Quick Start Began with Decision to Defer

Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith couldn't help but smile when a reporter went back to the first decision of the game, the opening coin toss. Head coach Bret Bielema had asked Smith early in the day about playing defense first.

Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith didn't have time to enjoy the back-to-back shutouts against LSU and Ole Miss. He was busy breaking down Missouri tape since it's a short week for the Friday date in Columbia.

“We've got to put that behind us and keep pushing forward,” Smith said on Sunday after reviewing tape of the 30-0 triumph over the Rebels. “That's what has been good, the attitude we've maintained. It's a big part of who we are and Coach (Bret) Bielema has set that up.

“It's that 1-0 mentality. Whatever happens, you take it and learn from it. We have to shorten things down this week and do the same thing.”

The key to the shutout was six forced turnovers. The Hogs also stopped the Rebels twice on fourth down.

“That's stressed daily,” said Smith, who gave offensive coordinator Jim Chaney credit for his weekly talk with the team on the importance of turnover ratio.

“Coach Chaney always talk to our team about the importance of holding on to the ball. Then he'll say, 'Defense, go get us one.' We understand the metrics.”

Chaney told the media on Sunday that the team that wins the turnover ratio in the SEC has close to a 90 percent chance of winning.

“We talk about it a lot,” Chaney said. “What's different this year? I think it's just maturity. They understand what we are trying to do. It's the second year. That's not unique to Arkansas. For example, Brandon Allen understands where he's going with the ball.”

Back to defense, Smith said he was trying to understand some of the history behind what the Hogs accomplished, becoming the first unranked college team to shutout two ranked opponents in the history of the polls. There is some thought that North Carolina Pre-Flight, a Navy collection based in Chapel Hill, N.C., playing college teams, might also have done it.

“My wife was trying to explain the whole Navy Pre-Flight thing last night,” Smith said. “That tells you about things in my house. I'm not sure I got it.”

Smith was beaming about Bielema's decision to defer when the Hogs won the coin toss, meaning they would go on defense first. The Hogs generally have not had a defense that would warrant such a decision in several years.

“Isn't that fun?” Smith said. “The first quarter, you couldn't write a better script.”

The Hogs parlayed a three-and-out, a turnover and a mistake on a kickoff to a quick 17-0 lead and never looked back. They finished the route with a 100-yard interception return by Rohan Gaines.

“It felt good to defer,” Smith said. “We meet (as coaches) early Saturday and Bret talked about doing that. He ran that by me, but obviously that's his decision. Absolutely, I liked it.”

Weather played into that decision, but Smith said, “As far as the elements the last two weeks, I don't even think our guys thought it was a factor. They know they only can control what they can control and that's not one of them.”

Chaney did not reveal much about the condition of starting quarterback Brandon Allen. Redshirt freshman Austin Allen played most of the game after his older brother was injured. Brandon Allen was reaching for the back area when he left the field.

Chaney was asked Sunday afternoon if he had seen Brandon Allen and about the injury. Chaney said, “I have and he's tender.”

There wasn't much clarification on who would play after Austin Allen. Rafe Peavey is listed third on the depth chart, but is scheduled to redshirt.

“We haven't talked about that yet,” Chaney said, effectively dodging the question. “If something had happened to Austin (against Ole Miss), I was coming down (from the press box) to play.”

One option would be to move tight end AJ Derby back to quarterback, but Chaney wouldn't indicate whether that is part of the plan.

“Austin was solid,” Chaney said. “Obviously, a lot of what he was doing was just to hand it off.”

The plan was to throw more, but the lead was solid.

“You just can't hand it off all the time,” Chaney said. “But the defense was playing well and you don't need to get radical. I've got no problem with Austin and the team thinks he can play.

“We had a nice lead. So what comes out of my mouth in that situation is more conservative.”

Chaney said he generally is focused on his next series when the defense is on the field, but he's gotten some “peeks” at Smith's unit.

“To get those shutouts is very difficult,” Chaney said. “It's extremely hard. For our defense to do it two weeks in a row is unbelievable, remarkable. When I do peek, it's refreshing. You see 11 playing together with confidence.”

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