Thursday Grid Update, 9/11

Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and defensive coordinator Robb Smith met with the media after Thursday's practice and believe their groups are poised for solid efforts Saturday in Lubbock when the Razorbacks (1-1) visit Texas Tech (2-0) at 2:30 p.m.

There has been a lot of talk this week from Texas Tech about how the Red Raiders have not played great the last couple of games and could be poised for a breakout against Arkansas on Saturday.

Razorback defensive coordinator Robb Smith says right back at you.

“I was kind of looking at it as this is the week that we kind of get it all together,” Smith said after the Thursday practice. “That has kind of been our approach this week. I think our guys have had a really good week of practice. I think we are in a good place right now and we are excited to go play a football game right now.”

Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is looking for a win when the Razorbacks (1-1) visit Texas Tech (2-0) Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in the first meeting between the two since 1991 when both were in the Southwest Conference.

“Our job is to get ready to play and go play,” Chaney said. “What it does for us will be answered in the future. I don't know the answers to that. I think that if we go play a good football game and feel good about what we get done we'll continue to grow as a program.”

The Razorbacks' last non-conference road game win was one at Texas 38-28 on Sept. 13, 2003 – which will be exactly 11 years to the day when the two teams take the field on Saturday.

Arkansas has been working with crowd noise in practice this week to get ready for the road non-conference game – only the program's third since 2003 with losses to USC (2005), Texas (2008) and Rutgers (2013).

“We did a lot of noise today,” Chaney said. “We did noise every day. Every day you go on the road you practice (with noise). Our guys have a pretty good understanding of how that is. We operate pretty good within that, so I'm not concerned with the noise at all. We're always concerned with what we can control, and that's our execution. So that's what our point of emphasis has been all week.

“I thought Tuesday we were a little sluggish, but I thought we had a really good Wednesday, and I thought we were pretty sharp today,” Chaney added. “So all in all I think we're ready to go play a football game. We've got to clean up some stuff tomorrow in some meetings and make sure their minds are where they need to be and we'll see what takes place on Saturday.”

Texas Tech, which opened with a 42-35 win over UCA, and its defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt are expected to load the box and try to take away Arkansas' running game – which is leading the nation with an average of 9.4 yards per carry.

That's what the Red Raiders tried to do against UTEP, who still rushed for 227 of its 393 yards total offense last Saturday night in a game where the visitors rallied late to win 30-26 in El Paso.

“Well, I think that's pretty clear that that's what we want to do,” Chaney said of running the ball. “We want to play physical football and we'll see what they do. You watch the El Paso game and they had safeties at 6 yards deep in that ball game. So I wouldn't think they'd do anything different against us. They're going to load them in there and see if they can stop the run. That's what I would do. Matt's a fine coordinator, been around the game a long time. I'm sure he's got a plan, as do we, and we'll see which one can go out and execute.”

Arkansas is a running team that looks to be balanced off play-action passing according to Chaney.

“I would think that would be a pretty sound way to look at us,” Chaney said. “I would say that will the same philosophy from here to the end. We're going to try to run the football — that's what we do — and play-action pass and try to get us some good, workable third downs and hang in there and get some first downs, move the ball down the field and score. Obviously, they're charged with the task of not letting that happen. So we'll see what happens.”

Chaney expects to see a lot of pressure from the Red Raiders.

“I think if they feel like they can get to you that way, they will, without any question,” Chaney said. “ There are a lot of defensive teams that like to apply pressure. They're going to play quarters in the back half, but they like to bring different looks up front to try to confuse you, so we've got to be on top of our game and make sure we get everything identified right. It's been a point of emphasis all week. Who knows why they're going to do? We'll wait and see what they're going to play. I'm not sure."

Chaney knows that some think having sustained drives against Texas Tech is the best defense against Texas Tech.

“I don't really think about it like that,” Chaney said. “I think about us going out and executing our base offense and moving the ball down the field. If it ends up with us controlling the football and doing those things that people want to talk about, then so be it.

“But at the end of the day we need to execute at a high rate,” Chaney added. “We have to have an efficient offense. When we get in the red zone, we've got to go put points on the board, preferably touchdowns. At the end of the day, if we do those things, I'll feel good about what we've achieved.”

Smith feels like his defense has improved since a season-opening loss to Auburn and better prepared to play against a quality team.

“I think our guys have a really good concept of if they can't make the one-on-one tackle they have got to get the ball back to other guys that can help them run it inside out,” Smith said. “It is important that the other guys running inside out are playing as fast as they possibly can and we can keep those things walled off, especially on the perimeter.”

It appears senior cornerback Tevin Mitchel – who missed the first two games due to an hamstring injury – is ready to give the Razorbacks some snaps this week.

“Tevin is looking good,” Smith said. “I am excited for him and he will have a role for us. We can move him around a little bit and he can do some things and help us with some match-ups, especially with four wide receivers on the field.”

He joins safeties De'Andre Coley and Davyon McKinney in returning from injury and adding to the mix of faces in the secondary this week.

“It is is happening at the right time,” Smith said. “They are going to stress you. They have four excellent receivers that are quick and they have size in certain spots. They really know what they are doing with their system. I compliment them there. We have got to do a great job of matching up and covering guys and contesting balls in space.”

Freshman safety Josh Liddell will see action at strong safety along with starters Rohan Gaines and Alan Turner with Coley getting snaps at free safety and rounding out the top four.

“We will be rolling those guys through,” Smith said. “We have to have fresh guys on the field. I really like what he has done. I think between himself and Ro and AT, we have got some good things. Coley has really come on this week. We are going to need all hands on deck for this one.”

It will also help that defensive end Deatrich Wise – a starter entering the season before injuries kept him out – will get some snaps this week.

“He has done some things this week and we expect him to have an expanded role on Saturday,” Smith said.

While Texas Tech is known for its passing game, it also had had some big runs in the two games this season.

“I tell you what, I don't want to use the word lull you to sleep, but they throw the ball well and then they hit you on some runs and then all of a sudden, they will break something out to the perimeter,” Smith said. “They have been some big runs in there. There was like a 70-yard run or two thrown in the mix there. They stick with it and they have a certain plan on how much they want to run the football. I think if they get to a certain number they feel like they will get a big play in the run game and that's where those numbers really get elevated.”

Speedy tailback Justin Stockton – who had 8 carries for 139 yards against UTEP with a 75-yard touchdown run – is the home-run hitter on the ground for the Red Raiders.

“He is fast,” Smith said. “He is a guy with some speed. They do some nice things where they get him and the other tailback in the game. We have got to be really tuned in to their running sets – when a fullback is in, when a fullback isn't in. We have got to do a great job of just setting an edge on the run game and allowing our guys to just run to the football and tackle.”

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