There was a common theme among the Arkansas players and coaches that came into the media room after finishing up practice on Tuesday.
It was a sense of accomplish regarding the 24-20 road win at Tennessee - the first under Razorback head coach Bret Bielema - and a statement of how they respect Alabama, but do not fear Saturday night’s foe in Tuscaloosa.
Drew Morgan, Arkansas’ ever-confident junior wide receiver, assessed the win over Tennessee in descriptive terms.
“That is a good feeling, not only just because we won, but we won on the road,” Morgan said. “So we know what is feels like to go over to somebody’s house, kick down the front door and take their TV.
“I feel like it was a good experience for the team and it builds confidence knowing that you can go into somebody’s else house and beat them and that builds belief.”
That’s the same type sentiment expressed by Arkansas junior tailback Alex Collins, who has rushed for over 150 yards in each of the last three games.
“Most definitely,” Collins said. “We’re going to go down there with the attitude we can win this game. That’s what we’re going to try to do. That’s what we’re preparing for and that’s the attitude we’re going to have.”
Arkansas senior Sebastian Tretola - this week’s SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week - made that clear to his teammates even before they left Knoxville on Saturday.
“I just wanted to make sure the guys knew and remembered just how that felt, just how good that felt to win on the road on the road against an SEC opponent,” Tretola said.
“When we are practicing day in and day out, watching film - just don’t forget that. You want to keep that hunger and keep that grind.
“We go at it day in and day out - like I have said before - regardless of who is in front of us and we wan to play as mean and as fast and as physical as we can.
“Alabama is the next team that we have to impose our will on.”
He does admit that Alabama’s defensive line is very good and very big.
“They're big boys, definitely,” Tretola said. “Bigger than you're usual going to see. They're powerful, they're strong. They know how to contain with leverage and work their gaps. They're definitely coached up well.”
Tretola credited his fellow linemen for helping him win the award.
“Obviously that is a huge deal and I am extremely appreciative,” Tretola said. “I work my tail off and the four guys around me make me look that much better. Just as much credit that is given to me should be given to them.”
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen has noticed an upbeat football team in practice this week.
“We are feeling good and obviously spirits are good coming off a win,” Allen said. “We are always excited to play them, especially down there and I think a lot of people are excited for this week and we have put in a lot of preparation for this week and we are going to do everything we can to get ready.”
Allen has been the quarterback the last three times Arkansas has played Alabama.
“I've played them a few times,” Allen said. “Alabama is Alabama. It doesn't matter who comes and goes. They're going to be very disciplined on defense. They're not going to make a lot of eye violations or a lot of mistakes on D.
“We have to execute on offense. We have to do things we do well: That's run the ball, establish a good run game and be able play action and complete passes against them. Basically just be balanced on our offensive side and move the ball and not hurt ourselves.”
Allen shared a long hug with Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema after the game in an embrace of the arguably the two most criticized people in the state the past few weeks.
“To especially get the first road win in the SEC with Coach B is big and a lot of fun for us,” Allen said. “We have been so close so many times and to finally pull one out was really nice.
“Like I said the spirits are really high and everyone was excited to win and we kind of took that feeling and said ‘why don’t we want to feel like this every time? Let’s not hurt ourselves and play like we are capable of and we could have this feeling every time.’”
Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry, who noted he was 11 that the last time the Razorback beat Alabama back in 2006, believes his team is more ready to compete.
The Crimson Tide won back-to-back games 52-0 against Arkansas, but just beat the Razorbacks 14-13 in Fayetteville last season.
“I think the belief, the confidence, and all that stuff, the last time (in Tuscaloosa) that probably wasn't there,” Henry said. “The proof was in the pudding when we went down there and didn't play good at all.
“I think now we're bigger, faster, stronger. We've gotten better every single game, and we want to continue to improve in this game. Hopefully we can put our best game forward.”
For Arkansas to win the game, the Razorbacks will likely have to have success running the ball against an Alabama defense that is allowing just 84 yards rushing a game.
“It’s going to be a big challenge,” Collins said. “They’re a big run-stopping defense and we’re a big running-offense. It’s just going to be about who is going to have the bigger roar, who wants it more. We’re going to go with the attitude that our running offense is better than their running-stopping defense. Going to try to beat them out but they’re a pretty good team.”
Collins feels like he is in a groove now that he has gotten over 25 carries the last three weeks.
“I feel like I’m a lot better now because before when Jonathan (Williams) was with us and I got limited carries, it was harder to get, like, a rhythm,” Collins said. “Now that I’m getting way more carries than I had in previous years, I can get a feel for the game and I can get a better understanding.
“I can get a feel for the team and figure out what works and what doesn’t work, when before I just kind of had to figure it out on the fly and kind of guess when I’m going because I didn’t know when my last rep was going to be.”
Collins feels like Arkansas is close to pulling off a high win.
“We got pretty close last year, but that’s in the past,” Collins said. “Now we’re going to work hard to pull it off and finish strong. That’s been one of our goals this season is just to finish games.”
It hasn’t slipped by Arkansas players that this is Alabama’s homecoming game.
“We all feel some type of way about that, but we’ll let that speak on Saturday,” Tretola said.