Tuesday Grid Update, 9/2

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema tried to simulate the game in Tuesday's practice to emphasize that the second half requires more intensity.

If bringing the intensity in the second half is a learned trait, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema tried to teach his team to learn it in Tuesday's practice. The Razorbacks had a halftime in the middle of the workout, then re-launched practice trying to up the intensity.

The Razorbacks played No. 6 Auburn to a 21-21 first half, then lost the second half 24-0 for their 13th straight SEC loss. Along with the halftime break, Bielema also talked to his team about the losing streak, according to quarterback Brandon Allen.

"This whole week, Coach Bielema is stressing the halftime lag," Allen said after practice Tuesday. "He broke up practice today in two halves. We talked about starting the second half with some juice. We need energy and juice to open the half so we practiced that today."

As far as the losing streak, Allen said he knew it's been awhile since they have won. He was asked by a media member if he had forgotten how to win.

"I wouldn't say I've forgotten the feeling of winning, but it's been tough," he said. "Coach Bielema told us that (the losing streak) was brought up to him today that it was one of the worst ever. He said we can not embrace that. We are going to change that."

The foe is underdog Nicholls State at 3 p.m. Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Allen was asked if he remembered the taste of victory.

"It's important to win this game," he said. "It comes down to us executing. We went through a tough year last year. As far as the streak, it comes down to each individual and then coming together as a team, expecting to win. It's not so much as the streak is on our mind as it is we have the desire to win and we expect to win.

"We are starved for that win. I know the fans are just as starved for a win. It's been a long time and it is tough on them, too.

"We need a win and we need a statement. We need to come out fast and clean and if we do that, we have a chance to have a good game and win."

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney thinks his junior quarterback is handling things the right way. He thought there were a lot of positives in Allen's play against Auburn. He especially liked his checks at the line of scrimmage that produced some big gainers.

“I thought he played a good football game," Chaney said. "I thought there was a lot of room for improvement, but I was pleased with how he performed. In my position, being at it for 30 years, I think you can want something for a kid so bad it hurts, and I wanted Brandon to go out there and perform at a level of football that he felt comfortable with.

"I feel like we walked off the field and can say that he did perform better than he has in the past. He was able to see the fronts and change things now so we’re happy he’s able to do that.”

Chaney thought the team practiced well Tuesday, with the emphasis on playing as well at the end as the start.

“We’ve talked a lot about it and we try to push the end of practice to be more emphasizing so the kids understand that when they’re tired is when they need to strain and concentrate more on their details," Chaney said. "It’s very important for us to play four good quarters of football.”

Offensive line coach Sam Pittman said his unit had one solid half, but didn't play as well in the second half when Auburn added a man in the box and added some line movement.

"I was very pleased with the first half, especially coming back from 21-7," Pittman said. "We responded to adversity there, but we didn't respond to adversity in the second half.

"We missed an assignment on a big play (for an interception), and we had a third-and-4 where we ran a play against the same front we saw in the first half and we had a missed assignment and it went for minus 6 yards. They score and we bust assignment and we are down two scores. We just didn't deal with adversity at that point like we did in the first half."

Pittman said he would have subbed in his front in the second half if he thought effort was lagging.

"I thought we had some major mistakes in the second half, missed assignments," he said. "When I was on the sideline looking in their eyes, I didn't think they looked tired. But when I looked at the tape, I saw where they might have been tired. So we will look to sub some."

That means playing Frank Ragnow at center to rest Mitch Smothers. It also may mean playing Sebastian Tretola at both guard spots and moving Denver Kirkland to tackle for some snaps to rest Brey Cook.

"We played six against Auburn and I think we have seven that are ready adding Frank to the mix," Pittman said. "And, we will work to get to eight and then to nine. We'll play those that we think give us a chance to win. I like to play the starters, but if there are spots that are even, then you play another one.

"I didn't feel comfortable subbing for Mitch with a wet football on a wet field. But we will play Frank in this one. He's going to play.

"I have not played two centers except once at North Carolina when we kept getting guys hurt. We played four that day and we were down to our last one. But this is different. We have two that are very even and I think even the way they snap it is about the same. We've worked both of them a lot with Brandon and there aren't problems. Frank is going to play."

Wide receiver coach Michael Smith wants to play more against Nicholls, too. He said freshmen wide receivers JoJo Robinson and Kendrick Edwards continue to improve in practice, suggesting their time is close.

"I think they both are getting closer," Smith said. "We want to get them some reps, too."

Smith said there were good signs against Auburn of an improved passing game, but two key drops were disturbing.

"We had problems with drops last year and we thought we had improved past that," Smith said. "Keon Hatcher is beating himself up over (a dropped bomb). He had one of those early in camp and then finished with a great camp. He had been so consistent.

"He has come back and performed well in practice (this week). He did come back later in the game and made a great play on the sideline."

Smith said one of the positives against Auburn was the run blocking by the receivers.

"We can do better, but we did well in that area," he said. "We've improved there. Demetrius Wilson made two really nice plays, but he can improve on some details of his blocking."

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