'Change the Game'

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas defensive line coach Tracy Rocker is hesitant to talk about his unit's performance during last Saturday's 20-14 loss to No. 10 Georgia.

That's because the second-year coach finally got everything he wanted from a group expected to serve as the strength of a young defense this season. Rocker, who challenged the defensive line to shed blockers and make plays after several stagnant outings, said he doesn't want them to settle for one outstanding game.

"I don't want to talk about it," Rocker said. "You don't want it to be a one-hit wonder deal and the next week we're fighting to get that back."

That's why little was said about Georgia when the Razorbacks returned to practice Tuesday afternoon for the first of three workouts during the bye week. Arkansas has two weeks to prepare for an important game at South Carolina on Nov. 6.

The defensive line gained confidence after finally flexing some muscle against the Bulldogs, tallying 32 tackles, 8 for losses, 3 1/2 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and a touchdown. By comparison, the group combined for 33 tackles, 2 for losses, no sacks and one forced fumble against Florida and Auburn.

But defensive end Jeb Huckeba said the Hogs also understand they missed chances to make even more plays.

"We should've had eight sacks," Huckeba said. "When we went back and looked at the film, we didn't get as many as we should have. People were close on almost every pass play. Football is a game of inches and close doesn't count.

"I think you can draw on that experience (against Georgia). We've done that before this season. But we haven't done it every game. We've got four more games left and if we can take that approach every game, I feel like we can win every one."

Huckeba led the charge against the Bulldogs, registering a game-high 12 tackles, 4 for losses and 3 sacks. The senior also sacked Georgia quarterback David Greene late in the first half to force a fumble, which freshman lineman Marcus Harrison scooped up and returned 18 yards for a touchdown.

Huckeba said he stayed on the practice field for extra work last week, learning a pass rush technique he thought would help against the Bulldogs. Rocker believed his defensive ends could slip past Georgia's enormous defensive line if they used their speed and stayed on the edges. Huckeba's extra work paid off.

"He was in a zone, but it was the things he did in practice," Rocker said. "We talked about it all week and he transferred it to game day. I told them, 'You've got to attack on the tips of these guys, stay on the edge and don't run down the middle of them.' I was constantly on them about it.

"That's what they did the whole game. It was unbelievable."

Rocker said the key to the defensive line's performance was that the Hogs got key contributions from everyone in their two-deep rotation.

Harrison was in on a big play in the first half, when four Razorbacks stuffed Georgia tailback Danny Ware at the goal line on fourth down. Starting defensive tackle Jeremy Harrell teamed with Huckeba to sack elusive quarterback D.J. Shockley on third-and-3 in the first quarter. Elliott Harris, Titus Peebles and Keith Jackson also added tackles for losses to help slow the Bulldogs.

"It was kind of one of those deals where you're waiting, you're waiting, you're waiting," Rocker said. "Against Auburn, we went where we were supposed to go but we didn't make plays. We didn't make tackles. I said, 'We've got to make plays. We've got to have tackles for losses. We've got to change the game.'

"That's the way we approached it. I just challenged each one."

Harrell said the next step for the defensive line is to impact the final four games and help Arkansas grab important wins. The Razorbacks need three victories in their final four outings to earn their seventh straight bowl bid.

Harrell said Saturday was a good start for the front four after struggling to stuff running backs and pressure quarterbacks for a few weeks. But the sophomore said the defensive line expects to make even more of an impact against South Carolina.

"We like to take it upon ourselves to change the game," Harrell said. "As a D-line, we played our best game this year. Those are bright things to come in future games.

"But we've also got to make the big play at the end to seal the deal."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories