Arkansas is getting healthy at just the right time, with Heisman Trophy hopeful Dak Prescott waiting with No. 1 Mississippi State in Starkville.
Game time will be 6:15 p.m., it was announced late Sunday. The game is slated for ESPN’s prime time telecast with the undefeated Bulldogs.
Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith knows that the order of the day throughout the week will be tackling. He knows that the MSU running game will be a big test this week. Prescott will keep in the option game and out of called quarterback draws, but running back Josh Robinson doesn’t go down easily.
“That running back is tough to tackle,” Smith said. “The number one key for us this week is tackling. The quarterback is very good in play-action passing, but you better account for him when he drops back. He is just as likely to run as to throw. When you defend someone like Prescott, it’s like you need 12 to defend instead of 11. Some quarterbacks you don’t need to account for, but Prescott you do. Prescott is just like another running back for them.”
The Hogs didn’t have middle linebacker Brooks Ellis the last two weeks, but head coach Bret Bielema said he’s likely to be ready for the Bulldogs. The Hogs also added depth at strong safety with the return of Sleepy McKinney, inserted into the starting lineup ahead of Rohan Gaines. Defensive ends Brandon Lewis and Deatrich Wise have battled knee issues, but both made plays in the 45-7 victory over Alabama-Birmingham.
“Sleepy is getting healthy finally,” Smith said. “We have a lot of confidence in both Sleepy and Rohan. Both of those can play and they are going to get big repetitions as we head forward this season.
“I think B-Lew and Deatrich both made plays on th goal line for us. Mitchell Loewen also did some things for us at defensive end. In this league, you are going to need them all. We are getting some guys healthy.”
Smith was pleased with the way the first unit performed against UAB.
“They made plays in the run game and they knocked down passes,” he said. “I liked what the ones did and our twos had a nice goal line stand. That was an exciting moment in our tape evaluation watching that (stand).”
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney called the performance by quarterback Brandon Allen “solid” in many ways.
“I know he was pleased to hit Drew Morgan with the deep ball,” Chaney said. “Everyone gets on him about his deep ball, but I think that’s one of the things he does really well, one of the best things he does. He just needs to relax because he can throw that ball.
“I thought he was pretty solid, especially in the first half. He wasn’t as accurate on some passes in the second half, but he was pretty good.”
Chaney took a look at a bit of Mississippi State tape after finishing UAB evaluation.
“I’ll get a lot more tonight on State,” he said. “But what I saw, they are really good. They are physical and very large. They do a wonderful job of coaching and you don’t see them out of position.”
Chaney was pleased with much of the UAB performance.
“We bounced back from a week when we didn’t play as hard to really give great effort,” Chaney said. “The effort was really there. We didn’t make many errors in the first half. There were mistakes in the second half, but the effort was still there.”
There was fun with the Sebastian Tretola touchdown pass out of the fake field goal. Chaney reaffirmed what Bielema said afterwards, the head coach designed that play.
“I wish I had something to do with it,” Chaney said. “It was pretty cool. It was completely Coach B. As far as the technique on the play, he threw and it was caught. That’s good enough for me. There were some progressions involved, but he didn’t get to any of them. They came after him and he got rid of it.
“I loved it. (Tretola) is a good kid. He fits in with our group. He came in and went about his work quietly. He made his name on the field in practice. Every kid respects that.
“He’s been playing great. I think he’s our best lineman.”
Chaney took advantage of that good work with the “influence play” behind a pulling Tretola early in the second half. The running back darted into a huge void on the left side when two UAB defenders followed Tretola to the right side.
“Yeah, it was nice,” Chaney said. “You can run that every now and then. It works when you have a guy playing really well like he has been for us.”
Sunday Grid Update, 10/26
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