Sunday with Bobby Petrino, 8/31

Bobby Petrino met with the media on Sunday -- via telephone conference. Here are the thoughts of the Arkansas head coach after a 28-24 victory over Western Illinois.

Bobby Petrino handled his Sunday date with the media via teleconference. It was a 30-minute question and answer segment with the usual Arkansas media. Here are the questions, and his answers:

Did you think about trying a field goal on fourth-and-10 in the fourth quarter and discuss the play that was called:

"We thought about it, but the distance was right on the edge. It was my decision to go for it.

"It was a play that we used quite a bit on the night with some outs on the outside receivers and a high-low route on the inside receivers. Casey thought about running and did a nice job of stepping up for the throw. Carlton Salters ran a nice route with a nice move and was open early. If the throw had come then, we might have made a few more yards."

Petrino was asked about the obvious coaching philosophy of going right back to receivers after drops.

"That's what we've been doing as coaches, show confidence in receivers, try to get them more chances. Lucas Miller had a play where he batted a ball and it went for an interception, but he made some big plays after that. Carlton Salters had a fumble and we came back to him and he made some big plays. If you only get one or two chances and it's a drop, then it can become a problem. Then a drop becomes a big deal."

How much did you miss Michael Smith and does he have to go back to the practice field and earn his job back after sitting out this game in a suspension?

"We missed him a lot in the run game. Dennis Johnson and DeAnthony Curtis did good, but they were a little overwhelmed early. They missed a few cuts and we put a lot of protection on Casey in the protections. We missed Michael's speed in the cuts and his ability to hit the tracks. Michael will come back and start this week."

How did the offensive line play?

"We missed a couple of communications, but a couple of times the backs did not line up right. For us, pass protections has 11 men with responsibilities. Some of it is on the quarterback, but there is something for everyone."

What encouraged you in the game?

"The defense really played with effort at linebacker and in the secondary. We were full speed to the ball. There are things we can correct in gap control. We got cut on the back side way too many times. We'll work on that. We got good pressure from the secondary at times.

"On offense, it was a matter of not executing early. The first two possessions were not good. We had some communication errors.

"The second half we did better, but we had only four possessions. We scored on three of them and then had the fumble by Salters. We felt a rhythm in the second half."

What about the status of Walner Leandre and Mitch Petrus?

"This is the weekend. We'll know more at the first of the week. There's nothing new. Walner was being held out. He should be back ... if he competes this week. We'll see where we are at the end of the week."

How many freshmen did you play and how did they do?

"I'm told that our 80 man group we took to the hotel, there were 18 freshmen and 13 walkons. Obviously, we were very inexperienced there. But they competed and held their composure and made plays to help us win in the fourth quarter.

"At the end of the night we came out with a lot more experience and it will be critical to continue to improve. They know a little bit more about the speed of the game and how we expect it to be played now."

Does it make it easier to teach -- better attention from the players -- following a close victory? "We'll get their attention anyway. I'd prefer that we blew them out and get more people in and get more experience.

"We need to get better. We need to play the run better. We need to use our hands better (in the defensive line) and get off blocks and not get knocked into each other. There was effort given, but we can play better.

"We need to run it better and we will. We just didn't try to run it a whole lot. The defense they played put a lot in the box and they stunted and twisted on every play. Maybe, looking back, maybe we should have thrown more, on every down. We probably got bull headed.

"On offense, our philosophy is that if everyone does their job, it works. We'll run it better this week.

"I thought Casey did a real nice job after the first quarter of setting our protections. So we got better in some areas as we went along."

How does Casey Dick become a better runner over the last three seasons?

"He's a good athlete. His times are good. His change of direction is good. It's a matter of getting the right mindset.

"On the third down before the fourth-and-10 play, he could have run it. He might have broken his record from the (23-yard TD run) and make 24. It was there. They were playing man-under with a three-man rush and no spy on the quarterback. He could have took it and easily got the first down. He's got to realize when that's there."

How did the wide receivers play in an overview of more than just when they caught a pass?

"We need to improve. There were a couple of plays (a draw to De'Anthony Curtis stands out in Petrino's mind) where if the wide receiver blocked his man, it might have been a touchdown. He would have been one-on-one at that point. We have to continue to understand to block and hustle. We have inexperience and fatigue there. We definitely were not pleased with the wide receivers -- except for the plays at the end that helped us win the game."

Will you make any changes at kickoff return?

"We will evaluate that. We liked Elton Ford there, but it's hard to evaluate in preseason camp when you are going scout team live. It's not the same. He has the ability, but we might make a change there. We are asking him to do a lot."

Did anyone stand out in the offensive line?

"DeMarcus Love played real well. He did a nice job in protection and he gave great effort. He's very physical. We may pull him more and get him outside where his ability to run is good.

"Defensively, Dallas Washington played a lot better. He was in on 31 plays and graded out high. His technique and effort was real good. We need more safeties. We need to rotate people because of the number of plays (defense) is on the field."

Do you believe the old coaching adage that teams improve the most between the first and second game?

"I hope that's true. I'm praying it's true. We sure have a big window for improvement. We can go a long way this week."

What were your thoughts on the short nature of the kickoffs? Is that what you expected from Jeremy Davis?

"We were not happy. We wanted and expected them to be inside the 5-yard line between the numbers and the sideline. He'd done that. Obviously, they were mis-hits.

"We did give great effort on the coverage team. We are real happy there. Rashaad Johnson, a true freshmen some might not have known was even out there, Hunter Miller, Tremain Thomas and Lucas Miller did well. We are happy with the coverage, we just need to get it placed. He'd been doing good in practice. We may throw Alex Tejada in there."

How was the tackling?

"We missed some, but it was good. We didn't do as well in the defensive front. It was better down the field. We didn't miss them there and we gang tackled down the field well. We made contact in the front, but we didn't wrap up. We also had some penetration on some key third down plays when the defensive line came free, but we didn't make the play. In that short yardage area in the box, we need to improve."

What about going to Little Rock? Is that a road game?

"We will treat it as a home game. It may say we are the visiting team (in the contract with UL-Monroe), but it's one of our two home stadiums. We are going to say we are the home team.

"We are going to leave earlier Friday. We are going to have a walk through in the stadium and make sure we get comfortable with it. We have a lot of new players who haven't been there. I've been outside the stadium, but not spent much time inside it or in the locker room. we are going to get used to it. We are aware of the awesome record we've had there."

How does being in a tight game at the end do for confidence for the future?

"We'll be in another game like that some time. I wish we could have won (more comfortably). Nathan Dick missed out on some reps. So did Alex Mortensen. We still haven't made a decision on Tyler Wilson. We've talked about that all the way up to the pre-game and we still have not answered that. He might have missed out on some snaps, too.

"It was good to win a hard-fought and close game. That helps Casey. The atmosphere was great. I can't say enough about the fans. The walk-down, going through the A ... all of that was great."

After the game, the players made a victory lap to see the fans on the sideline. Where did that come from?

"That's a new tradition we are starting after a victory. We will walk around the stadium when we win. I think the young people, the youngsters enjoy that. We did that at Louisville."

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