Bobby Petrino said game film from last weekend's 28-27 victory over Louisiana-Monroe revealed some positives as well as several areas in need of improvement. Overall, he thought "a meltdown in special teams in the second quarter" was a huge concern.
Petrino met the media in the Broyles Center on Monday afternoon, along with players Casey Dick, Malcolm Sheppard, Michael Smith and Jake Bequette. Those five discussed the ULM victory and this week's trip to play No. 8 Texas in Austin.
"I'm proud of the way we held together after that," he said. "Our young freshmen got better and graded out higher. They played faster and harder and they helped us win the game."
Petrino said the kicking game would be covered and re-covered this week in practice as Arkansas prepares for the trip to Texas. Specifically, on the placekicking job, Petrino said that area would be evaluated on a day-by-day basis after sophomore Alex Tejada missed two field goals and an extra point against Louisiana-Monroe. In the second half, Arkansas went for two and converted after a touchdown, then Shay Haddock was good on the last two extra point kicks.
From the sound of Petrino on Monday, it's obvious to me that Tejada and Haddock would be in serious competition and everything they do will be charted this week. They'll chart it day by day and see who comes out on top.
Petrino said the snap, hold and the kick will all be evaluated this week, every step of every situation in the placement area. Petrino said today that Tejada's knee is "100 percent" healthy.
Among some personnel matters, Petrino indicated that offensive guard Mitch Petrus would use his redshirt this season. A reason was not mentioned, but some sources have indicated that Petrus is ineligible. Petrino said Petrus would continue to practice with the team.
"That makes us thin up front," Petrino said. "We are working Michael Aguirre at guard and tackle and Seth Oxner is getting work at center and guard. We are fortunate that Wade Grayson (starting in Petrus' old spot at guard) is playing well. But we are thin."
Petrino also indicated that Freddy Burton and Marques Wade are both done with two-game suspensions and would be used in special teams and are now back in the depth chart. Burton was listed as a starter at weakside linebacker after spring drills. Wade was first team at wide receiver in the post-spring chart.
The Hogs are also expected to have senior captain Elston Forte back this week. Forte has been rehabbing an injury since early in two-a-days.
"Elston worked hard with our training staff on Friday and Saturday and is available this week," Petrino said. "He's one of our leaders and we need him back."
Petrino praised defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard and end Jake Bequette for solid performances in the defensive front. He also thought Adrian Davis had a better performance at defensive end.
"We got better up front," Petrino said of the defensive front. "Our technique was better. We used our hands better. Sheppard and Bequette graded out well. Bequette is a good player."
Bequette is a redshirt freshman from Little Rock. He made his first start on Saturday. He was listed at first team after spring training, but missed almost a week in preseason because of a slight concussion and fell to the second team through the first game.
Also in personnel discussions, Petrino said wide receiver Jarius Wright, now listed behind Joe Adams after starting the first game, should get more snaps than in the first two weeks. Asked if he expected Wright to have more catches, Petrino said it's the nature of the offense for the targets and hot hand to change week to week.
"I would have thought Jarius would have a couple of catches, yes," Petrino said. "But Joe had the hot hand. We need to get Jarius in the game more. That was on us (coaches). We've got to get Jarius more reps and not put so much on Joe."
Michael Smith played his first game after serving a one-game suspension. He carried 22 times for 157 yards and caught four passes for 23 yards.
"He was a little excited for his first game and he got a little tired in the first half," Petrino said. "He was fatigued at halftime and we gave him an IV. He did a nice job of being mentally and physically tough in the second half."
Smith said he had taken fewer snaps in practice in the days leading up to the opener.
"After they knew I couldn't play in the first game, I didn't get as much work," Smith said. "I got a little out of shape there and I wasn't used to it for the first game. I will get a lot of running to get back in shape this week. And, I need to do a better job of staying hydrated, both this week and during the game. When I come out of the game, I have to drink more, hydrate better."
Petrino said the Hogs expect a hot, steamy afternoon in Austin. Game time temperatures should be around 95 with high humidity.
"When we were having those cools days in August, we worried about what it would be like in Austin for this game," Petrino said. "But we've had some heat in the last couple of weeks. That will help us."
Petrino expects the Hogs to gain some better field position by earning some turnovers by the defense. So far, the Hogs have gotten zero takeaways in two games. They've knocked the ball loose and come close to some interceptions, but haven't taken advantage.
"We need to continue to run full speed to the ball," Petrino said. "You get turnovers by getting everyone to the football.
"We're working hard on stripping and getting the ball out. That really hasn't been a problem. There has been six balls on the ground and we just haven't come up with any of them yet. We're going to keep working on that.
"We've dropped four interceptions. Even prior to the last drive that we go down and score. We had an interception opportunity for a touchdown that actually went right by his hand and their guy caught it.
"We just have to work harder on making the plays and when we're in a position to make the plays, we have to make the plays. A lot of times turnovers come in bunches. I'm being positive. They're going to start coming our way and we'll keep taking care of the ball."
Quarterback Casey Dick said the Hogs would like to avoid falling behind, relying on fourth-quarter heroics.
"We aren't doing it on purpose, but we're getting those freshmen in there and getting them experience," he said. "They'll be ready during a big game when we do have to come from behind and they'll be ready to go. We just had a freshman make a big play (Chris Gragg). That's really all there is to it. He made a great catch and it was a great comeback. We just had to go out there and find a way to win."
Texas players said earlier in the day in a media conference that Dick is a great scrambler. Did he ever think he'd hear that?
"I never thought that I would be considered a great scrambler, but I certainly will take it," he said. "Scrambling is something that you have to do when the defense gives it to you. If you are able to make plays with your feet, go get some yards and put your team in a better position, then that's something you have to do to help your team out with."
Dick said he's seen games at Austin, including an Arkansas victory.
"(Darrell K. Royal Stadium) is going to be a fun place to play at," he said. "It's obviously really big. It's going to be really loud and hot. Austin is going to be hot, no matter what they say. Coach Petrino said guys will have to start drinking fluids and taking care of their bodies because it will be hot and humid the way Texas is in September."
He knew plenty about the Arkansas-Texas rivalry.
"I knew the rivalry (between Arkansas and Texas) was pretty big from the get-go," Dick said. "Just the way the fans took it on each side. When you first come up here, (the rivalry) is one of the first things you learn and that Texas and Arkansas don't like each other, so it's something the fans take very seriously."
Hogs to Work on Kicking Game
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