UA Secondary Sees Tulsa As Opportunity

FAYETTEVILLE — Tulsa's high-powered passing offense has carved up every defense it has faced this season.

Arkansas' secondary has struggled to hold its ground, force incompletions and get opponents off the field most of the year.

So it would be understandable if the Razorbacks were holding their breath as they prepared for Saturday's game against the 19th-ranked Golden Hurricane. But Arkansas safety Matt Harris didn't sound very concerned Wednesday.

"We're not intimidated by someone passing the ball on us," Harris said. "We're defensive backs. We welcome the challenge when someone wants to come in and throw 60 times a game on us. We don't care about that. That means more opportunities for us."

There's no doubt the Razorbacks will get plenty of chances against the nation's top offense, which is led by the country's most efficient quarterback and a slew of big-play receivers.

The key to the game will be how well the Razorbacks — who have been inconsistent — handle the pressure in the back. Arkansas is seventh in the Southeastern Conference in passing defense (191 yards a game), but has surrendered an SEC-high 14 passing touchdowns and is 11th in pass efficiency defense (125.8 rating).

"(Tulsa is) going to come in and try to test us," cornerback Ramon Broadway said. "I feel like the secondary and cornerbacks, we kind of had a rough game this past weekend. We didn't do everything right and we didn't do everything bad. But I feel like we've got to take our game to another level this week."

Not all of the problems can be pinned on the secondary, but the group has made its share of big mistakes. Some of the most notable came in the closing minutes of the last two games.

Kentucky sliced through the secondary in the fourth quarter two weeks ago, scoring two late touchdowns in its 21-20 win.

Last week, a 42-yard pass and catch in the fourth quarter helped Ole Miss get into scoring range. The Rebels kicked a field goal that gave them a 23-14 lead and proved to be the game-winner.

Cornerback Isaac Madison was the player Ole Miss picked on the most last week. The sophomore said he was over the disappointment Wednesday, though, and ready for Tulsa's test.

"You have to have no memory," Madison said about playing cornerback. "You have to go out there and just do your job."

Arkansas — which will be playing without free safety Elton Ford the rest of the season — is most concerned by Tulsa's big plays.

The Golden Hurricane have 97-, 73- and 64-yard pass plays this season. Quarterback David Johnson is averaging 17.2 yards a completion. Leading receiver Brennan Marion (31 catches, 827 yards, seven touchdowns) is averaging 26.7 yards a catch.

"People are going to take shots on us," Arkansas cornerbacks coach Lorenzo Ward said. "We have to eliminate the shots. If we do, then we'll win the ballgame. If we don't, then the scoreboard will be lit up. So we talk about it all week: Eliminate the big plays because that's what Tulsa is. They're a big- play team."

The Razorbacks said they have been buried in the film room and getting in extra work to prepare for the test. Arkansas has gotten its hands on more passes lately, too. After a slow start, the Razorbacks have seven interceptions the past four games.

So Harris said the secondary is eagerly looking at Saturday's game as a chance to prove they're an opportunistic bunch.

"When the ball is in the air, it's not their ball it's everyone's ball," Harris said. "We're going to go up there and get it as much as they are."

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