Arkansas second-year head football coach Bret Bielema wasn't quite sure what he would see from his team when he walked out on the practice field on Tuesday, but he left it smiling.
That's because the Razorbacks (3-2, 0-2) seem to have moved past last Saturday's 35-28 overtime loss to Texas A&M while beginning to focus on the next game with visiting Alabama on Oct. 11 after this week's bye.
“We are very excited obviously to have a bye week and I think it comes at a good time after a heartbreaker on Saturday,” Bielema said on Wednesday's SEC Teleconference. “We lost to a very good A&M team, but I know we made progress in the right direction. We have got to be able to finish out the second half.
“...I really, really liked the attitude, the demeanor,” Bielema said of Tuesday's practice. “They were hurting on Saturday night and obviously Sunday and still until yesterday's practice. You could tell it meant a lot to them to come so close and not get what they needed or what they wanted. We are getting there day by day, play by play. Hopefully the rewards are coming soon.”
Bielema expanded on that later in the teleconference.
“I walked off the field very happy,” Bielema said. “Overall, the energy, the excitement, the tempo, our coaching, it was all very, very upbeat, very positive. Kind of where I hoped it would be. The memory of what they did there Saturday night was still there, but the effect of what it did wasn't there. I think they were very involved, very engaged and (I'm) excited to get back out there today."
Bielema was asked about how his team has improved from this time last season when Arkansas was also 3-2, but coming off a road loss to Rutgers (28-24) and a home loss the SEC opener to A&M (45-33).
“I would say from a year ago, probably our roster management and being able to understand our roster a little bit better and how they function and how they can execute a certain play or a certain call has increased ten-fold as coaches,” Bielema said.
“I think our roster itself is bigger, faster, stronger and I think playing the style of schemes we play you have to be able to have that,” Bielema added. “Probably the third thing and the biggest thing is the trust, the faith of what we are doing is going to work. I would say those three things have combined to make a big difference in our program.”
Arkansas has now lost 14 straight SEC games – dating back to when John L. Smith was head coach in 2012 after taking over for the ousted Bobby Petrino.
Bielema noted that his team is still learning has how to finish and win games – something that certainly wasn't an issue during his time at Wisconsin, where he was 68-24 overall.
“The art of winning is a very, very difficult thing to task and achieve and once you are there it becomes more easily accessed or achieved because once you taste it you do not want to let it go,” Bielema said. “Our guys have obviously had a opportunity to be involved in ball games where if we had closed it out in the second half we would win.
“Unfortunately we haven't and I think the big part is that we have to figure out some of the issues that have caused the defeats – inability to covert a first down, inability to get (the opposing offense) off (the field) on third down, center-snap exchanges, third-down conversions, field goal kicks. All are things that can be corrected or adjusted and hopefully make a step in the right direction.”
Arkansas started its prep work on Alabama on Tuesday.
“We actually introduced Alabama yesterday with a couple of periods dedicated to their top plays – especially first down plays, offense, defense, basic introduction to their kicking game, two phases yesterday and we will do another two phases today,” Bielema said.
“Today we will do a little bit more, double the volume dedicated to Alabama and then Thursday's practice will be a heavy dose of Alabama prep in all three phases of the team,” Bielema added.
Bielema also noted that freshman linebacker Randy Ramsey did not make the trip to play against Texas A&M, but would be available for the Alabama game.
“We did not travel him to the game, but he is involved in this week's game plan and should be in full effect,” Bielema said. “There were some things away from the game, something that was related to academics and we addressed it and were able to move forward. Nothing to get in trouble, just strictly my decision.”
Bielema: Hogs Respond In Positive Fashion
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
Offensive Previews Oklahoma StateTexas offensive players discuss the Longhorns' upcoming game at Oklahoma State to kickoff Big 12 Conference play.
Horns DigestYesterday at 6:21 PM
Louisiana CB 'Real Close' to a DecisionIt may not be too long before one of the top cornerbacks in Louisiana makes his decision. Four schools are high on his list and you can get the latest here...
Scout FootballYesterday at 6:15 AM
JC defensive back talks ISU official visitOver the weekend, Iowa State played host to one of their top 2017 targets in the current recruiting cycle in Paramount, CA three-star JUCO CB Keisean Nixon. This visit for the…
AllCyclonesSunday at 6:34 PM
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