Petrino Insists No Reason To Panic

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs is polite, likes to smile and prefers not to say anything too disparaging or offensive.

But with the Razorbacks on the verge of spinning out of control after a pair of lopsided losses, Luigs realizes that he must shed his nice-guy persona and become a more vocal leader.

After all, the past two weeks aren't what the All-American had in mind when he decided to return for his senior season at Arkansas.

"It's tough, especially when you look at our last two losses and the way we lost. I mean, it's embarrassing to be on the field," Luigs said Monday afternoon. "It's embarrassing for us as a team and for the state of Arkansas also."

Luigs' teammates voted him a captain before the start of fall camp, and as last year's Rimington Trophy winner as the nation's top center, he commands respect. But it's not in his nature to raise his voice or confront a teammate who has made a mistake.

He's working on it, though.

And the Razorbacks (2-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) could use some more senior leadership to help them get over one of the toughest stretches in school history. Over the past two weeks, Arkansas has lost 49-14 to second-ranked Alabama and 52-10 to No. 5 Texas.

Next up is No. 12 Florida at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

"We can't panic," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "We've got to make sure we stick to our beliefs, we stick to our fundamentals and how we're going to build this program and just keep grinding and working hard.

"I think our players will do that."

The Razorbacks don't have a large and outspoken senior class like it did during its surprising 10-4 run in 2006. That year, outside linebacker Sam Olajubutu called players-only meetings and offensive guard Stephen Parker had no problems hitting a teammate who had made a costly mistake.

Over the past two weeks, though, several Arkansas players who aren't known for being loud have taken on a more vocal roles.

Along with Luigs, quarterback Casey Dick and running back Michael Smith have tried to convince the team's large number of underclassmen to remain positive and realize that change will come.

"It's definitely been different for myself. I keep to myself, especially on the field," Luigs said. "I don't say too much (and) just try to lead by example.

"When you're kind of forced to go in there and be out-of-character and not be yourself, it's tough. But at the same time, it's what the team needs and it's what a veteran player has to do."

After Saturday's loss at Texas, Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams said the team had two options: Either accept more bad losses or get focused, continue to work in practice and get things turned around.

Williams said Monday that he hasn't gotten the impression that his teammates have quit on the season.

"Me personally, I think we have nowhere to go but up. I'm not saying we're on the bottom or anything like that," Williams said. "... We have more pride than that to walk around knowing that every team is just going to come in and beat us.

"We didn't take that approach at all."

Williams admits that the Razorbacks' true character will be revealed this weekend when they face Florida. But for now, players seems to be committed to improving.

"You keep losing the way you keep losing, you want to get it turned around. You want to fix it," Arkansas middle linebacker Jerry Franklin said. "It's pretty easy to keep going."

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