FAYETTEVILLE - While the University of Arkansas' offensive playmakers are pleased that the team's defenders are making progress, that doesn't mean they don't want to stop trying to punish them in practice.
So less than a week after the two units essentially battled to a draw in a Saturday scrimmage, the offense responded in a big way in what was termed a dress rehearsal by head coach Bobby Petrino.
Ryan Mallett completed 31 of 39 passes for 482 yards and five touchdowns and Greg Childs had five catches for 175 yards and three of those scores as the UA starters beat the reserves 58-27 in a dress rehearsal scrimmage.
"I think when I have any of my guys out there it is a mismatch," said Mallett, the league's consensus preseason all-SEC quarterback. "So all they really have to do is get open and I am going to get them the ball. They ran some great routes tonight. I just try to get them the ball as quick as I can and let them go get some YAC (yards after catch)."
Childs was on the receiving end of touchdown passes of 60, 34 and 63 yards while Mallett also had a 60-yard scoring bomb to Jarius Wright and a short touchdown pass to Austin Tate.
"He had talked to me at lunch and said I don't know if 85 is going to come ready to go today for the scrimmage," Childs said. "So that was like a challenge to me. It was like he was thinking I wasn't going to be ready. I was ready."
Mallett noted – as Petrino had at the school's media day - that Childs sometimes lets off the pedal in practice.
"Greg played at a whole another level than he has played at prior to tonight," Mallett said. "He really stepped it up tonight and now we expect him to play like that every day in practice and he knows that. He ran some great routes and got open. I just let it hang and let him go get it."
Those scores came against the team's second- and third-team defenses, but nevertheless was a reminder of how explosive the Razorbacks' offense can be.
"We've got fast receivers, we've got a quarterback that can throw the ball a long way down the field and that is a big part of our offense," McGee said.
There was also some life in the running game with Broderick Green rushing 12 times for 79 yards and two touchdowns, Knile Davis had 10 carries for 59 yards, Dennis Johnson added seven carries for 29 yards and Ronnie Wingo had five runs for 15 yards. All saw action on both teams.
The night's longest run came from reserve quarterback Brandon Mitchell, who ripped off a 79-yard score against the first team defense.
"There were a lot of big plays and good things," McGee said. "We're going to go back and watch the tape to make sure we are using the right technique and if we are stepping with the right foot. That way we'll be able to figure out if we are executing at that higher level."
Petrino wanted to run the scrimmage as a game – a mock dress rehearsal for a Saturday game complete with the team in the locker room before the game and at halftime.
Mallett thought that was a good experience, especially for the youth on a team that will open its season against visiting Tennessee Tech on Sept. 4.
"We had a lot of guys get in and get reps in game-type situations," Mallett said. "They haven't played at an SEC level yet and it is good to do this just two weeks before the game. I think doing this will help them adjust before we get to the game."
McGee said the squad took the fact that it was a "game" to heart.
"We had pregame meal, there was no talking, everybody was serious," McGee said. "We had our class session that we normally have and got ourselves warmed up. They were focused, they were intense. It was not just a regular practice. We wanted to get in the simulator and have a mock run at the game situation."
Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson found some things to be inspired about despite the gaudy numbers put up.
A couple of those things were interceptions by Elton Ford and Anthony Leon, freshman Byran Jones forcing a turnover with a big hit on Green and the first unit bouncing back from a couple of scores against them.
Injured linebacker Jerry Franklin and Jermaine Love both returned to practice Thursday night and worked with the the first team.
"We've got some things we can get better at, but I think we did a great job of getting the ball back with the first unit," Robinson said. "We got a couple of interceptions, we had a fumble recovery and we gave our offense a short field and they came back and scored.
"We had some setbacks, but the thing I liked is the way we responded. They didn't sit down and go back into their shell when we had some negative plays. We came back and maybe made it a field goal or holding them to a punt.
"I think the thing we did in the second half was we came out and pressured people a little bit better, we got people running at the ball and the quarterback had to make some quick reads. We were able to pressure of of the same looks we had in the first half. I thought the hitting was pretty sharp."
The kicking game was also sharp with all three of the players vying to do the placements combining to go perfect.
Alex Tejeda, Zach Hocker and Eddie Camara were 10-for-10 on PATs and 3-for-3 on field goals with Tejeda true from 47 yards, Hocker 41 and Camara 38.
Hocker, who had a solid night punting along with competitor Dylan Breeding, and Tejeda had two touchbacks each on kickoffs.
The Razorbacks will take Friday off before practicing Saturday at 9 a.m., followed by the annual fan day at 1 p.m.
"We are getting there, but we have got to keep going every day," Mallett said. "We can't lose a day and we have got to keep stepping forward. We just talked about it. We can't get getting better and installing things that will help us win games."