South Carolina jumped out to a big lead in its 27-6 win against Tennessee thanks largely to its defense. Cornerback Stoney Woodson returned an interception 68 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. A little later, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn returned a fumble to Tennessee's 4, setting up another score.
So Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said protecting the football will be a big priority this week.
"First and foremost, we have to go down there and take care of the football," Petrino said. "They're a defense that has lived off turnovers, scored points off of turnovers and set up touchdowns."
Arkansas has been known to give out its share of gifts, too. The Razorbacks have turned the ball over 20 times this season. The only SEC team that has committed more turnovers is South Carolina (24).
Arkansas almost had its second turnover free game against Tulsa last week. But quarterback Casey Dick made a poor decision in the fourth quarter, throwing an interception in the end zone.
Quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee said the Razorbacks must strive for perfection Saturday.
"They give their offense the short field and they punch it in for points and they play good defense," McGee said. "That's the way they've been winning and this week that is going to be so important to keep the ball in our hands and not turn it over."
Petrino said Thursday there is an "outside chance" defensive end Adrian Davis could return Saturday.
The junior missed the Tulsa game after suffering a sprained knee against Ole Miss. Davis started the first seven games and leads the team in sacks (4).
"He's improved every day," Petrino said. "He was out there and did some running full speed (Thursday). There's an outside chance of that.
"Other than that, I think we're going to be playing with the same group we had a week ago."
The list of players who fall under that category are defensive end Damario Ambrose (knee), Jerico Nelson (knee) and Grant Cook (knee).
Offensive tackle Ray Dominguez (ankle) missed last week's game, but has practiced this week and could return to his starting spot. The status of receiver London Crawford, who missed the early portion of Wednesday's practice, is unknown.
One trend the Razorbacks would like to see continue Saturday was the amount of receivers involved in the passing game.
Seven different players caught passes. Six of them caught three balls or more. It was the kind of variety Petrino and the Razorbacks envisioned when they started the season.
Arkansas has leaned on tight end D.J. Williams, running back Michael Smith and receiver Joe Adams for much of the season, but McGee said the multiplicity will make the Razorbacks much more unpredictable if it can continue Saturday.
"That's going to be our way of playing ball for years around here," McGee said. "We're deep at receiver. We've got a lot of playmakers. We want to recruit more receivers and the way we're going to sell it is that everybody is going to catch the ball."
Arkansas' thinning depth at defensive end could push Ryan Powers into an unfamiliar role.
But defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard said the linebacker has a chance to make plays at the position because of his speed.
"Ryan is a 4.3 guy coming off the edge," Sheppard said. "Linemen can't keep up with him. If he keeps coming off the edge, he's definitely going to end up with some sacks this season. He's super quick."
Jake Bequette and Antwain Robinson are expected to start at defensive end Saturday. But Powers, Lavunce Askew and Chris Berezansky will be counted on to help in backup roles Saturday.
On the Run
Arkansas spent much of the week fine-tuning its ground game after rushing for just 50 yards against Tulsa.
Petrino said the biggest problem was Arkansas' injury situation up front. Cook and Dominguez were both sidelined by injuries. But Petrino believes the Razorbacks will show improvement Saturday.
"We put a lot of work into it," Petrino said. "The guys got to work together. Any time you mix up the O-line, or you get injuries and have to mix up the O-line, there's some timing involved and some communication involved. We certainly improved on that throughout the week."
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