Defense Hopes To Show It Has Heart

FAYETTEVILLE — Questioning a football player's heart is one of the more serious charges a coach can make. It's the equivalent of telling a boxer that he's not committed to being the champion.

However, it didn't take long after last Saturday's 49-14 loss to eighth-ranked Alabama for Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson to question his unit's heart after missing too many tackles.

And Robinson has continued to call out his defense in the days leading up to today's much-anticipated game against seventh-ranked Texas in Texas-Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

To help him describe what it takes to make a tackle, Robinson earlier this week quoted actor Gene Hackman from the football comedy, The Replacements.

"What's it take?" Robinson said, pausing to smack himself several times in the chest with his rolled-up notes. "Heart."

And after giving a rundown of the fundamentals needed for a defender to wrap up a player and drive him to the ground — eyes up, neck in, grab cloth — Robinson added two more things needed.

"It's still a matter of courage and heart," he said.

Robinson hopes his players have enough pride to want to make up for last week's dismal performance and show more toughness this afternoon. And as expected, he got their attention by questioning their heart.

"It makes you want to step it up. For somebody to say that we're not showing pride or heart," Arkansas weakside linebacker Elston Forte said, cutting himself off. "Because we know we have it. Now we've really just got to pull everything we have out and more."

Arkansas' defenders had talked last week about trying to shut down Alabama's physical offense. Instead, they stumbled through a performance that was tough for several players to watch Sunday when they reviewed the game film.

The Razorbacks (2-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) were often in position to make the tackle against the Crimson Tide. But they either came up empty or couldn't finish the play.

As a result, Alabama gained 328 yards rushing, had little reason to pass the football and put together a pair of one-play scoring drives that included touchdown runs of 87 and 62 yards.

"A lot of it wasn't athletic ability. It was moreso effort," Arkansas strong safety Dallas Washington said. "Tackling is really an effort deal. How bad do you want to make the tackle?"

There is the potential for today's game to get as lopsided, or even worse than a week ago, if Arkansas' defense doesn't cut down on its careless mistakes. The Longhorns are favored by 27 1/2 points.

Through three games, Texas has proven to have a high-powered, balanced offense based around record-setting quarterback Colt McCoy and a stable of running backs.

The Longhorns (3-0) rank sixth nationally in scoring offense, putting up an average of 48.7 points per game. And they're one of only a dozen teams that's averaging more than 200 yards both running (204.3 yards per game) and passing (298.0).

Still, Texas coach Mack Brown said Arkansas' defense will come out with something to prove after being embarrassed last week by Alabama.

"When a team gets beat like Arkansas did and basically because of four big plays, 21 points off turnovers and two long runs, they're going to be really mad," Brown said. "We're going to see the best Arkansas shot of the year."

Over the past few days of practice, Arkansas' defensive players have gone about trying to get their "mojo back," as defensive tackle Ernest Mitchell put it.

The Razorbacks have shaken up their starting lineup at linebacker and safety in the hopes of avoiding costly missed tackles. And players have responded to Robinson's criticism by having several good practices, according to Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino.

Said cornerback Jamar Love: "Sometimes you've got to sit down, you've got to look yourself in the mirror and you've got to watch your mistakes and correct them."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories