Sunday Grid Report, 9/19

Arkansas practiced briefly Sunday as the Hogs began to prepare for their SEC opener with Alabama. Two regulars missed the workout because of minor injuries.

Arkansas worked for about 70 minutes, with a long look at Alabama sets and alignments on Sunday. The Hogs, preparing for their SEC opener Saturday, were without injured defensive backs Chris Houston and Lerinezo Robinson. Both are day-to-day and could play this week.

Robinson (ankle) was at practice, but watched with his ankle heavily wrapped. Houston stayed in the training room for treatement.

Jeremy Harrell (ankle) and Jared Hicks (shoulder) both practiced after sitting out the 49-20 victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.

"Hicks is back full speed," said tight end coach Clifton Ealy. "He probably could have gone in a pinch last night, but that thing has been giving him trouble for two weeks and we just needed to sit him out and get it well."

Ealy said both Payne Hall and Mason Templeton, listed as co-backups at tight end, graded out above 80 percent. Both had solid games and had about the same number of snaps. Both had several knockdowns and pancakes.

"We liked what they did," Ealy said. "They blocked extremely well. ULM blitzed a lot and they did well in our protections."

Early in the game, the Hogs went to the weakside in their running game to let the young tight ends settle into the flow of the game. They came back to the strong side and made big plays in the running game later in the game.

"We knew the blitzes were going to come on the strong side, so we went away from our tight ends at the start," Ealy said. "When we came back there, they really blocked well."

The Hogs finished the day with their usual Sunday conditioning run to get the soreness out of their legs and shoulders. They went on a timed run which included periods of half speed and three/quarter speed running.

The Hogs will take Monday off, their regular one day off every week per NCAA rules. Saturday's kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. for CBS-TV. All $35 tickets are sold out, but there are a limited number of club seats still available.

Here are comments from head coach Houston Nutt from his Sunday afternoon meeting with area media:

Opening remarks

"It's always good to win a ball game. I'm excited about the win. It's hard to come back with a high level intensity after you play a team like Texas. I really thought there was a span of seven minutes in the second quarter where there were too many good things going for them. At halftime we made some good adjustments and got to more of a base and didn't blitz as much. I thought our defense with Lerinezo Robinson and Michael Coe and with the help of the pressure from our defensive front, they were able to get some turnovers for us. That was really positive.

"The offensive line played extremely well and did a good job of controlling the ball. Matt Jones and the receivers Steven Harris, (Chris) Baker, (Carlos) Ousley, (Cedric) Washington, (Marcus) Monk, those guys did an outstanding job. David Thompson got some plays and did a good job without the ball, blocking and he'll continue to get more. Those guys are playing very, very well with and without the ball.

"To have some running lanes the way we did. I was really proud of that to have two backs over 100 yards. De'Arrius Howard ran the ball the best he's run since he's been here. He was really physical and running down hill. It helps when you have lanes like that to run in. Then DeCori Birmingham, I thought he hit the hole very well.

"I thought Mason Templeton and Payne Hall played well. We're trying to take care of Jared Hicks and get him healthy as we enter the SEC. We're really going to need him. Mason is catching up from missing spring ball. He really improved and did a good job of blocking for us. I thought he was going to catch that one ball in the end zone, but the guy made a good play on it.

"Overall, we're going to take this game and learn from it. I thought there was one time where we lost a little confidence midway through the second quarter. I thought we came back and regrouped. We got some three and outs, some turnovers, and turned the game around and shut them out in the second half. That was the most positive them in the whole game, being able to come back.

"(During the game) There was an air show going on. Matt Jones told Coach Wittke he thought he was doing PlayStation, because it was one score after the other. He was having fun, but it all starts with an offensive line that's protecting him and having some good running lanes with backs carrying the ball and you get running fast. You've got a good mixture going when the defense gives you turnovers. It makes a big difference."

On Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle being injured:

"I hate to see anyone get hurt, especially like that. There's another quarterback that's transferred in from Miami. He's gotten some snaps and they were very high on him in the spring. We know how talented they are and the one thing we're not sitting around the table today thinking that we're all very excited that Brodie Croyle got hurt. A lot of times all that does is bring a team closer together. It makes them play harder, so we're not looking at that as an advantage at all."

On entering SEC play:

"I'm excited about it. I'm glad our three non-conference games are behind us now. You're going to another level of football now and it's all SEC for the next eight times. There are still some things we have to get better. That's what we're going to do starting today and our guys are looking forward to it. I know they're excited and we respect everybody that we play every single Saturday."

On Alabama:

"They always look the same to me. They're very physical and they're going to try to pound the ball with two good tailbacks. Then they'll lull you to sleep and throw deep with a play action. Their defense is very fast and physical. They're off to a great start."

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