Defensive Technique Must Improve

Arkansas rallied to make it a game, but gave up too many big pass plays to catch Ole Miss. Bret Bielema sounded frustrated about technique in the secondary in a 34-24 loss at Ole Miss.

OXFORD, Miss. -- Technique and leverage. Those were the key words Arkansas coach Bret Bielema used to describe the Ole Miss torching of his secondary for 419 passing yards in a 34-24 loss to the Rebels.

It's the kind of key mistakes that probably will put cornerback Tevin Mitchel on the bench as Arkansas tries to snap a school-record losing streak over the final two games.

Mitchel, credited with one tackle for the day, fell in front of Ole Miss receiver Donte Moncrief that set up a 52-yard catch and run for the game's final points for the winners at the 1:05 mark of the third quarter.

The junior corner, beaten several times this season on similar plays, did not return as his time was split between D. J. Dean and Jared Collins as the Hogs shutout the Rebels for the game's final 16 minutes. Will Hines, out for the last four games with a broken arm, has returned to practice and is expected to be cleared to play the final two weeks after this week's open date.

Bielema wanted Mitchel to stay on his feet, to the outside and give others a chance to close. That can't be a touchdown play if the leverage is proper.

"It's a leverage play," Bielema said. "We didn't leverage the ball. He took an inside path. You leverage so that someone else can make the tackle.

"Tevin has struggled there. That's why we went with D. J. and Jared and we'll get others in the rotation. It's a part of our recruiting."

Alan Turner's explanation of the poor pass defense didn't point at Mitchel or fellow safety Eric Bennett, beaten on a double move for a 75-yard post for the other Ole Miss touchdown in the second half. But those were good fits for his explanation.

"It's fundamentals, technique and about leverage," he said. "The mistakes we made are not effort. It's technique. It's where you have your eyes. If our technique was right, if our leverage was right, those plays don't happen. The interception I got, it was because I played my technique correct. That's what happens when you do it right."

And sometimes the mistake is only as brief as a flinch.

"Eric got beat on the double move," Bielema said. "He was on top of the route, flinched, stopped his feet and was trailing the rest of the play. Then, the play on the other sideline, Tevin missed and it was a leverage play."

Bielema saw a few good things in his defense, particularly from middle linebacker Brooks Ellis. The Fayetteville true freshman led the way with 11 tackles, giving him 17 in his first two starts. He helped a UA defense hold Ole Miss to 112 yards on 39 rushes.

"We should have done it far sooner," Bielema said. "I wish I had. He's just a linebacker, with his shoulders square to the line."

Second guessing wasn't part of the thought process on the play calling, at least right after the game. The head coach explained that he hears the calls coming down and always has veto power. But he didn't think about that when coordinator Jim Chaney sent down the halfback pass that killed the momentum when the Hogs were poised to take a second-half lead for the first time in months.

Turner's interception -- only the Hogs' fourth field position break in seven SEC games -- set the stage for a 46-yard touchdown drive, finished by the 1-yard run by Kiero Small, the next play after Javontee Herndon's 31-yard catch and run.

Herndon followed with his first punt return for positive yardage in an SEC game, a 31-yarder to the Arkansas 47-yard line. The Hogs trailed just 20-17 and their sideline was jumping.

Small made 3 and Alex Collins 11 to set up first down at the Ole Miss 39-yard line. The Razorback fans were going crazy. Yes, they sensed momentum was squarely with their team.

On first-and-10, Jonathan Williams took a hand off going right. A blitzing safety slowed him quickly, eventually causing an 11-yard loss on what was set to be another halfback pass, a throwback to Allen.

That possession went bad with a 4-yard gain from Williams, then a 4-yard loss on a pass to Herndon. The Hogs punted the Rebels back to their 6-yard line to set up the back breaker, a five-play, 94-yard touchdown drive with the 75-yard bomb as the finishing touch.

Bielema said that was a "huge" chance wasted and noted that he thought the bigger turning point was possibly the Ole Miss touchdown with 45 seconds left in the first half when the Hogs trailed just 13-10.

"JWill can throw the football," Bielema said. "There were a couple of (Ole Miss blitzers) to that same side on the throw back to Brandon," Bielema said. "But I don't second guess calls. You live with them, you die with them.

"I do have the right to OK or nullify every call. But I don't say yes or now every time. As a head coach, I can't get bogged down in that."

Bielema declined to second guess an SEC official that called Ellis for a block in the back on an interception return by Bennett to the Ole Miss 23 with 2:05 left. The penalty -- on a little touch by Ellis that did not hinder the Rebel -- wiped out the 73-yard return and the Hogs started from their own 7-yard line.

When asked to discuss the penalty, Bielema said, "I'm not doing that. Next question. It did take momentum away. EB was streaking down the sideline, to their 20. It was a critical penalty."

Bielema's face showed the frustration he's felt as the Hogs have tried to climb out of a deep hole throughout the SEC campaign.

"I didn't think our kids gave up," he said. "They fought until the end. At some point, they will be rewarded.

"We eliminated ourselves (from bowl consideration). I just talked about that in the locker room. I've never been here as a head coach, but with two games left, we can show our pride and hopefully our seniors lead the way."

Players said their coach preached pride and fight in the post-game locker room.

"It's going to be about pride and continuing to build for this team," said Julian Horton, the senior who has battled his way out of the doghouse and contributed with a team best four catches for 66 yards.

"We are going to help each other and work the rest of the way. I know I want to finish my career -- and so do the other seniors -- the right way. Obviously, it's tough and disappointing, but we are going to continue to fight."

Turner, a junior, said it's reality that there will not be a bowl.

"We know that," he said. "It's tough. Disappointing. You don't ever want to be there. But I think everyone is going to hang in. The seniors have been fighting every day. We've seen that. We are going to keep fighting with them."

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