Monday Grid Update, 9/15

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema rehashes Saturday's 49-28 win at Texas Tech and turns his attention to a very successful Northern Illinois squad that will enter Saturday night's 6 p.m. game at Razorback Stadium with a 17-game road winning streak - the nation's current longest.

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema advised fans Monday to not worry about the Razorbacks showing any signs of overconfidence after dispatching two over-matched foes in a row.

After all, the next game is against a Northern Illinois team that has won 17 straight road games, 26 straight regular season contests, 11 games each of the last four years and been to six straight bowls.

“By no means have we arrived,” Bielema said. “We’re going to see some better defenses coming up here starting this weekend.”

Indeed, while Arkansas should be feeling better about itself, the Huskies (3-0) will certainly be better than Razorbacks' last two foes when they arrived for a 6 p.m. game on Saturday night that will be televised by ESPNU.

They have made themselves a name in the college football world by playing anyone who would schedule them over the last few years and taking down three Big 10 scalps on the road during that time.

They even took out an ad in the Chicago Tribune basically calling out Illinois after beating Northwestern 24-14 two weeks ago.

“I saw the little advertisement they took out last week in the Chicago Tribune - and they're an extremely confident group,” Bielema said. “I mean they - not to steal Pat Hill's Fresno State philosophy - but any time, any place, anywhere. I think they really buy into that."

Dave Doeren, the current North Carolina State head coach and a former Bielema assistant coach at Wisconsin, was head coach at Northern Illinois.

“Dave Doeren, who was a great friend of mine, coached there and I think when we got together during the out of season and talk about things, one of the things that he said was just how much of an edge those kids played with that was installed before he even got there,” Bielema added. “And it's very, very evident on film.”

But Arkansas is also showing signs of life after losing 10 straight – nine of which came in a row at the end of last season.

“I knew what I was getting into coming here, I freely took the opportunity,” Bielema said. “The people that didn’t willingly go into it were the fans. People who were part of this process, not by their own choice.

“It’s fun to see, when I fly back on that plane, and watch my coaches and our players and have an understanding of what you really just really saw was the result of what we have done,” Bielema added. “Our fifth Arkansas edge is to earn everything. You could see it in our players’ eyes, they really felt they earned that, what they had done and what they accomplished.”

Arkansas ran the ball on 68 of its 80 plays in its 49-28 win at Texas Tech – including a 40-2 ratio of run to pass after halftime.

“Without a doubt,” Bielema said. “I think I am being mislabeled. This goes way back to Wisconsin before I was even coaching there. There was a guy by the name of Ron Dayne, he ran the ball a lot. He was one of the leading rushers in college football.  So when I took over for Coach Alvarez everybody wanted me to be, you know, Barry Alvarez and find the next Ron Dayne.

“Well we effectively did that a lot more than not but our most productive teams if you go back and look at the history of my coaching career is when we had a balance between somewhere in that 200 and 220 yards rushing and throwing team,” Bielema added. “It's an incredible mark. I believe you win over 85 percent of college football games if you can get above 215 throwing and running over the course of  time. And if you just look at that statistic, it's something I really, really believe in.

“Now I do believe this, for us to do what we did at Texas Tech, that was the formula,” Bielema continued. “That was the formula that we needed to win on the road against an uptempo offense that could score the way they could score. That formula isn't going to work this week. It's not in the deck of cards.”

That means Razorback junior quarterback Brandon Allen will likely go to the air more than the 12 times he did on Saturday, but Bielema pointed out there were a few more passes called that Allen turned into successful running plays.

“I been referring to it (Arkansas' passing game) as the best-kept secret in Fayetteville,” Bielema said. “Statistically, I know the numbers may not be there on par with pure quantitative totals. But the percentage – I always look for efficiency. I don't really care about numbers. I love the fact that we ran the ball 68 times, but if we didn't run the ball 68 times efficiently than we wouldn't have won the game.

“To me the efficiency is the equation,” Bielema added. “And our passing efficiency is very, very good. It is one that can get better. BA is throwing the ball and making good decisions. The third down play with J-Will on the sideline, that was like fourth option. To this point in my opinion...the best play he has made as a college football player since I've been here is when the third down play broke down, scrambled around and ran in the end zone (from five yards out).”

“Now we don't reach the ball in the end zone, we run it in the end zone and we have to work on that, but that was a passing play that broke down,” Bielema continued. “And then the first down scramble (22 yards) when he came in and did the hook slide and did away with the front forward flip, which didn't work well for him a year ago so this year he is going for the slide. And again an efficient play out of a passing play.

“Some of our passes, we would have added two more there if he hadn't scrambled, but they probably would have been incomplete so we are better off running it.”

Bielema lauded his offensive linemen – especially Dan Skipper, Sebastian Tretola and Denver Kirkland – and tailbacks Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams for their work on Saturday.

He does hope to get more of sophomore tailback Korliss Marshall into the offense than his five carries for 13 yards. He had two near fumbles that were ruled down in the game per Bielema.

“I think they are working well with one another and I think that is very evident,” Bielema said. “I am sure I am going to get the question about Korliss. We would love to get him involved in the game plan as well, but we have a big philosophy in this program – you earn everything. He has got to step up his preparation to get himself out on the field more and to give us an idea that he wants to be on the field more, he has to earn it during the week in practice."

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