Bobby Petrino had a clear message in his Monday afternoon media session. Perhaps it was for his players, perhaps directed to fans.
"Don't panic," Petrino said at two different points during his talk to media in review of the Texas loss and a preview for this week's home date with Florida.
Petrino's assessment of the Razorbacks centered partly on his thoughts on the last two foes, Alabama and Texas. He said he was disappointed, but understood the Hogs got beat by better teams.
"You can't panic," he said. "You have to stick with what you believe, stick with fundamentals on how to build a program. You have to keep grinding, keep working to get better. You have to go back to work on the practice field and I think our players will do that."
He preached the same message later in his media briefing.
"It's important to stay together and keep working," he said. "All we can do is work each day to find ways to improve our team. That's what we are doing ... stay confident in what we are doing as a staff. We know what we have to do to win. We will get it done sooner or later ... keep working on the practice field on execution and move forward. We have to get better on the practice field and work on our game plans."
Petrino reminded that the Hogs are 2-2. He admitted that "it was not pretty the way we got beat the last two weeks, but we still have a heckuva lot of football left. We are concerned (about the mental state of the players), but all you can do is keep working. We think our players will do that."
Asked about building the program at Louisville several years ago, Petrino said he wasn't real good at remembering that far back.
"I haven't thought about it in comparison," he said. "But I can tell you that we struggled in assignment areas at the start. We didn't always play well on first or second down, but we did have a quarterback who could scramble when we made mistakes. That helped a little."
As far as his current quarterback, Petrino said senior Casey Dick did some things better in the first two games than when the pass rush got to him the last two weeks.
"We are making a transition (in systems) at quarterback," Petrino said. "He did a nice job in the first two games. What we have to remember is that these last two teams were pretty darn good.
"We got beat up front in some situations. They were just one-on-one moves. We also didn't pick up pressure at times. Our offensive line has to do a better job. Texas was very quick, very physical up front and they got to us in some situations. There were times when we had someone come free up front when our center was looking the other directions. Other times, you could see the checks being made and pointed to on film, but they weren't picked up. Casey has to do a better job, too. A couple of times he held the ball. A couple of times he moved the wrong way in the pocket. He has to step up in the pocket, instead of maybe sliding out of it.
"We will improve. We are not going to panic because of the last two games."
There must be improvement on defense, too. Petrino said the Hogs would continue to work towards a true 4-3 alignment with three linebackers instead of the mostly nickel package with a safety playing the strong linebacker spot.
"We had some injuries and some players in trouble (at linebacker) and we were in more of a nickel to open the season," he said. "We are making the transition back to the 4-3. We had to play a style because we were short a couple of guys. Eventually, that will help us down the road.
"We are also playing a lot of youth, on defense and offense. We are playing four young wide receivers. We are in a transition."
The Hogs must be able to stay in games with better defense. That will help the offense get to a more balanced plan.
"We want to run the ball," he said. "We've seen Michael Smith do some good things and we've gotten him in the secondary where he's one-on-one with a safety. He hasn't made the last man miss. Some of that is not getting the defense tired where you are in those situations in the third and the fourth quarter where they are worn down. We haven't gotten there yet. That will help our running game."
Asked about improvement in the Texas game after watching the video, Petrino cited special team play.
"There are some individuals who are getting better," he said. "It's just not showing up on the scoreboard yet. Our special teams were better. On defense, you take out the one long quarterback run, we held them to 3.2 yards per attempt (on rushes). But we gave up big plays in the passing game.
"We need to play better up front in the offensive line. That was more in the Texas game than the Alabama game. We went back and looked at Alabama video to see what we've done best and we handled our own in the line against them. We made some plays in the running game. The offensive line gave us an opportunity to move the ball in that game. We just had the two picks and were stopped at the 1-yard line. Those three things took us out of the game. I thought the speed and quickness (of the Texas front) took us out of being consistent up front."
Safety Elton Ford, linebacker Jerry Franklin, center Jonathan Luigs and tight end D. J. Williams were the four players who met with the media Monday.
Ford said he knows the Hogs will be well prepared for Florida.
"Our coaching staff has given us a good plan each week," Ford said. "We have one of the best staffs around.
"We are growing game by game. We are learning new things each week. We are going to be good soon."
Asked about the magnitude of the last two losses, Ford said, "That's football ... we have to stay focused and not put our heads down. We've had leaders speak to us on that, our quarterback Casey Dick, Michael Smith and Jonathan Luigs. Those are guys who are trying to get to the next level and they have to be productive to do that. We know we have to help them get there.
"We are playing in a difficult league, the best in the country, the SEC. We know to be successful, we have to execute and go compete. The ones who do that win the game."
Luigs knows the direction the Hogs are headed.
"It has to go up," he said. "It can't go anyway but up. We've just seen the lowest of the lows.
"The problem we are having is that we fall behind early and when you are behind you are fighting the clock. You'd like to be more balanced and control things, but we haven't had that chance."
As far as sacks, Luigs said, "We've just got to get guys in the right area and also do better at winning the one-on-one battles. It's going to take more practice to get it down. We just can't keep giving the other team gifts when we have the ball. That has hurt our team."
Luigs is trying to be a team leader, but admits it isn't natural.
"I'm more a guy who leads by example, but I've had to accept that role and change my character a little bit," he said. "We are trying to get younger players to grow into the SEC. On film, you can see it happening but it's a work in progress."
Franklin has become a leader, too. He reminded the media that he was on the scout team this time last year chasing Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in practice during his redshirt season.
"This is what I worked for and it's exciting," he said. "Actually, it's easier than I thought. It's easier than chasing McFadden. At some point, we all have to become leaders."
The job this week is to chase the man who beat McFadden in the Heisman race, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.
"We just have to try to slow him down," Franklin said, noting Tebow is similar to Texas quarterback Colt McCoy. "Tebow is more physical but they are similar in that they are both dual threat quarterbacks."
Williams said he is trying to take leadership, too.
"When you are in a key position, and you don't make a play, you have to become accountable and be a leader," he said. "For example, there was a fourth-and-2 play in the last game, maybe fourth-and-4. I ran a route and didn't get deep enough. I've got to get it right.
"I'm young myself, but the coaches have done a tremendous job of putting us in pressure situations. We should be prepared for the games because of the way we've scrimmaged and worked in practice in pressure situations. But we haven't gotten it all right yet.
"The good news is that I didn't see anyone on the field in the fourth quarter who had quit. At some point, things are going to go our way and we are going to be playing hard so that when it happens we will win the games.
"What I know is -- and this isn't to say we are on the bottom -- but there is no other way for us to go than up."
Bobby Petrino: Don't Panic
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