Cornerback Tevin Mitchel batted away two passes in Texas Tech's first possession. Defensive coordinator Robb Smith thinks that gave the Arkansas defense a confidence boost that was sorely needed.
"I think they came to the sideline with the feeling of, 'Hey, we can do this,' " Smith said on Sunday after reviewing the tape of Arkansas' 49-28 victory at Lubbock.
Mitchel had missed most of fall camp -- and a good portion of spring drills -- with a hamstring injury and shoulder surgery. Mitchel got medical clearance earlier in the week and was immediately inserted into the starting lineup. The 6-0, 190-pound senior often lined up on the Tech slot receiver, Bradley Marquez.
"We wanted to take away the slot," Smith said. "We thought Tevin could play tight coverage on the slot and that gave us a boost in our plan."
Arkansas appeared to be the more physical team throughout the game, pounding the Red Raiders with a running game that reduced the amount of time the Hogs had to play defense. Tech's time of possession was just over six minutes in the second half. Smith cheered on the offense.
"I thought they were great," Smith said. "It's a lot of fun to coach defense when you are sitting on the sideline watching your offense like that."
And, he enjoyed aspects of the way the Hogs performed on defense. He thought reaction time to the ball was better against the Tech passing game. He saw it start to happen in practice earlier in the week.
"We didn't want our scout team to catch a pass," Smith said. "I told our guys to embrace that philosophy and it starts on Tuesday and Wednesday. I thought our guys were disruptive in practice and they did that in the game. Reaction was better.
"And, we may not have gotten sacks with our defensive front, but we did some things to take away throwing lanes with our rush. We got some hands on passes with our front."
Smith switched Darius Philon to nose tackle, moving Taiwan Johnson to the "three technique" for this game to take advantage of matchups.
"We did some things for matchups and they worked out and we did get some pressure," Smith said. "Our front definitely helped our back end and I thought our linebackers, Brooks Ellis and Martrell Spaight, played well."
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said it was a matter of taking a physical practice mentality to the game.
"It's the classic line of you get what you pay for," he said. "We practice physical. We played that way. I think it helps us in games with what we do in practice on both sides of the ball. We help ourselves become more physical."
The Hogs are going to play a more physical team than Tech this week in Northern Illinois.
"I think everyone in college football knows what kind of opponent we have this week," Chaney said. "I have not gotten deep in the tape yet, but from what I can see, they are an outstanding opponent.
"We played very well this week, but the rubber meets the road each Saturday. We played with great effort for two halves this past week and I was pleased. But we have to do it again and we know we are going to get a very good team Saturday."
Smith said the physical nature of the game will be important.
"I know they will come in here and compete," Smith said. "They do pride themselves on being physical. They are going to play their brand and we are going to play our brand. It's what college football is all about."
Chaney called only two passes in the second half, finishing the game with 30 straight run calls after quarterback Brandon Allen scrambled for a touchdown on a called screen.
"That was Brandon's best play since I've been here," Chaney said. "I had a call that wasn't good and he made it good."
Chaney gave the Red Raiders a steady dose of draws against a stacked box the rest of the way. Graduate assistant Eric Mateos was giving Chaney the stats on the effectiveness of the draw.
"Eric told me we were 10-for-10 at one point," Chaney said. "If we could, we were going to see if we could go 20-for-20. The game plan got simple. I'd write down a pass play and scratch it out.
"Our offensive line played really well, but the entire offense was playing well. It was nice play by the tight ends, the receivers, all of them. Collectively, we all did what we needed to do.
"We came out in the first half and gave effort for 30 minutes, then we wanted to come out in the second half and do it again. We did that. It was about effort.
"And, it was always against a stacked box. I remember one soft look the entire game, maybe a first and 20. We had a run call and got nine and we didn't get that look again."
Mitchel's Return Provided Confidence
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
TCU vs Iowa State primerAfter falling in double-overtime to Arkansas, TCU looks to get back to their winning ways against Iowa State.
Horned Frog Insider09/15/2016
The Ultimate Midlands TeamThere is a lot of talent in the Midlands region, with a vast majority of the highest rated recruits playing high school football in the Lone Star State. Which prospects made the…
These rival helmet color swaps are revoltingSwapping rival teams' helmet colors? It shouldn't have been done, but someone did it anyway.
Post-July 2017 Top 100 Player RankingsWith the July evaluation periods, Nike Skills Academy, adidas Nations and Under Armour's Elite 24 over, Scout's basketball recruiting team has updated the 2017 top 100. DeAndre…