Time To Win

Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema knows his team's seven-game losing streak has everyone involved frustrated, but he said on Wednesday's SEC Football Coaches Teleconference that he has seen signs the last two weeks that it could be coming to an end.

When Arkansas takes the field at War Memorial Stadium on Saturday to host Mississippi State, the Razorbacks will be riding a seven-game losing streak where very little has gone right.

But Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said on Wednesday's SEC Football Coaches Teleconference that he thinks that is about to change.

"I've been able to watch these guys through our bye week and through practice yesterday and I think it is a team that is tired of losing and has done a lot of really good things – on and off the field.

"Hopefully they will be able to put it together in a winning fashion on Saturday," Bielema added. "I think they understand how we can win – the physicality that we have got to play with, the Xs and Os and the things that we preach about every day.

"It's become more and more evident," Bielema continued. "I hope it happens this Saturday. If it doesn't, it's going to come soon and I am excited to get there."

The Razorbacks (3-7, 0-6) and Bulldogs (4-6, 1-5), who have lost three in a row since a 28-22 home win over Kentucky, have both suffered through tough campaigns.

Arkansas' fourth and fifth-year seniors have been to a BCS bowl, back-to-back bowl seasons with a combined 21 wins and now two straight losing seasons with no postseason trip.

"I made it very apparent from the first meeting I had with those guys to where we are today that I was going to try and do every thing in my power to give them a daily dose of good coaching," Bielema said, "some things that would hopefully get them in position to have success.

"I feel bad because they didn't get a bowl game and are not going to have that opportunity," Bielema added. "We have two more opportunities here together and they have maximized it beyond my wildest dreams.

"There are some guys that obviously didn't make it through the season as we lost a couple of seniors before we got rolling that made some choices that took them out of our program, but for the ones that survived it – I would love to give them a win this Saturday because I want them to see first hand the work they have done and how it is going to pay off," Bielema continued.

"I don't want them to see our first win next year or whenever it comes," Bielema added. "I want them to see it now. That could be the greatest gift we could give them – their last game in Little Rock, in the state of Arkansas in front of a bunch of fans that appreciate what they have gone through."

Mississippi State's top two quarterbacks – Dak Prescott and Tyler Russell are both battling shoulder injuries and may not be able to play on Saturday.

If not, third-stringer and true freshman Damien Williams (6-1, 230) would get the nod for Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen.

"It is a difficult task," Bielema said. "I know Coach Mullen is making reference to he might have some eligibility left to get back out there, but the challenge that we have is each one of them is a little bit different.

"They feature certain things that are consistent, but both of them (Prescott and Russell) have unique skills and we have tried to educate our players on when one player is in the game, what to expect or that they have tendency to do," Bielema said.

"But this is one of those instances that we have had a bye week and you may try and out-think yourself too much," Bielema added. "We just have to line up and play solid fundamental football, defend the looks that they give us and hopefully play consistently.

"You rely on what you do," Bielema continued. "I know they are going to run a lot of the same plays and feature certain things that he does well. But if the freshman is in, then I think you have to line up and you can be aggressive in certain situations, maintain and understand that you have to defend what is in front of you and it doesn't matter who is pulling the trigger.

"You have got to be able to defend the formation and the fits and really just embrace the moment," Bielema related.

Arkansas has used the bye week to try and help shore up its secondary.

Junior starter Tevin Mitchel was benched late in a 34-24 loss at Ole Miss and replaced by true freshman D.J. Dean.

Will Hines - who was a starter before getting injured at Florida – is back and should play this game while Jared Collins should also see snaps, especially since junior Carroll Washington is now injured.

"It has been good for us to get Will back in there just because he is a kid that was playing good football before he got hurt," Bielema said. "He was probably playing his best his strongest game before that Florida game unveiled itself.

"I don't know if he will start, but he will definitely be involved in the game plan," Bielema added. "Definitely on punt return.

"D.J. Dean has continued to make great strides for us and he is playing with some confidence," Bielema noted.

Coaches have tried to rebuild both Mitchel's confidence and his technique.

"Tevin Mitchel – by far – had his best week of practice last week," Bielema added. "We sit him down and analyzed why he was playing a certain way and how he could play better.

"After two days of practice – last Wednesday and Thursday – I had the coaches make some cut ups and just show him playing at a level that he hasn't yet on Saturdays," Bielema added. "We have got to get everybody playing with more consistency.

"I think Jared Collins will get more reps on Saturday as well," Bielema added. "Carroll Washington did injure his foot a little bit and has been limited during practice so it will be how those guys all around him respond."

O o o

Bielema actually sent a letter of support three years ago to Mullen when Mississippi State player Nick Bell passed away.

The gesture was brought up by a Bulldogs' beat writer on the teleconference Wednesday.

"I think I saw I feature on it if I am not mistaken," Bielema said. "I don't know if we had a night game or a bye week – I can't remember that specific. I followed Dan's career and admired the work he had done as a coordinator and in his first opportunity to be a head coach.

"They were making some waves and I remember seeing him comment on it and how he had to help his players get through it and I admired the way he handled it," Bielema added.

"I myself lost my sister at an early age and had to deal with the tragedy that a lot of times that became out of order in the normal life progression," Bielema continued, "so I always have a thought or a belief how it can be such a teaching moment.

"So all I did was reach out to Dan and said I admired how you handled it and respect for the way he did it in a difficult situation," Bielema said. "It is just something that I do quite a bit."

Bielema noted that it was the same thing he was trying to do when he sent Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long a note over how he handled the situation with former Razorback football coach Bobby Petrino.

"A lot of people gave me grief when I first got here because I reached out to Jeff – my AD here – and it was the same thing," Bielema said. "I just appreciated how he handled the situation. No objectives, no agendas or anything like that. I'm just trying to reach out and be a human being."

Bret Bielema

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