After two near misses at upset bids against Texas A&M and Alabama, Arkansas fell back with a "bad 10 minutes" in the second quarter in a 45-32 loss to Georgia last week. Head coach Bret Bielema explained to his team on Sunday that it only takes about that long to erase a lot of the good it had done to restore its reputation.
"You build your reputation over a period of time," Bielema said in his Monday media briefing. "It's what you do over the course of your entire life that builds your name. You try to add value (to your name) every day.
"I've always said, (your reputation) is what they say about you when you leave the room.
"We'd done a lot of building, but what we did in that 10 minutes takes away everything you built. It detracts. It doesn't take long."
Georgia outscored Arkansas, 31-0, in the second quarter, but the Hogs did at least win the second half, 26-7.
"Last year, we never would have gotten it back," Bielema said. "That's a credit to our coaches and players. That's why I know it's coming for this team. You may say, 'That's coach speak.' It's not.
"We had a really bad five or six minutes. You can't do that. Against a really good team like Georgia they are going to take advantage of it like no other. We won the second half, 26-7."
Bielema was asked about the feeling after the game. He flipped into an overview of the league outcomes and an angry moment when SEC Network announcers called it "blowout" Saturday.
"We kind of did one of those moments Saturday night where we get back home and sat down on the couch and I always kind of flip on the SEC Network and ESPN just to kind of see what else went on," he said. "I sat down and the SEC Network one of the commentators made reference to 'blowout Saturday in the SEC' and I was angry.
"Because it was like we didn't get blown out now. But I started to look at the scores and I saw them come across and I asked Zack and his crew to reach out me and I looked at the scores and saw the A&M-Alabama game and it was pretty lopsided at halftime. The scores of the Missouri-Florida game it was 20-0, it was 45-0 Alabama over A&M and it was 27-3 LSU over UK and we were down, 38-6.
"The results of those games continued the trend in every one of them but one which is ours. We outscored them. And it jumped out to listening to Coach Richt speak in his presser to hear him make the comment that we (Arkansas) outplayed them in the second half.
"Sometimes you are oblivious to that. You don't think that way. But we did outscore them, 26-7. And the other games ended up 41-3, 59-0, 42-13. Ole Miss beat Tennessee, 41-3. Those teams that were behind at the half, there wasn't the resolve that our guys had and I give a lot of credit to our coaches and our players for doing that. That don't happen and again it's a great testament to our kids.
"And believe me, I so want to be over this, I want to be where we need to be but I think like even a year ago people would say, 'Coach, how do you know what's coming? And why do say that or get excited about it?' And I know people would say,'That's Coach-speak.' But it's not. It's not. I see things coming and there is a great case in point.
"We played really bad football for about a five or six-minute stretch in the second quarter that you can't do against good teams because they will capitalize on it like no other. And that's exactly what Georgia did. But then our guys responded in the second half and took the the fight to them and we capitalized really on every opportunity. Still didn't play a complete, clean game in the second half but played very, very well and were able to outscore an opponent that is very good, 26-7.
"That doesn't happen if you have a team that is quitters or doesn't have the desire to have success. So it's another great indicator of why I know what's coming."
The Hogs play Alabama-Birmingham at 11 a.m. Saturday in Fayetteville. Bielema said the Hogs will be close to full strength against the Blazers.
Middle linebacker Brooks Ellis, out last week with a bone bruise near the knee, is making good progress on his recovery. There is the possibility that he could return against UAB.
"I don't know if Brooks will be back Saturday and if not we'll move forward with the same plan as Saturday," Bielema said. "If he's back, then we will bring it."
Josh Williams played every snap against Georgia at middle linebacker and would handle that position again this week if Ellis is not ready.
Elsewhere, cornerback Henre' Toliver missed practice on Sunday after a bruise knocked him out of the Georgia game. Bielema expects Toliver to be clear for all work the rest of the week.
Bielema is making some personnel changes in the kicking game. Adam McFain would take over placements and field goals after John Henson had an extra point blocked for the second straight week. Toby Baker has moved ahead of Sam Irwin-Hill for the punter job, although that decision could be altered by practice this week. Irwin-Hill will return to a rugby style after hitting too many short punts with a conventional technique this season.
The Hogs were able to get more than their usual time in the football building on Monday, since classes are out both Monday and Tuesday.
Bielema said in addition to 75-minute practice and the usual tape review on Sunday, Bielema had a team meeting where he asked leaders about what happened against Georgia.
"The first part of our meeting was Xs and Os from the tape, just the good and the bad," Bielema said. "Then I went around the room and asked the leaders what they saw and got a variety of responses."
That's when Bielema gave them the talk about their reputation. He said he had pulled out some players to give specific messages about "accountability" at halftime.
"Last year when I talked to seniors afterwards, one of the things they said, be more forceful," Bielema said. "At halftime when I took some players into my room, I said some things you couldn't say on camera. I also brought all of the coaches together as a group and I don't usually do that. I told them what I expected in the second half.
"We didn't win, so it didn't work."
Ball security and pass protection were big issues for the offense, but the defense "got hit in the mouth," Bielema said. After having only four turnovers in the first five games, the Hogs lost the ball seven times against Alabama and Georgia.
"You can't put the ball on the ground," Bielema said. "If there is a program that puts more emphasis on ball security, I don't know what it would be."
Bielema was quick to credit Georgia for causing issues with pass protection.
"No, I think without a doubt, you've got to give credit to your opponents," Bielema said. "There was a couple of very nice counter moves and some rushes that are good by them. But on the same account, we have to protect our quarterback. We were on the ground, the quarterback hit the ground 11 times. Obviously B.A. got up slow a couple of times. You're just playing Russian Roulette there if you let your quarterback get hit. You know what I need to see? I need to see some urgency out of them, that hey, I got beat and my quarterback's on the ground, I better be back there helping him up and letting him know it ain't going to happen again.
"So there's some development by our guys that we need to continue to stress and move forward. It's nothing that we can't really overcome or overemphasize."
Bielema was asked about the decision not to play reserve center Frank Ragnow, out against Alabama with a concussion. Ragnow had been splitting time with Mitch Smothers in the previous four games. The plan was to insert Ragnow on the first series of the second quarter against Georgia.
"Sometimes he actually played more snaps that Mitch," Bielema said. "During the course of the week, he had practiced good but hadn’t been great. At the timing where he was supposed to go in, we had just had a fumble, you know, backed up and we were going all shotgun and if there was any type of bad situation there, you could scar that kid and set him back maybe two or three games or set him back an entire year.
"He’s been making so much progress that I admire Sam. Sam didn’t play him for a reason. He cared about him enough to not put him into a situation that failure might be more than we could handle, or he could handle. Frank’s a great kid, I’d be very surprised if he’s not an All-American here by the time he gets done playing. But for him to play on Saturday, and my assessment as well as coach Pittman, it wasn’t the best thing for the kid.”
Bielema seemed to be confused over the chop block penalty called against left tackle Dan Skipper. He said tape showed a cut block, with no other player near him behind the play. Skipper has been executing that block on the backside of plays all season. That clip was sent in to the league office for clarification. It was not a chop block.
On the targeting penalty that resulted in an ejection for linebacker Braylon Mitchell, Bielema said it was a football play and not a direct targeting.
“First, it’s a rule that needs to be there," Bielema said. "We all want to be great in player safety as you guys know. It’s a very big deal to me. That rule was put into place to deter a certain type of behavior. I think as byproduct of that, we all said when that rule went in there’s going to be some natural football plays that unfortunately are going to fall under this category. And I don’t think Braylon Mitchell took off after that quarterback with the intent to target him.
"I know Braylon, and I know the way the play kind of laid out, but when I’m watching that play I don’t know if you could ask him to do any other thing, you know? He’s trying to get to that quarterback as he’s getting ready to throw it.
"The byproduct of that play is we lost contain by our defensive end. We got a flush by Taiwan Johnson up the middle who flushes the quarterback out. The play begins to break down, and there’s other things begin to break down around it. The result was they called him for targeting. It went to the booth. I thought there was a chance it might get thrown out, but obviously it didn’t and he’s all set to go on Saturday. And I think overall we’ll be a better team because of it. I believe the rule has been in place now over two years, right? This is our third year doing it, and it’s the first time I’ve ever lost a player to it. I take a lot of pride in how our guys play, and hopefully we won’t have (a targeting penalty) anytime soon.”
Among the positives discussed with continued solid play by the tight end group, coached by second-year assistant Barry Lunney. Bielema praised Lunney, and referenced his father, Barry Lunney, Sr., head coach at Bentonville High School.
“I can’t say enough about Barry Lunney and Jim Chaney for what they’ve done with that position," Bielema said. "Coach Lunney is as detailed, I mean there’s no surprise to me why his dad wins all those games and has been such a great coach over the course of time. Because he has taught his son how to be one heck of a ball coach.
"From detail, I think every one of his players is different. Hunter Henry’s different than A.J. Derby, and Jeremy Sprinkle is different than him and Alex Voelzke is different than him. He’s got a plan for each one of those kids every day; I see it on paper. He writes it down.
"It’s just awesome, and there’s no secret to why those guys have gotten better. A.J. Derby has played tight end for seven games. Every NFL scout that comes in asks about him, and is going to be rewarded. Hunter Henry, I think a little bit because he’s playing over there in Little Rock and that means a lot for him. But he also grew up in Georgia, you know, so he had a little bit of taste for that game and probably played as good a game as he’s played since he’s been here. That involves catching the football, blocking, being engaged in the game plan and fighting his heart out.”
Bielema : Bad 10 Minutes Detracts
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