Thursday Bulldog Football Notebook

CHANGE OF PACE: How different will this week's defensive game-planning be? Just ask CB Corey Broomfield. Arkansas, he agrees, is an air-oriented offense; whereas "Alabama probably ran the ball 180 times!" OK, a modest exaggeration. It was just 44 rushes.

But to a 180-pound cornerback it probably felt that way, especially as Broomfield was credited with a career-high 12 total tackles. He'd rather be chasing receivers of course, and Arkansas certainly has a lot of those. No exaggeration here, either.

"They're so deep, I remember my freshman year Greg Childs was the main guy," Broomfield said. "And now you don't even see him out there that much. They've got immense talent at wide receiver." As to be expected of the SEC's top passing attack. Which to this Bulldog actually means the chance to have some fun. "So you get a chance to go out there and do what you like to do, cover guys. You don't have to tackle big 250-pound running backs every play!"

Yeah, back to exaggerating again. Then again running into Trent Richardson is a weighty matter as Broomfield said he found out "three or four" times. But admit any bruises to body or pride? Not this Dog. In fact, "Hopefully he comes back next year and I can hit him some more!"

Broomfield and company will have enough on their plate this week chasing the football, as Arkansas certainly spreads it around the field in all sorts of ways and means. Nothing new there. Last year it was Ryan Mallett rolling out, buying time, and firing laser shots downfield. Here in 2011 Tyler Wilson prefers life in the pocket, ducking any initial rush and finding the scripted target. It will put a premium on coverage more than risking extra blitzers this week.

And should Broomfield or Johnthan Banks get beat…hopefully help is on the way. "They pride themselves on catching a hitch and taking it 90 yards," Broomfield said. "We've got two great guys back there. Charles (Mitchell) and Wade (Bonner), if anything does get out they do a great job erasing it. We pride ourselves on running to the ball, and if you get eleven guys to the ball not a lot of big plays are going to happen."

Not of the offensive sort, he means. What Broomfield really hopes for is making his own big plays. Specifically, getting his hands on an interception. He began this junior season with nine picks through two years; but here in game-eleven Broomfield hasn't added any interceptions, much less another pick-six to his school-record-tying three touchdown returns.

"At first it was frustrating," said Broomfield, "now I'm just preparing. If it comes, it comes, you just have to keep preparing and be ready for it." And boy, is he ready to get back on this board. This game would be a perfect time to start…or make that resume.

"I'm hoping so, man. It's been a long year but Coach says I'm doing my job. So I'm just trying to help the team and keep everybody going."

UNDER PRESSURE: What would help get the defense going is some serious pressure applied to Arkansas' lead-leading slinger Wilson. If only it were so simple, says DT Fletcher Cox. "Arkansas does what they do, and they do it well. They've got SEC quality players across the board, they're experienced. The offensive line is good and gives them time to throw the ball. So we have to get our rush going."

The Razorback front doesn't get as much attention as some SEC peers, but it is hard to critique a group that has allowed eight, only eight, sacks in six conference games. That ties Alabama for second-best and is just two back of LSU. Of course there is more than good protection to limiting sacks.

"When Wilson scrambles, he scrambles to throw the ball," Cox said. "I watched the tape and he does take a lot of hits, he completes the pass but takes a lot of hits." Which might look good on tape but doesn't help prevent catches and first downs and touchdowns.

Besides that, for their part the Bulldog defense has bagged just 11 SEC quarterbacks so far. "That's definitely got to change," said Cox. "When you know it's a pass you just have to pin your ears back and go."

Cox has a team-best 4.0 sacks this season, and all in league play (South Carolina, Kentucky). Interestingly, in those two games fellow DT Josh Boyd had 1.5 sacks as well. So at times this SEC season State's defensive front has gotten to passers first. Arkansas is a tougher task than those other examples what with a quick-release quarterback and lots of receivers running routes. But Cox said there's no real change to gameplanning at this point.

"You have to get pressure out of the front four. Do what we do every week, practice and prepare. The main thing is staying in his face, a lot of quarterbacks don't like pressure in their face."

Speaking of in-your-face, Cox has seen more than his share of blocking attention this season and most notably in recent weeks. Alabama limited State's top-tackling lineman to four total stops…while Boyd piled up a career-best 11 tackles with two for losses. Cox wasn't surprised a bit by those numbers, in fact he'd anticipated it based on double-up blocking patterns.

"From what I've seen that's what teams do, they double-team. If they run the ball to one side they double-team the three-technique, or they're going to find the shade side and run there and cut the three-technique off. Most teams do the same blocking scheme." So instead of fighting it, Cox turns it to a team advantage when possible.

"I told told Josh all week that I'd bring the ball back to him, I told him just trust me, him and Kaleb (Eulls) or whoever was playing the back-side end just trust me and I'd bring the ball to them and they should get the tackle." Eulls ended up with six tackles of his own.

FAMILIAR FACEMASKS: As a redshirt freshman this will be Eulls' first contact with Arkansas. Cox and Boyd are preparing for round-three. And senior OG Quentin Saulsberry gets his fourth shot at the Razorbacks. He played tackle on the 2008 State team that won 31-28 in Starkville. Now he hopes to end his personal series with a break-even record.

And yes, it is somewhat personal for a lot of big men on both sides of these lines this week. "Because we've been playing these guys for four or five years," Saulsberry said. "I've see a lot of guys since I was a freshman. So we have to come out knowing what these guys are going to do." Of course, he already does in one respect; this will be a blitzing bunch of Razorbacks for State blockers to fend off.

"They're real physical guys, real athletic guys. We know we have to come out and attack them, we can't sit back on our heels and wait for them."

STARTING SOMETHING?: There's still a buzz about the unorthodox offensive set State used twice in last week's second quarter. Or was it really so different? For this level, yes…but not everywhere. "When I saw it, I didn't really realize what it was until the next day," Saulsberry said. "I said we really played seven-on-seven with Alabama, in the middle of the field!"

OK, not exactly; all eleven usual suspects were on the field, it was that most were in unusual positions. Including Saulsberry, in a group all the way beyond the other number and by the other sideline. And he still wasn't an eligible receiver so his duty didn't change. Saulsberry said the surprise was obvious in Alabama linemen's eyes from across the way.

"It was a change to give them a different look," he said. "But at the same time go execute the play." Which the Dogs did with a five-yard completion and UA off-sides to net a first down before reverting to standard sets. For the rest of that game, anyway. Saulsberry won't be surprised to see it again, even by opponents in time.

"Coach Mullen brought it up and I believe a lot more teams are going to do it. You see something that another team does and go to clinic, and next thing they pick that up."

Gene's Page Top Stories