It was a tale of two halves Saturday when the Arkansas football team scrimmaged for the first time. The offense, with Tyler Wilson sparkling, held the edge in the first half with the defense coming up with some stops on third down in the second half.
Head coach Bobby Petrino found plenty to like on both sides of the ball, but was disappointed with the lack of big plays on offense and could have done without one of the big plays on defense, perhaps the highlight of the day in most eyes. However, he did like the fact the Hogs got in almost 190 plays in a typical Petrino scrimmage.
Junior end Jake Bequette made three big plays for the defense, but the biggest was against Petrino's practice rules. He swiped the ball loose from quarterback Ryan Mallett on a rush from the outside, then scooped the ball for what have been a touchdown. He also caused a fumble on a fourth-down completion to Joe Adams. The third was a pass break up on the goal line on fourth down when Mallett found Van Stumon in the flat. Bequette hammered the ball out of Stumon's hands.
The strip of Mallett isn't allowed. Petrino wants defenders to lay off the quarterback. Of most importance, he doesn't want anyone to take a swipe at Mallett's arm in rush situations.
"Our discipline as a team has to get better," Petrino said. "I wasn't happy with that today. We have to be better as a team.
"Bequette is a good player, but he should not be reaching for the quarterback's arm. If the quarterback is out for the rest of the year ... we have to be more disciplined."
In some ways, Petrino thought the scrimmage was a step backwards after an impressive first nine days and 14 practices.
"I'd been impressed with our practices and the leadership up to today," he said. "I didn't like today."
However, when competition is fairly even, perhaps that's a good sign.
"It did go back and forth," he said. "Maybe that's a sign of a good team. It did go back and forth."
Petrino thought the running backs could have done more.
"I was a little disappointed," he said. "We ddin't have the break out runs or big gainers. I expect big plays from our backs. Dennis Johnson had one. He made the cutback, but he has to have more yards after contact. Broderick Green was physical in the red zone. Ronnie needs to be more one cut and go."
The Hogs got only a glimpse of Knile Davis. He tweaked a hamstring Friday. He tried to go Saturday, but left after the first series. The only other significant injury was to safety Rudell Crim late in the first half of the scrimmage. He didn't return for the second half, but that allowed Elton Ford to shine with the first team. Ford was superb against the run in the second half. However, Ford did get smashed on Johnson's 45-yard run to the 6-yard line early in the scrimmage.
In the kicking game, the leader on the day was Alex Tejada. He didn't miss any of his conversions or field goals. Eddie Camara had a 48-yard field goal, but he also had three misses.
"It's an on going competition," Petrino said. "They've each had pretty good days, except for one bad one by both. Tejada had gone three straight days without a miss until that one bad day."
Petrino saw good and bad with the quarterbacks.
"Tyler did real good," Petrino said. "He made some good decisions and he had some good matchups with our receivers against the (second) defensive backs. Brandon has some things he can run and made some good decisions, but he struggled with his accuracy.
"Ryan had some really good plays, some good execution. I thought there were times where his receivers didn't make the plays. They should have caught some of those. He made two bad decisions. I think part of it is that our defense does a better job of disguising things. They've got more experience and it's tougher."
The first defense was solid after halftime.
"I'll have to watch video to talk about the tackling," Petrino said. "I thought they were definitely running to the ball and being physical in the second half. I thought the offense came out and started fast.
"The goal was to come out and be physical on both sides of the ball. I thought there were times that both sides did that, but it wasn't good enough overall. The second half the defense did get after the offense. We made some offensive mistakes, too.
"But we got a lot accomplished. We got to look at all three groups and got some great video. We will be able to see some things to set the depth chart."
Some of the highlights included several lost yardage plays in the red zone produced by nose tackle Alfred Davis. Petrino praised his play and his stamina. He called Davis "a big load." Ford's play in the second half was another highlight.
There were a few drops, but the receivers had a big day, led by Cobi Hamilton, D. J. Williams and Macrecus Humphrey.
Defensive players thought they competed with the offense on even terms at times.
"I think what you saw is that we got more aggressive as the day went along," Bequette said. "Overall, I thought it was a good day. Defense might have started slow, but I think we started making some plays and getting them stopped on first and second down. Then we could tee off on them a little on third and long. We have the advantage then.
"I think at halftime we just decided to play more aggressive. I think that first drive against the ones, we just didn't make anything happen. I think we got a little better after that. I think we are an opportunistic team and forced some plays today."
Broderick Green said he saw that back and forth between the two units.
"It's a better defense, no doubt about it," he said. "I think you see they have gotten a little cocky and try to push us around. I like that. I think we all do. It's a battle out there now.
"I think it was a good day, but I'm sure that Coach Petrino wanted a lot more from us. That's what he wants, perfection. We didn't give it to him today. We'll keep working to get it for him."
Hamilton said the defense doesn't allow the deep ball nearly as much.
"We got a few, but they are there with us now," he said. "You know you are going to have to battle with them to get that deep ball. We have to go underneath a lot more than we once did against our defense. We weren't able to throw the deep ball like we wanted today."
Petrino saw "back and forth"
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