Playing football has again become fun for them. That's a big difference from a few weeks ago, when several players admitted it was embarrassing to take the field in lopsided losses to second-ranked Alabama, No. 1 Texas and No. 5 Florida.
Arkansas' unexpected win at Auburn on Saturday caused the sudden change of mood. But the victory — which allowed the Razorbacks to end the first half of their regular season with a 3-3 record — has raised another issue.
How does a young team that had spent more than a month dealing with humiliating losses all of a sudden handle a little bit of success?
"We've got to keep our heads in our helmets and not get too big-headed because that was a big win for us," said Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs, who's also a team captain.
"I think we've got to remember what got us there, and I think that was hard work and preparation. And hopefully that (Auburn) game will be a turning point in our season."
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said he was pleased his team's focus in practice and ability to move past the euphoria of last week's 25-22 win at Auburn.
But several players have given the impression that they're perhaps a little too confident heading into today's 6 p.m. game against Kentucky (4-2, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) in Commonwealth Stadium.
"I don't feel like there is such a thing as overconfidence. I feel like we believe in ourselves; we know our capabilities," Arkansas cornerback Ramon Broadway said. "And when you come off a tough, tough loss — a couple losses that we had — you've got no other way to go but up."
Earlier this week, Arkansas nose tackle Zach Stadther caused a stir when the freshman made the rookie mistake of giving Kentucky's players some bulletin board material.
"We're going to go in, we're going to do what we did against Auburn," Stadther said during a news conference Monday. "I'd just hate to be Kentucky this Saturday."
Stadther's remarks didn't go over well with Arkansas officials, but the Razorbacks (3-3, 1-2 SEC) have reasons to be optimistic as they enter the second half of their season.
Petrino is 4-0 against Kentucky, his former in-state rival when he was Louisville's coach. He also has familiarity with the Wildcats' personnel since he recruited many of the players he'll face today.
Meanwhile, the win at Auburn helped show Arkansas' players that they've made progress since the beginning of the season. It was also proof that Petrino's system can work.
The Razorbacks were dominant at times on both sides of the football, and if not for a few special-team mistakes, the game might not have come down to a pair of late defensive stands.
Arkansas' offensive line didn't give up a single sack in a game for the first time this season. And with running back Michael Smith carrying the ball a career-high 35 times for 176 yards, the Hogs outgained the Tigers 416-193.
Arkansas defensive end Adrian Davis, who recorded three sacks, an interception and a forced fumble against Auburn, said the win gave the team a much-needed confidence boost. But not too much.
"You don't ever want to get big-headed. You just want to be focused," Davis said. "Like Luigs said, you don't want to be big-headed and go into the game thinking you're just going to win the game. Because it ain't going to work like that.
"Kentucky is trying to get their first SEC win, so they're going to come out and try to play hard, too."
While Arkansas' players have openly talked about using last Saturday's win to get on a roll, Smith said no one is getting ahead of himself. The mindset is still to take one game at a time.
"We've experienced success here before, the older guys have," Luigs said. "You know, it feel goods. But at the same time, you've got to remember what go you there."
Confident Hogs Avoid Overconfidence
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