ARLINGTON, Texas - Bobby Petrino told us the night he was hired how you play defense: Hit the quarterback.
That's what Arkansas did Saturday night to Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson. They didn't always get the 6-5, 243-pounder to the ground, but they hit him, hit him and hit him again. It was the difference in Arkansas' 47-19 victory at Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
The Arkansas defensive ends did the most hitting. Tenarius "Tank" Wright knocked the ball loose from Johnson twice -- early and late -- to earn a new nickname.
"He's a werewolf," Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said. "He's a great addition to that position. I'm glad we've got him at end.'
That new nickname is better than Tank. Isn't a werewolf supposed to rip out your heart? That's what Wright did to the Aggies.
It was Wright's sack of Johnson that led to a fumble and Jerry Franklin's scoop for an 85-yard return. It gave the Hogs a 21-10 lead with 6:25 left in the second quarter.
Wright's post-game reference to his key sack goes with Robinson's new nickname.
"I saw him scramble and I wasn't going to take no for an answer," he said, "and I went in for the stab."
It produced the big play the Hogs had been missing on defense.
"We got pressure on the quarterback," said Petrino on the night he got the first blowout victory over a BCS opponent in his Arkansas tenure as head coach. "We were able to hit the quarterback and stop the run."
Defensive end Jake Bequette hit the QB plenty, too, although some just led to Johnson's incomplete throws out of bounds to avoid sacks. Bequette toyed with true freshman offensive tackle Stephen Barrera.
"He'll be improved in time," Bequette said. "But this is a game where we really took advantage of him. We used our speed and power off the edge to get past him.
"Coach Robinson's game plan put it on us to get to the quarterback. He cut us loose to get him. We got after him tonight."
Robinson said, "Tonight, it was about matchups we got with their offensive line. We were doing some things playing this game up front or that game, but after the feedback I got from our players on the sideline early in the game, we quit the games and just went after him. That was all we needed to do."
At the start, it was A&M defensive end Von Miller playing games with the Arkansas line. He hit UA quarterback Ryan Mallett twice, forcing an interception. When the Hogs accounted for Miller, things turned for their offense.
"We just had to do a better job up front, slide our protections and be more aware of where he lined up," said Paul Petrino, offensive coordinator. "We just had to make sure to find him. We had to chip some (with the backs), get some help. We did that."
And, they figured out quickly that A&M's linebackes and safeties were going to "ignore" the backs on releases.
"On one of the early passes to Joe Adams, we saw they didn't cover the back," Petrino said. "They just weren't covering them."
Mallett found his backs for three touchdown passes, including a 21-yarder to Michael Smith that extended the lead to 37-13 late in the third quarter.
"That was the wheel route," Paul Petrino said. "A lot of times, you send the back on the wheel route to clear out. We had hit Joe Adams on the underneath route and this time the safety and the linebacker both stayed on Joe and turned Smith loose."
Bobby Petrino said, "You always want to peak at the wheel and it's a little easier to peak when your quarterback is 6-foot-7."
Mallett seemed to steady himself after the second series, perhaps after Adams took a deep throw for extra yards on a 67-yard play to open the third series.
"The first thing Ryan did was practice well this week," Petrino said. "He is a tremendous competitor. It hurts to lose, but I'm proud of the way he reacted and came back."
What did Mallett think his coach meant?
"I didn't show very good leadership last week against Alabama," Mallett said. "I wasn't going to let that happen and I won't let that happen the rest of this year."
That's a nice promise, but the best thing that can happen for the Hogs is if the defense keeps hitting the other team's quarterback.
Wright turns werewolf on Aggies
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
Scout On the Road: SeptemberScout takes a look at some of the top prospects we saw in person during the month of September...
Scout FootballWednesday at 2:00 PM
Longhorns Preview Oklahoma StateTexas offensive players discuss the Longhorns' upcoming game at Oklahoma State to kickoff Big 12 Conference play.
Horns DigestMonday at 6:21 PM
Louisiana CB 'Real Close' to a DecisionIt may not be too long before one of the top cornerbacks in Louisiana makes his decision. Four schools are high on his list and you can get the latest here...
Scout FootballMonday at 6:15 AM
JC defensive back talks ISU official visitOver the weekend, Iowa State played host to one of their top 2017 targets in the current recruiting cycle in Paramount, CA three-star JUCO CB Keisean Nixon. This visit for the…
AllCyclonesSunday at 6:34 PM