Fending Off Frustration

Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema - who has a 71-28 career coaching record in eight years - knows that coaches, players and fans are frustrated with the current four-game losing streak, but says it will not deter his push ahead to rebuild the Razorbacks.

At no point in his thoughts did first-year Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema expect to be having this type of Monday press conference.

One after being thoroughly dominated by No. 14 South Carolina to the tune of 52-7 at home with the visitors holding massive advantages in total offense (537 to 248), time of possession (43:25 to 16:35), snaps (89 to 37) and first downs (32 to 7).

One after a frustrated fan base has spent the weekend going after him, his assistants and his players for their fourth straight loss .

"I knew it was going to be extremely difficult," noted Bielema, who entered the season 71-24 as a head coach and has never had a losing season. "Didn't plan on giving up 55 points – that is tough to take.

"It is not so much hard on me because I've been through it and had shots fired at me," Bielema added. "I don't get overly concerned about the outside world, but for my support staff, for my seniors. I wanted to give my seniors the best year they could have.

"I didn't know what that was going to be, didn't know how many wins that was going to equate to – I just wanted it to be a better ending that what others had projected for them," Bielema continued. "It is hard on those around me, but I can't let them both me too much. You have just got to make sure it doesn't affect the younger guys. Those younger guys have got to keep coming along as strong as possible."





The loss - just ahead of Saturday's game at No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0) for Arkansas (3-4, 0-3) - also came with a injury that ended the Razorback career of senior defensive tackle Robert Thomas.

"From an injury standpoint, Robert (Thomas) has had surgery on Sunday evening," Bielema said. "Everything was a positive from that standpoint, but that is probably a three to four-month injury so obviously he won't play for the Razorbacks again.

"It was a very difficult day for him yesterday and I thanked him," Bielema added. "I saw him this morning and he said he did enough crying yesterday and is focusing on the positives. We will help him through the next couple of months.

"The great thing about that is he already has got his degree and for him to grow as much as I think he did in the last six months with us," Bielema continued. "One of the few guys that from Day One was just unbelievable…If I had a problem or an issue with any position he would bring that kid in and sit him down on my couch and I would talk real with him and for that I will be ever forever indebted to him. A tough loss there."

Ironically, his replacement will be redshirt freshman and Alabama native Darius Philon, who signed with the Razorbacks after having his scholarship pulled by Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban on signing day and being asked to grayshirt.

"The good news is at the defensive tackle position Darius Philon has come and really played well," Bielema said. "He will replace him in the lineup. A couple of other guys, Horace Arkadie and (DeMarcus) Hodge both have been coming along really, really well. Hodge the last two games has played his best games."

It would seem like a mighty tall task for Arkansas – which has lost a school-record seven straight SEC games – to be competitive with the two-time defending national champions on Saturday.

Alabama is favored by over 25 points in the contest, but Bielema notes his team will still go to Tuscaloosa even though the Razorbacks haven't beaten the Crimson Tide since a 2006 Arkansas 24-23 win in Fayetteville.

That's when Houston Nutt and Mike Shula were the head coaches at the schools.

Alabama escaped an upset bid 24-20 in Fayetteville in 2010, but have routed Arkansas 38-14 and 52-0 the last two contests.

"I say don't be a Debbie Downer, you know," Bielema noted. "Just because history's happened in the past doesn't mean it needs to repeat itself. That's an easy way to go. It's an easy, simple way of thinking. If you want to get out of this doldrums, if you want to move forward as a person, you take pride in what just happened, realize that when you get beat that way, obviously you're embarrassed. A lot of things you could have done better, and you definitely want to do it.

"... I think one of the things we've got to try to escape is just overall," Bielema added. "It's kind of blown me away that there's such a focal point or a blow-up of a bad situation. I mean, it's the same team that's done some pretty positive things. The goings getting a little bit tough, and our guys revert back to that, and it's just something you have to get out of your system.

"And unfortunately, it's nothing you can do during practice, that ‘Woe's me,' that feeling sorry for yourself when things go bad," Bielema continued. "It's nowhere in a championship-level team. It's nowhere to be found, and anybody that's had success."

Bielema offered up an explanation as to how his team has to better handle adversity.

... You know, we had an interception," Bielema said. "The next four plays, next four trips are three-and-outs. There's only one guy that threw the pick, there's only one guy that the receiver jumped in front of. How it affects the other 9 guys so negatively is beyond me.

" It's something that we talk about," Bielema said. "Last week, that was our No. 1 emphasis - adversity. When adversity strikes, you don't try and fight it alone. You fight it together, and I think that's the part that we've got to rally around. Everybody's got to step up a little bit better, starting with me as a head coach and all our assistants. That's the No. 1 thing plaguing our program right now."

He was actually happy to see some on-field frustration showed by center Travis Swanson and tailback Alex Collins on Saturday because it shows they care.

"If you weren't unhappy with how things were happening out there, I would be concerned 100 percent," Bielema said. "Alex was frustrated. I mean, he wants to have the ball every play. You know, but it was kind of like this. You know, I felt like the Keon (Hatcher 50-yard) run and the Alex (29-yard) run, hopefully those are both going to result in scores. Those are big momentum plays. Alex is within a couple inches of getting in, and Keon has a huge play to give us a little mojo. And they both end in fumbles. Now, woulda, coulda, they were fumbles.

"We were loose with ball security, and that's why you fumbled the ball," Bielema added. "Was it great effort? Absolutely. But there's no reason ... Don't mistake effort for technique. I can have great effort, but if you don't play clean, if you don't secure the football, we're not going to have good results, and that's a classic teaching point."

He was also asked if he was left with a talent shortfall.

"I'm never going to say that," Bielema said. "I appreciate what you're saying, but your talent is your talent. It doesn't matter how it happened or what happened, I came here in December knowing we were going to sign a recruiting class. who we brought in in that class could help us immediately or developmental guys. It is what it is.

"We tried to put our players in the best position before the fall, moving a couple guys around positionally to different positions," Bielema added. "And I think we can still do a little bit about that.

"The part that I get excited about, if there's any silver lining in Saturday, some of our younger players probably played their best game," Bielema continued. "Denver Kirkland, Dan Skipper, probably played their best game by far."

"We've got to get (freshman tight end) Hunter Henry some help at the tight end position," Bielema said. "On offense, you take two offensive lineman, a tight end, two running backs that are a sophomore and true freshmen. A quarterback and a sophomore wide receiver and you like where they're going."

Bielema was asked if he was worried about his team quitting after the lack of success last season and this one and if he has seen any signs of the team tuning the staff out.

"No," Bielema said. "I haven't seen any indications of that. They've been pretty locked in. And I obviously, Saturday was a difficult one, especially those last two scores were ones you get concerned about, but I don't have any indication that they're doing that."





Bret Bielema


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