Arkansas coach Bret Bielema did not change his stance on his decision to kick a field goal in the final minute of the 51-50 loss to Mississippi State. The 29-yard field goal was blocked and the Bulldogs ran out the clock for the victory.
Bielema met with the media on Monday to review the State game and preview Friday's home game with Missouri to end the regular season. There was also discussion on the UA defense allowing 631 total yards. It was the first time the Hogs had scored as many as 50 points and lost.
"I just wish we had executed the field goal better," Bielema said. "We had a break down in protection. We didn't even get to see anything about the kick because the ball was taken off his foot. Cole Hedlund had been executing his best.
"It's basic field goal protection, inside out. They beat our right end across his face. It's the first time we had had that issue."
Bielema said it was a case of a change in personnel on that side. Mitch Loewen, out with a broken foot, was playing on that side. It caused a flip with Dan Skipper and Alex Voelzke moving to that side.
"There had not been a lot of prep time there for Alex, but he'd been doing well during the game," Bielema said.
Bielema said the last series of the game would be handled the same.
"We were thinking about what was on the clock and how much success (Mississippi State) had been having on offense," Bielema said. "They took their timeouts. We were going to go with the run and we didn't get a lot of yards on the first one, but we got the ball where we wanted. We were going to keep the ball on the ground. We had not been good on field goals, but Cole had been good from that range.
"The kid who blocked it was probably surprised because it hit him in the chest. We had not had any inside out issues."
Bielema said the result left him "pissed off." After he finished his media duties, he quickly went to review the tape on the field goal. That didn't help his mood.
"I hadn't felt like that since maybe a couple of Rose Bowls," he said. "My wife tried to calm me down Saturday night."
Bielema said the Hogs came out of the game in good health. The players injured in the game will play against Missouri.
Tight end Hunter Henry rolled an ankle and wide receiver Drew Morgan has ongoing shoulder injuries.
"Obviously, those guys have some rehab this week, but there is great motivation to play this game for our seniors," Bielema said. "Those guys will be there."
Offensive coordinator Dan Enos said he liked the end of game strategy, too.
"Once we got inside the 15, we knew we were in great shape to win the game," Enos said. "We would have liked to have gotten the first down."
The three straight runs were decided with Bielema.
"We didn't need a field goal to tie, we needed it to win," Enos said. "If you get sacked, you are out of range. You couldn't face your team if that happened.
"I felt there was no other thing to do other than get it as close as possible and win the game. Unfortunately, we couldn't execute the kick and give them credit."
There were questions about the fourth-and-1 call that resulted in a incomplete pass in the end zone.
"You could call a run, but we thought we would have the pass," he said. "I don't regret that one. The guy in the flat was covered so he went to the end zone."
Bielema said the defensive issues require a boost in recruiting, especially at linebacker where he thinks the Hogs probably under signed. There is at least one future linebacker on campus, on the other side of the ball.
Kenderick Jackson is playing fullback. He was destined to redshirt when the Hogs decided they needed help at fullback during the week before the opener. He moved to fullback and has gotten on the field except for an issue with a concussion during the open week.
"He will practice at middle linebacker during bowl preparations," Bielema said. "We think we have help coming at fullback in the current recruiting class."
Austin Cantrell, who played tight end and linebacker in high school, continues to work on offense and will stay there. Bielema said Cantrell, in a redshirt year, would play at H-back and tight end.
Defensively, coordinator Robb Smith said he'd never been through a game like last week against Mississippi State. He said he gives a tip of the tap to Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott, but that "big takeaway is that we have to improve. We have issues that need to be improved."
Smith said Prescott is "excellent and did a nice job of keeping us honest with the run. What I see is that the margin is slim in space and we didn't tackle well. I've studied Missouri, but I'm really focused on us. We have to defend formations, we have to defend skill people in space better. We anticipate Missouri doing things they've seen against us on tape and anticipate some tempo things."
Smith said the thin nature of the linebacker position has required Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw to "play a lot. With Brooks, it is what it is. He played every snap. It looked like Brooks competed and played hard. We tried to give Dre a rest by changing to a package with more defensive backs. We tried to do some things to sub in Kevin Richardson."
The Hogs forced three turnovers in the third quarter to blank MSU, but gave up 51 points in the other three quarters.
"We put together one quarter, but you saw what they did," Smith said. "Those are some ugly numbers. My hat is off to (Prescott), but from my spot I don't have the luxury of doing that. We have to improve."
Is it players or scheme?
"You always go back to getting better players," he said. "You have to recruit. I'll be on the road recruiting on Sunday night. And, when I'm not in a home or in a school to see a recruit, I'll be looking at tape. I'll be evaluating scheme, technique and personnel. You have to look at all of it.
"I think programmatically, we look back and when we are in the right spots and we leverage teams and play our fundamentals, we can stop teams. We've done that. Against spread teams, the margin is so slim. But I'm looking at what we can do better. We have not been doing anything different this year and we know we have to get better in all areas.
"It's all about players. Recruiting is paramount. I'll be out of here Sunday night."
Smith did not hear Bielema say that he'd get Jackson back at linebacker. Told that, he was pleased.
"We want to do the things to help the team," Smith said. "So he had a chance to get on the field at the first of the year at fullback. At that time, we had not lost so many linebackers. We were not that thin. I'm excited to get him back."
Smith said it would be a plus that he's played this year, even if it's on offense. Playing in the SEC is good experience when he returns to linebacker.
Enos is pleased with the progress of the playmakers and notes that the game plan is flexible because of the development of tight end and wide receiver.
"We have explosive players with Drew Morgan, Dominique Reed, Jared Cornelius, Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle," Enos said. "If someone wants to take one of those away with coverage, then we are not afraid to go to any one of the others."
Enos praised Brandon Allen for an incredible performance against Mississippi State.
"They really stacked the box and made us throw," Enos said. "They did that and Brandon threw for seven touchdowns. He had a great performance, as good as any I've seen. He was accurate. He avoided pressure and he made some great, great throws. He was outstanding."