Thursday Grid Report, 9/15

UA senior captain Kyle Roper has some thoughts he has imparted to the team this week in between the crushing loss to Vandy and a battle at No. 1 USC on Saturday night.

As one of his football team's leaders and captains, University of Arkansas senior center Kyle Roper has taken it upon himself to help the Razorbacks look forward instead of behind this week.

He notes there is absolutely nothing that can be done now about last Saturday's shocking 28-24 home loss to Vanderbilt, only something that can be accomplished in the last 9 regular season contests beginning with Saturday night's 9:15 p.m. game at No. 1 and two-time defending national champion USC.

"We are all just trying to keep a good attitude and let anybody stay down about last week," Roper said. "You have to put it behind you and get up off of the floor. In fact, we have been trying to cut up the last few days and lightened the mood. We have a free shot to go out there and shock the world and you can't do it if you are moping around and feeling sorry for yourself."

Roper and the rest of the Razorbacks (1-1, 0-1 in SEC action) finished up on-campus preparations for the Trojans (1-0) on Thursday with an early afternoon practice before flying to California at around 5 p.m.

They focused on polishing up their offensive and defensive game plan as well as the special teams in the nearly two-hour workout.

The physical effort has been just half the battle this week according to Roper, who has heard from fellow students that he and his teammates and coaches are getting raked over the coals for losing to Vanderbilt.

"You try not to pay attention to any of that," Roper said. "We don't even try to read the paper or watch TV or listen to the radio after something like that happens. We just stick inside our circle and stay away from the criticism of the fans because they would not help us any. We just try to depend on each other in times like these."

While the offensive line has performed well so far this season, Roper knows it is getting criticism for not punching the ball in from the one on any of three straight tries from the 1-yard line that would have put Arkansas up 14-0.

"That's something that you hate to see, but like I said, it is something you put behind and look forward to playing the best team in the country," Roper said. "We're not going to quit, we're not going to roll over just because some of our fans think we can't do it."

As far as who is going to play, Arkansas will definitely be without wideout Chris Baker and likely will be without injured starting senior linebacker Pierre Brown, who will be replaced by true freshman Freddie Fairchild.

"I don't know if he (Brown) is definitely out, but it is tough when you don't practice all week," Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt said. "There is one guy that if he did get loosen up enough, he is a senior that knows what to do and we might put him in there. But he is going to have to be a whole lot better than he was yesterday."

Nutt said offensive lineman Zac Tubbs is a "possibility. He looked good yesterday and did some good things again today. I don't know about percentage, but he is going to be dressed and ready to go. If we ask him, I think he'd get in there."

Tight end Wes Murphy is another possibility to play after missing the first two games.

"He went through things yesterday and still has a slight limp,'" Nutt said. "I am hoping he will get that limp out of the way and we can use him for a few plays."

Nutt also mention Thursday that senior De'Arrius Howard would start at tailback with Peyton Hillis, Felix Jones and Darren McFadden all seeing some time.

"We planned on that last week just like we did the first week," Nutt said of playing the freshmen more. "We just didn't feel good about it at the time, but we have a lot of confidence in them and we are not afraid to play them."

Jones is also in the mix to return punts along with junior Michael Coe and Hillis.

"We just want them to catch the football, catch the football, catch the football - don't drop it," Nutt said. "We have got to hang onto the football."

It would seem that all hands would need to be on deck to pull of an upset of USC, which is a 31-point favorite over Arkansas in a game that will be televised nationally by Fox Sports Net from The Coliseum.

"You know I have never been there, I just seen it on TV with the Olympic Rings and probably like everybody with the white horse and a lot of tradition and all those things," Nutt said. "I haven't been there, but I am looking forward to it."

A crowd of over 90,000 is expected for USC's home opener, but Nutt doesn't think his team will be fazed by that.

"The SEC prepares you for a lot of things - athleticism, the fans, the tailgating, all the atmosphere," Nutt said. "We are going to be used to whatever they have to offer - whether it be 90,000 in The Coliseum or 100,000 - it is no different than going to a Knoxville, a Florida or a Georgia."

Nutt was asked if he thought his team could run on USC.

"We always feel we can run on anyone and we feel good about some things we are doing in the passing game and Robert keeps improving," Nutt said. "To answer your question - yes, absolutely.

Nutt does admit that a bad start would likely doom his team.

"The keys are real simple," Nutt said. "Number one, don't let them get out of the gate too fast because of a kickoff return or a punt return. I worry about Reggie Bush and we've got to stop him or at least slow him down. No one has stopped him in a couple of years - no one. He is all over the field.

"...The other thing is offensively we have got to keep the clock moving, stay on the field, make some first downs and when you get your opportunities - score," Nutt continued. "That's what has to happen."


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