Hogs Find Second-Half Answers

It came down to solving the triple option in the second half. Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson found some answers to stop the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter.

LITTLE ROCK -- Willy Robinson was the last Arkansas coach off the field Saturday in War Memorial Stadium. He was busy thanking fans for their cards and letters this week after missing the Troy game.

One young boy hollered the defensive coach's name, "Hey Coach Willy. How about your hat?"

Good timing. Robinson stopped just before he hit the ramp. He took his hat to the fan.

"Oh, he probably was asking for one last week, and I wasn't there," Robinson said.

Robinson was there Saturday against Mississippi State. His adjustments after Mississippi State's first two drives in the third quarter righted the ship as Arkansas fought to a 42-21 victory.

The Buldogs used 12 straight runs in the third quarter to close within 28-21 before Robinson found the answers to the triple option.

"Jim Sweeney, if he saw this, is probably laughing at me for forgetting how to stop the option," Robinson said, noting he went back to some things Sweeney taught him as a player and young coach at Fresno State.

"We just brought our safeties into the box, loaded it. We moved the front a little. We stopped doing that stuff that wasn't working."

More than anything else, the Hogs made plays. Two big ones came from nose tackle Zach Stadther. The sophomore from North Little Rock knocked the ball loose from Anthony Dixon after Tenarius Wright stood up the State bellcow. That setup a 50-yard UA drive to make it 35-21.

Robinson liked that one, but he was just as proud of two tackles Stadther made to force a punt on MSU's next possession early in the fourth quarter.

"The dive back looked like he was going to squirt through again, but Zach got Dixon for 1," Robinson said. "We figured they were going to run the speed option on the next one and we loaded up for that. We got it. But the great play at that point in the game came from Stadther. And, the fumble. He came in and smacked the dog."

Defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard saw it, too. "They were doubling both the (defensive tackles)," he said. "And, they were running that dive back in there quick and it was past us. Zack got off that double twice and made big plays. We had more help in the front in the second half. We had some good adjustments from Coach Robinson. It was good to have him back this week. We needed him down there fixing it for us."

Robinson said it was a tough, long week. "It was very emotional early," he said. "Lots of cards. Lots of thoughts from everyone. I had to try to stay calm and keep the emotion out of it and watch myself to not wear down. You can't get too high and burn up your energy because you knew it was going to be a long week (of preparation)."

The Hogs weren't antiseptic on offense, either. Two Ryan Mallett interceptions took the edge off of his third five touchdown game of the season.

Mallett admitted afterwards that he was thinking about TD pass No. 6 late in the game when Broderick Green punched it across for the final margin.

"He came off the field saying he needed one more," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "I didn't know what he was talking about. Now I do." Mallett said, "I was telling him, why couldn't we run a naked (boot) down there. I usually don't know (about his numbers), but I knew that time."

Two of them went to true freshman Cobi Hamilton. There was a 58-yard go route, then a 64-yarder on a screen out of a press box check from offensive coordinator Paul Petrino.

"They squeeze their cornerbacks," head coach Bobby Petrino said. "They make you see how many go routes you can run in a game.

"The way they were playing their front, and their blitzes, sometimes you think you ought to just throw it every time. I might next time."

Paul Petrino called it the "old jail break screen. They were blitzing everyone, in zero coverage when we went with the empty backfield. We were going to check to that if they got in it. Maybe that will scare away some from running that blitz in the future. It was a good check, good throw and a great run by Cobi. He bounced off of some guys and got in the end zone."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories