MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Arkansas defensive end JaMichael Winston knows that Kansas State's offense doesn't look anything like what the Razorbacks run in a pro-style scheme. But it's still appropriate that there is daily work against the running game.
There are periods every day that focus on smashmouth running from the Arkansas offense, Winston told the media at the LIberty Bowl on Wednesday morning. It's perfect preparation for some of what Kansas State does in a downhill running game from multiple formations.
"I just think we love to face running teams and we are prepared for them," Winston said. "They have a downhill attack with their quarterbacks. They have some portions of their game that is heavy with downhill running."
Quarterback Joe Hubener leads the Wildcats with 807 rushing yards, not counting 194 subtracted for sacks to leave a net of 613. Tailback Charles Jones has a net of 673 yards. It's clear that the Hogs know that Hubener is the main focus.
"It's a quarterback running game," said Robb Smith, the Arkansas defensive coordinator. "The running back is effective, too, but it starts with the quarterback."
Stopping the run is part of the daily practice schedule as emphasized by head coach Bret Bielema.
"We are going to have a team run period every day," Smith said. "That's from Bret. We know that going against our offense and our style of downhill running gets us prepared for every team we face in some way. They all have an element of a running game."
Winston is a run stopper of a defensive end. That's his strength and it's that part of practice that he always looks forward to each day.
“I love it because he preaches the physical mentality and against our offensive line, we get after it everyday," Winston said. "We do a lot of inside run. I don’t think a lot of teams across the country do that anymore, but we still do. That’s why we’re so good at stopping the run I think.
"We play a lot of ball each day against our offensive line. It's how we are built. It's part of our strength and conditioning program to build us to stop the run. It's how we are trained and how we practice.
"It's our foundation, what Coach B believes in and what Coach Smith works towards and it all carries over to a game like this when we face a running team."
Defensive tackle DeMarcus Hodge said it's a good feeling when he sees the game plan and there is no need for an eight-man box against a running team.
"We play them with our regular stuff and stop the run," Hodge said. "If I see that we need more, then it's not a good reflection on what our coaches see in our defensive line. We should be able to play them with our front four and nothing else. We are prepared to play with our front against a good running team and this is a downhill running team. We shouldn't have to blitz to stop them."
The Wildcats use two quarterbacks. Hubener is the downhill runner. Kody Cook, a quick wide receiver, also steps in at quarrterback to give a more elusive look for the offense.
Smith said the offensive system has continuity within the rotation of the two quarterbacks, although the style of the two players is different.
“I think they try to run their offense," Smith said. "They have a strong identity of what they want to be offensively. I think their running styles are a little bit different, obviously.
"Their one quarterback is a little bit bigger than the other. I think they’re going to do what they do and they do it very well. It’s going to be important that we can disrupt the quarterback this week if we want to have success. I think both those guys are quality football players and have obviously helped them win and play well down the stretch.”
Interestingly, Smith was asked by a Kansas State beat writer to define the Wildcats on offense. The question was prefaced with the comment, "We have a hard time figuring out their identity. Can you help me?"
Smith provided a lengthy reply and emphasized that there is great variety to what the Wildcats do as far as formations and scheme. The only thing that's good about that, Smith said, the long bowl prep gave the Hogs time to digest the variety of the scheme.
“I think one of the things they want to do is make it hard for you to prepare for them," Smith said. "They’re either going to give you a variety of personnel groupings, they do things with two fullbacks in the game and they play multiple quarterbacks.
"But, I think at their essence, they want to be able to be physically tough and run the football. For us, defensively, that’s where it starts. We’ve got to be able to defend their run game. I think when their quarterback becomes a runner they do a really good job with run pass options throughout, whether there’s four receivers in the game or one receiver in the game.
"They really stress you there and make you play very detailed and disciplined football. Then, when they can lull you to sleep in the run game, they’ll take a shot up top and they’ve been very proficient at times throwing the deep ball. I think at their essence they want to run the football, but they do enough to keep you balanced.”
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