Petrino: Defense Must "Fit"

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino met with the media Monday to discuss last week's loss to Alabama. There were some good individual performances, but not enough.

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino didn't see anything in the video to change his mind about his assessment just after Saturday's 49-14 loss to Alabama. The Hogs beat themselves with critical mistakes.

"These are the fun days," Petrino opened his Monday press conference when he sat down in front of the media in the Broyles Center.

"After watching the video, a lot of what I said after the game is true."

In other words, two interceptions returned for touchdowns and a failed opportunity on the goal line to end the first half doomed the Hogs.

Overall, Petrino said the Hogs have "a long way to go" but he liked some of the individual performances after reviewing film. He praised running back Michael Smith, offensive tackle Jose Valdez, defensive end Adrian Davis and cornerback Jamar Love. He said the defensive line improved for the second straight week and played with better pad level, better use of their hands.

"Michael Smith had a great game," Petrino said. "He competed and showed toughness. He competed every play. He really played well."

Petrino said Love showed a physical toughness at corner and cited his ability to play routes and make plays to get the defense off the field on third down.

There were several questions about quarterback play, including the prospects for Tyler Wilson. Nathan Dick was listed as the backup, but Wilson took the snaps at the end of the game when Casey Dick was pulled.

"Wilson will take more reps at number two," Petrino said. "We will work at bringing him along. He has very good instincts in the pocket."

Concerning the play of his starter, Petrino said, "We have to work to build his confidence. Part of the decision to play quarterback is that you have to accept criticism. He understands that it comes with the territory. We still have confidence in him, I think he still does and his team has confidence in him."

Petrino said the interceptions that were returned for a touchdown were similar.

"He was sitting back on his back foot and then looked from one side of the field to the other side," Petrino said. "On the other one, he didn't locate the receiver. They were not good plays. He had not done that in our first two games."

Asked if he had performed like that in practice, Petrino said, "No, he hasn't."

Michael Smith said he expects Dick to bounce back.

"He took it square on the chin," Smith said, "just like a leader is supposed to take it. But he'll put it in his back pocket, remember it and move on. He'll do fine."

Smith said he hopes he proved himself against Alabama. What did he show?

"I think I showed that I will keep coming and that I wouldn't stop when I got the big hits," Smith said.

Petrino said after the game he wanted his smallish running back to avoid some of the big hits, but Smith said he hadn't heard that from his coach and doesn't want to hear it.

"Really, I felt fine," Smith said. "I don't think I took any big shots in the wrong area.

"I think I have things I can improve upon. I have to run through tackles. I have to run inside more. I have to not let one or two men take me down."

The defense was hammered on the ground despite loading the box in preparation for the Alabama running game. Should the Hogs try a new scheme?

"You can't re-evaluate the scheme," Petrino said. "You can't keep changing. You have to improve what you are doing.

"The defensive line did a better job. We have to fit the linebackers and safeties in the scheme to prevent the long runs. We also had a blown coverage at safety on the touchdown pass. The safety should have recognized the route and it would have been double coverage. It is a dead play if it's played correct.

"Fitting the run means the linebackers have to take the proper gaps. There are times that they have to be the inside leverage in the gap. They have to come under the block, or scrape outside based on the call. Or they come over the lead blockers. We have to seal to the inside and cover the backside. The safeties can't over-run the play. They have to be in the proper gaps and fit in the scheme. We aren't doing that yet. Everyone is responsible for a gap.

"You have to handle your responsibility, understand the scheme and what fits."

Safety Dallas Washington thought it was also a matter of effort.

"The long runs, they had to do with fit," Washington said. "But a lot of other stuff, the tackling, had to do with effort. Tackling is an effort deal. Defense has to do with toughness.

"The thing about the fit, if you make a mistake there, then a back is going to squirt through the gap. If you don't fit the right gap, then holes are created. That happened."

After Texas sees film of that, Washington knows what is coming this week.

"I believe they will try to run on us until we can prove we can stop the run," Washington said. "It's on our shoulders to get the run stopped."

Washington, a native of east Texas, is excited about the trip back to his home state.

"I think this is a good game for us because it gives us a chance to redeem ourselves for the loss we just had. We can make up for what we did.

"Just being from Texas, this is a great opportunity -- for anyone from Texas. It will be an honor and a thrill to go back to my home state. If you can't get fired up for this game, then you can't get fired up.

"Texas is talented and well coached. But we see that kind of talent all the time in the SEC. We play against very talented teams. So we shouldn't be intimidated. To be against very talented teams is nothing new."

On the injury front, Petrino said wide receiver Marques Wade would be lost for the season because of knee surgery. Wade, suspended for the first two weeks, played on special teams early in the game and tore a knee ligament.

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