Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is well-aware of the school's struggles in bowl games.
The Razorbacks are 11-22-3 all-time in postseason play, haven't won a bowl since a 2003 Independence Bowl win over Missouri and have dropped six of their last seven overall.
"It's important to motivate (the players) to change the streak," Petrino said. "I guess that's what we want them to do. I want to make sure they understand how important this bowl game is that we prepare for it, we learn how to prepare for big bowl games and hopefully we're playing for a bowl game here in the near future where the stakes are very high, and we've been through that experience. We know how to focus in the meetings. We know how to come out and practice full speed, take care of ourselves at night and not let distractions hurt our preparation."
Petrino is 2-2 in bowl games in his career, including a win in the 2004 Liberty Bowl. Those games came with Louisville, however, and Saturday will mark his first bowl game at the helm of Arkansas, when the Razorbacks have a 4:30 p.m. kickoff in the Liberty Bowl against East Carolina.
The coaches aren't the only ones aware of the streak.
"Coach (Petrino) brought that up the last time he talked to us," sophomore Jerico Nelson said. "The school is 2-11 in (the last 13) bowl games and it's time to change that. The seniors are going to help us start the tradition of bowl games and a winning streak hopefully this year."
Arkansas (7-5) will have to deal with a different task this time around – being a favorite over the C-USA champion.
"Just because we're in one of the top conferences around, you can't get big-headed," Nelson said. "You always have to think that your opponent is a good opponent. You can never think you're going to blow them out."
The Pirates (9-4) are no stranger to big-name opponents. The East Carolina senior class boasts wins over the likes of Virginia Tech, Boise State, North Carolina, West Virginia and North Carolina State during their careers, to name a few. Senior quarterback Patrick Pinkney has led the team to several of those victories and Petrino said containing him will be a key to extending the Southeastern Conference's four-game winning streak in the bowl.
"We've got to first of all stop their running game because they're very good at running the football," Petrino said. "We've got to be able to cover their receivers tight so we don't allow them to use their quick passing that they're very good at. I think one of our biggest keys is to keep Pinkney in the pocket. That's always the challenge when you've got a quarterback that can throw the ball and make plays with his legs. We've got to keep him in the pocket, not give him any big lanes to run and create first downs on his own which he's very good at."
In addition to battling an experienced offense, the Razorbacks will also have to battle cold temperatures Saturday. Highs are expected in the upper 30s and lower 40s all week. Petrino, a Montana-native, said it has been nice weather.
"It hasn't seemed cold," Petrino said. "Once you get out there and get moving around, it hasn't seemed cold at all."
Rain is forecasted for Memphis Wednesday and Petrino said the team will move its practices in preparation of the weather. The Razorbacks have practiced the last two days on a grass surface at Rhodes College but will move to an artificial surface at Memphis University High School for the next two days. Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium has a similar synthetic surface.
"We're looking for getting our timing back and making sure we're precise and have everything where we want it at game time," Petrino said. "We have to be ready Saturday at 4:30.
"Our speed was much better today and that's really the key; we have to practice full speed and be crisp so that it doesn't take us a quarter to get used to the speed again."
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