Despite no one - including a vocal segment of their own fans - giving them no chance to stay close - much less win - at No. 1 USC Saturday night, the University of Arkansas football went ahead and practiced on Wednesday.
True freshman linebacker Freddie Fairchild - who will get his first start Saturday in place of injured senior Pierre Brown - didn't even sound scared about the prospect of facing the two-time defending national champions.
"I love the opportunity," Fairchild said. "This is my chance to step up and help the team out anyway I can. I love it. I feed into the crowd. When there is a big crowd it's showtime. When I see 100,000, that's he first thing I think - showtime."
Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt, whose team lost 28-24 to visiting Vanderbilt last Saturday, knows his Razorbacks (1-1) are a 30-point underdog to USC (1-0) and face a monumental challenge in the 9:15 p.m. game.
But he thinks his team has at least come back around mentally after a Sunday practice that was bad.
"That's two back-to-back days where the guys have had good focus and good intensity," Nutt said after the workout indoors in the Walker Pavilion. "That's what it is going to take - very talented, very fast team."
Fairchild has played USC a lot of times - albeit on his PlayStation.
"I play against them all the time, play with them actually," Fairchild said. "I know what they like to do. It's just like seeing their playbook."
Not that Fairchild devalues the scouting report he gets from the UA coaches. In fact, he says he is looking at it constantly.
"I am student of the game, I look at my scouting report a lot, I watch film, I like knowing the tight end's number, the running back's number so I won't even have to look at the formation," Fairchild said.
It would seem Fairchild would see it as a daunting task to face guys like USC quarterback Matt Leinart, running back Lendale White, the versatile Reggie Bush and wideouts such as Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett.
"I think about it - it may be in the back of my head - but when I am out there on the field, they are like any other football player - he's a running back and I am a linebacker," Fairchild said. "He's got to put on his helmet just like I do."
He says that keying on any one player would not be in the best interest, who will find out around game time about the availability of offensive lineman Zac Tubbs and tight end Wes Murphy.
"We take all of them as a threat and we respect all of them," Fairchild said. "We are not singling out one individual."
Fairchild, who starred at Little Rock Central before going to Hargrave Military Academy for a year, says that he believes he is making the adjustment to the college level quickly.
"Basically it's just the change of speed, the pace of the linemen is more faster and learning the techniques and learning your assignments - there is more responsibilities."
Fairchild has what many thought might be a game-turning play last week when he sacked Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler in the fourth quarter, but then the Commodores made plays to win.
"It felt good," Fairchild said.
As for the fans' criticism this week of the head coach, the offense and defense, Fairchild says he's just taking care of what he can.
"I always have confidence in myself," Fairchild said. "If you don't have confidence in yourself, who will?"
Wednesday Grid Report, 9-14
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