Wednesday Grid Update, 10/16

Arkansas has lost four straight games. That resonates with defensive end Trey Flowers. He said the object of the trip to No. 1 Alabama is to win the game.

Trey Flowers didn't dance around when he talked about going back to his home state to play No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. He's excited. He also knows Darius Philon, getting his first start, is excited about going home, too. Put JaMichael Winston in that group, too. All three are natives of Alabama playing in the Arkansas defensive line.

"This game is pretty big," Flowers said after Wednesday's practice. "It's a great chance to show our talents. It's Alabama and we know that. At the same time, it's just football."

Then Flowers added the clincher that allowed the last sentence to make sense. The object of football games is to win.

"We aren't going down there to play them," Flowers said. "We are going down there to beat them."

Head coach Bret Bielema said something similar on his Wednesday night radio show.

"Our preparation has been good," Bielema said. "I just told our players that I didn't want anyone to get on that plane (on Friday) if they didn't think they could win. We are going down there to win the game."

Bielema said he listened intently as Alabama coach Nick Saban talked on the SEC coaches teleconference earlier in the day. Saban's turn was two spots ahead of the Arkansas coach.

"I work at my desk on Wednesday and listen to all of the other coaches," he said. "A lot of times reporters are asking each coach the same question to work on a theme story and I want to hear the other responses.

"I listened to Coach Saban. He was asked about Arkansas. He said some interesting things. He said that they have not played another team that plays our style and that they have moved it on every team, but they have not held onto the football."

Bielema knows that is the secret to beating Alabama under Saban. It's not easy, but if you don't hang onto the ball, opponents have had little chance.

"When his Alabama teams have won the turnover battle, they are 44-0," Bielema said. "So that's a big part of the game."

Flowers said that's been the focus this week.

"We've really worked on the basic things," Flowers said. "We've got to come with some turnovers on defense. We have to cause some. If we improve in that area, it could be a big factor in the game."

Flowers was not recruited by Alabama or Auburn. He had 3.5 sacks in an Arkansas victory in Auburn last year. He issued a simple quote then about Auburn skipping him in recruiting. He said if you didn't offer him, you don't want to play him.

"Well, no one other than Arkansas recruited me," Flowers said. "Arkansas was my only offer. Most definitely, that still goes. But it's like I said, we are not just going there to play them. They are No. 1, but they have 11 just like us. They have a number in front of their name, but they get the same amount of players on the field as us."

Flowers has been impressed with Philon's quick development, but said the redshirt freshman has more to give.

"He's got to escalate what he's done so far," Flowers said. "It's like that for all of those young ones, like Darius, JaMichael, all of them. Once they understand that all of the little things are important and they take pride in being perfect, you will see their game escalate. That's what I tell them.

"I will say that by the same token, Darius is coming along fine. But I think he's got more to give and more growing to do. He's going to be a great player then.

"I want him to be a big impact in this game. It's an important game for him since he's from there. I understand that. But it can't be more than football to him. He's got to concentrate on his assignments."

Defensive coordinator Chris Ash said it's tough to lose starting defensive tackle Robert Thomas, one of the best players on that side of the ball. But it isn't as severe as possibly losing a starter at another position.

"We've got some depth in the defensive line," Ash said. "I don't worry so much about that area. If we lose someone at another spot, it's much tougher. We just can't lose any more players. But with Darius playing well and some other young guys in the front coming along, we can absorb a blow there a little easier."

Those three Alabama natives have been moving fast this week in practice.

"Yes, those guys have some extra pep," Ash said. "I just want to see that every week. I want them to play the same every week in practice and on Saturday. We are trying to teach them that every game is important."

Ash drew a simple question about the issues that he's trying to get corrected this week in practice after the 52-7 loss to South Carolina.

"What issues?" he said, then smiled. "Issues? How much time do you have?

"It started on first down. We didn't look very good there. I was disappointed because I thought we improved in the Florida game. But we have some issues at linebacker since we made a change there two games ago. I look and see how we are playing and you realize that of our 11 starters, there are two that haven't played much football. We still have issues there.

"It's an every day battle to just keep working and learning. They are trying. They are working."

That's what Flowers said when asked about fans jumping off the bandwagon.

"I know that is happening," Flowers said. "Right now, it's just us. The guys inside these walls, that's all we have going with us to Alabama. Oh, I know we'll have a few with us, but not many. That's OK. When the load gets lighter, we'll just go faster.

"The only people that know how hard we work and how hard we prepare is us. We are the only ones who see it. Now, we have to go do some things to show everyone else."

Ash does see the hard work.

"The preparation in the last few weeks has been very good," Ash said. "The work is there. But it's time to do it on the game field. It can't just be about practice. It's got to be about game performance now."

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