Wednesday Grid Update, 10/29
It doesn't take much to get Arkansas up for its game this weekend at Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs are No. 1 in the first College Football Playoff standings and have the Heisman Trophy frontrunner at quarterback. Mississippi State will be playing its first home game ever as No. 1 against the Razorbacks.
"It's crazy for me to be able to come in as a freshman and play against the best team in the nation," said defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson. "I think we're ready. We've got a good game plan and we're going to go out and give it all we've got."
Playing a highly-ranked team is nothing new for the Razorbacks. Arkansas has played four top 10 teams already this season during a 0-4 start to the Southeastern Conference.
"Our kids have played in front of some big crowds, so I don't think there is an awe factor," defensive backs coach Clay Jennings said. "Now I will say you are going down to Starkville and their stadium is an unbelievable place to play. They have got great fans that are loud with the cowbells and everything else, but if our kids are focused, they will be OK."
Containing Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Josh Robinson will likely be key to the Razorbacks' defensive success Saturday. The duo combined to rush for 286 yards and 4 touchdowns in a win at Kentucky last weekend.
"They always gain a lot of extra yardage," Arkansas defensive line coach Rory Segrest said. "They're always falling forward and whether it be 1-yard or a big play after the first contact. We've just got to make sure we're moving our feet to bring those guys down."
The Razorbacks struggled to contain the run game in their last conference game against Georgia. Arkansas gave up 202 yards to freshman Nick Chubb, who gashed the Razorbacks' defense on multiple occasions before halftime.
Segrest compared Mississippi State's run game to the one Arkansas saw two weeks ago.
"They are a very talented backfield," Segrest said. "They've got a couple of guys back there who are big, strong running backs. They can break tackles and are very similar to what we played against Georgia. (Robinson) can get through there and you're not going to one-arm him."
The Bulldogs are also capable passing the ball, with Prescott averaging 242 yards per game. Jennings said Prescott is a better passer because of his ability to run.
"He does a great job extending plays," Jennings said. "Any time you have a dual-threat guy back there he is always a threat. It doesn't matter if you bring four, five or six, if he has a chance to either get to the perimeter or catch a seam in the middle. It's like having an extra running back back there, plus he has a tremendous arm.
"A lot of his passes are play-action and they do a tremendous job setting up the play-action with the perimeter run. Guys have to get their eyes in the right place and be disciplined."
Jennings expects Arkansas to have freshman cornerback Henre' Toliver back for the game this weekend, though he's unsure how much Toliver will be able to contribute. Toliver, who didn't play against UAB after experiencing muscle spasms in his back, returned to practice Wednesday.
Arkansas will likely start Rohan Gaines at safety again Saturday after Davyon McKinney got the starting nod against UAB.
"(Rohan) needed a wake-up call just a little bit," Jennings said. "As long as there is a little heat, everybody starts getting in the right place and doing the right thing. Both of them had a pretty good week."
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