How do you slow down the Texas A&M offense with superb passer Kenny Hill? First, you have to make him pass.
That seems like a contradiction, but that sounded like what Rory Segrest was saying in some ways Wednesday night after Arkansas finished practice.
Texas A&M rushed 44 times for 262 yards in a 45-33 triumph in Fayetteville, with most of it coming in the second half. The Aggies held the Hogs to 201 yards on the ground.
“Statistics show that A&M is more of a passing team,” said Segrest, the UA defensive line coach. “But they keep you on your Ps and Qs with the running game.”
Segrest wasn't at Arkansas last year, but he's clearly studied what the Aggies did to the Hogs last year. He said it was a case of the UA defensive front seven trying to do too much or over playing things in hopes of putting heat on quarterback Johnny Manziel.
“Obviously, they ran it on us last year,” Segrest said. “We missed tackles and we also were jumping gaps.
“We are a gap control defense. You want to trap the quarterback and don't let him get out of the pocket. We want to attack up the field but stay in our gaps. Then, we want to win some one-one-one matchups rushing the passer.
“I think what some lose sight of is that they rush for over 200 yards. They can run the football. They ran it on us last year and we can't allow that.
“I think what happens sometimes, you get behind and you press a little bit. It comes from inexperience. The play goes one way, there is a tendency to go that way and then they make the cutback run.
“They have very talented running backs. They will jump a gap, then come back to it. You have to stay there and wait on them, play your gaps.”
Nose tackle Taiwan Johnson said it's the same principles as the Hogs focus on every week.
“It's focus, focus focus on winning your gap,” Johnson said. “That's what we have to do. They run it well. They protect well in the passing game. They are talented.
“They try to catch you lined up right in their fast tempo and that's where the big plays come. It just comes down to us being focused and playing our fundamentals and gaps.”
How did South Carolina play the Aggies up front?
“They tried to bring pressure, five and six,” Segrest said. “And that's where they got in trouble, with no one underneath. You have to mix it up. You can't stay the same. But there are going to be times when we have to just beat someone one-on-one up front and get some pressure.”
That's what the Hogs did at Texas Tech against a similar offensive scheme.
“That's the closest team we've seen, but with more speed,” Segrest said. “Both teams have a really good quick passing game. You have to attack them, but at the same time, you have to stop and get your hands up. Then, there are times that you attack the pocket.”
Safety Rohan Gaines said the Hogs will try to play physical againt the A&M wideouts, a big, fast group led by slot receiver Malcome Kennedy (30 catches) and Ricky Seals-Jones (16 catches).
“They do have great size at receiver,” Gaines said. “But we have to be physical and re-route their routes. We have to get them off track. I think we are more than physical enough to do that.”
Arkansas cornerback D.J. Dean said that's the challenge.
“We think we are physical,” he said. “They think they are physical. I think we will bring it. We want to see if they bring it, too.”
Gaines recalls the trouble that Manziel presented the last two seasons, often scrambling for big plays. He's got respect for Hill, but knows it's a different challenge.
“He can make plays with his feet,” Gaines said. “Nothing they do is easy, but it may be more simple now (without Manziel's scrambles).”
Dean said the fundamentals in tackling come into play big-time against the Aggies.
"This week, pressing the hip and setting the edge is big," he said. "We are going to have to tackle in the open field. And we have to disrupt the throwing game, have our linemen mirror his throwing hand with their pass rush."
Dean hopes he can help the defense force some punts. The Aggies have punted only eight times in four games. Dean is the UA punt returner.
"I hope I get the chance," Dean said of the punt return game. "I want to make a big play. I'm going to try to return them. I don't want to fair catch them."
Dean said he was disappointed that several punts hit the ground in front of him last week.
"We check what they can do as far as distance in pre-game," Dean said. "That's where we start out. Unfortunately, the punter didn't hit them the same way in the game."
The Hogs hit a big kickoff return to start the game. One aspect of that return will not be in play this week, the wind. The Hogs will be playing indoors.
"It was really a funny wind," said Segrest, the UA special teams coach. "It changed three times in the stadium.
"In pre-game, it was pretty good out of the south. But late in pre-game it switched. I think that got (NIU). The thing about it, the wind changed again when we came out at halftime. Coach (Bret) Bielema wanted us to go one way in the second half, but I told him it had changed again."
Segrest said the NIU kickoff coverage made it easy for the Hogs on the 97-yard return by Korliss Marshall.
"They have one guy that was an evade guy," Segrest said. "We had seen that. He tried to evade the double team. And, we thought we could be physical with the other guy. So it opened up a big lane. Keon Hatcher, our other deep man, filled that lane well. It opened up a nice area for Korliss."
The Hogs should be full speed. One question was about middle linebacker Brooks Ellis, cleared by doctors after taking a hit from teammate Martrell Spaight againt NIU.
"I guess I got him," Spaight said. "I didn't know it at the time. Brooks told me I did. I watched the film and didn't see it, but if he says so, it's on me. He was off to a nice start (with four tackles) and we have a game to see who gets the most. We have that concept of trying to fly around. I sure couldn't tell that I got him."
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