After a thrilling comeback win over former coach Houston Nutt and Ole Miss, #10 Arkansas plays its second-straight road game this Saturday against Vanderbilt.
The Razorbacks met with local media today in Fayetteville. Here are select quotes from the day, courtesy of University of Arkansas Athletics:
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (opening statement): "Again, I'm happy about the win on Saturday. It was a good win for us. Our players certainly competed hard and did things well in the last half of the game that gave us an opportunity to come away with the win. Tough, hard fought, certainly put ourselves in a hole but we got out of it and found a way to win. Now we've got to go right back on the road to Vanderbilt, and we need to really do a good job in our preparation, in our practice, and get ready for another tough game on the road in the SEC."
(on evaluating the team's preparation due to slow starts): "We reevaluate everything. I don't think that they correlate together, the A&M game and the Ole Miss game, because there are a lot of differences in how we started. But we need to do a better job starting out. But what I look at is the positives. I like the way we played, competed, the energy that guys gave us on the sidelines when we were behind, and we found a way to win."
(on S-Eric Bennett): "When we recruited him we were recruiting a great athlete, because Eric played some quarterback, ran the option, had games where he rushed over 200 yards. When we recruited him Eric really, in his heart I think, wanted to be a receiver and we looked at him in camp at both receiver and corner and I liked his skills better on defense than offense. Not that he couldn't have been a really good receiver for us because he could, but I thought he was special with his foot quickness and his size. It's always nice to have ex-quarterbacks in the secondary because they understand what quarterbacks are trying to do, and I really think that does help him a lot. When we started him at corner last year I thought he did a good job for us. He played well, came in the Mississippi State game out there all by himself most of the game, and competed extremely hard. In the offseason he went back and watched all the video, and he is a really good tackler. We lost Rudell Crim so I made the decision to move him from corner to safety because of the combination of the cover skills and the ability to tackle. I always like one safety on the field that can really cover in man."
(on RB-Dennis Johnson's performance at Ole Miss): "Dennis did a great job for us. He ran the ball really well. He showed his speed and quickness. I thought it was the most decisive he's been all year on his cuts. And that does take reps. The more carries you get, the more vision, the more things that you see the better you're going to make your cuts and it really showed up the other day. He had a great game for us."
(on FB-Kiero Small): "Kiero is a guy that really helps our running game. The physicalness, the toughness, the energy, I think he gives our offense energy because of his toughness and his physicalness. He's a fun guy that, when you watch the video, like today when our players come in, we'll watch the video and you can see the hits and collisions and the number of times where he's the hammer and not the nail show up. It's a lot of fun and really helps us as a football team."
(on the offensive line's performance at Ole Miss): "I thought we took huge steps forward in the run game. We did a better job with our footwork, we delivered blows better, we finished our blocks better, which really got us in the secondary. And that's what your offensive line has to do is get your backs into the secondary. I was really happy with our wide receivers and the way they were blocking down the field because that really helped us get long runs. A lot of hustle plays, that's what really showed up on video was guys hustling down, giving second effort, (TE) Chris Gragg got in a couple extra blocks down the field, (OT) Jason Peacock got a huge block down the field on Dennis (Johnson's) long run for a touchdown. (WR-Jarius) Wright did a great job on the play, so we improved a lot not only with what we're supposed to do but our second effort."
(on TE-Chris Gragg's blocking): "He's really improved on a number of things. It's not just your ability to block but your assignments, doing things right, your effort, your second effort. His confidence is a lot better now so he comes off the ball harder and he had a good game for us the other day, did a nice job in the run game and the pass game."
(on how proud he is of the team for its comeback at Ole Miss): "Oh, very proud of them. There's a lot of people who want to talk about other things that are wrong, all the negatives, which I understand. That's a part of the business. But I like to look at the things that are positive. And our toughness, our character, our heart, and really the thing that showed up so much at halftime and in the second half was our competitive spirit, and the fact that our leaders stay positive. I've been in situations before when you're down and certain teams where it doesn't go that way. It goes the other way, and we have not been that way. We've been very positive. Our leaders have been good in encouraging. I think that's the one thing that shows up in leadership so well on our football team is we have guys that encourage and help other guys come out and play better and I'm proud of that."
(on whether he is enjoying coaching more as his career progresses): "I'll tell you what I really enjoy is, I think the more you get into coaching and the longer you're in the profession, the more you enjoy the success that you see on your players' faces, and the success and satisfaction that you see in their body language and their eyes, and how much more it means that guys stick together and play together. They are learning lessons that are going to help them when they're done playing football. I think that's the thing that is more gratifying the longer that you're in the business."
DE-Jake Bequette (on getting off to slow starts in recent games) – "That really falls on the leaders of this team, including myself. I need to help get the team ready to play faster from the opening whistle. I know we were ready to play on Saturday, but for some reason in the last three or four games, we haven't started very fast. We really kind of dug ourselves in a hole, which isn't very good. We would all prefer to get to a big lead and keep a big lead, but football is a game of adjustments and momentum. We've been able to overcome some early deficits. We have to figure out why we're starting slow and correct it."
(on what adjustments are made at halftime) – "We've made some really good second-half adjustments in the last three or four games. That's really a credit to our coaching staff and our players who are seeing the little things that give us an advantage. It has to be on us to start fast because we always have a good game plan going into the week, but we just have to execute it."
(on S-Eric Bennett) – "He been great for us. He always seems to be around the football. To have guys like him and (S) Tramain Thomas back there, it gives you a lot of confidence on the defensive line when you know when you force the quarterback into an early throw that he's not comfortable with, those guys will be able to pick it off and give us some turnovers. Eric has done a great job moving from cornerback to safety and doing everything the coaches are asking of him. He's just a very talented guy and a hard worker and a great teammate.
(on S-Eric Bennett's interception late in the game at Ole Miss) – "That was just a great read by him. We hadn't gotten any turnovers until that point. It was just a huge play in a clutch situation. That's when players make big plays in situations like that."
(on the defense's three sacks Saturday at Ole Miss) – "It's about time. We haven't been able to get to the quarterback as well as last year or in years past. The thing about sacks is that it's not always about getting sacks; it's about getting consistent pressure. We got him down three times on Saturday and got a few big plays with the intentional grounding call and (DE) Trey Flowers' big sack in the fourth quarter, and that's great to see. We always feel like it's our bread and butter on defense, to get after the quarterback and force it to third and long. If we can execute that, then that's where we're starting to find our defensive identity."
(on DE-Trey Flowers getting extended playing time) – "I'm really proud of Trey. For a true freshman, that's amazing. I think back to my first year, I couldn't imagine what he's doing. He's very mature and takes football very seriously. He plays older than he is, and we're just really glad to have him."
(on DE-Trey Flowers' skill set) – "The thing about Trey is that he has a high motor and has incredibly long arms. He knows how to use his hands and has this great long-arm move. It really keeps the offensive tackles away from his body. That's something you don't see from young defensive linemen, the ability to use your hands and use leverage. He really understands that. The thing about him is that once he figures out the speed of the game a little more and figures out how to make plays like he did in high school, he can really take over."
(on taking a block from FB-Kiero Small in practice) – "That guy weighs as much as I do, except he's built into a much more compact frame. That guy comes downhill and he's not afraid to knock your block off. Just look at those highlights against Texas A&M and pretty much every team we've played. I'm glad that he's on our team. When we saw him blast that guy's helmet off at Ole Miss, that was pretty exciting to see."
FB-Kiero Small (on the block he made at Ole Miss that knocked a defenders helmet off) – "On that play, I'm to block the linebacker. I got up under him a little bit. Usually linebackers try to get low, but I got up under him. I didn't really know that his helmet came off. When I looked down, I saw it on the ground, but I didn't see it as soon as it came off."
(on what makes him such a good blocker) – "It's just will. When playing fullback, that's the one thing you have to have. The will to want to go hit another guy play after play. I enjoy it."
(on preferring blocking over running the ball) – "I'm satisfied with hitting a guy and seeing the running back run past me. I just like the contact. It's something I enjoy a lot."
FB-Kiero Small (on asking for more carries) – "I never do that. I don't ask for the ball. If it's given to me then I'll run it. If it's thrown to me, I'll catch it. I like blocking for all the weapons we have around here. If I get on my guy, we have a lot of guys that can take it the distance."
(on getting a block that opens up the hole for a touchdown run) – "It's just as good as me scoring. It's six points on the board and another step towards winning. It's just as good if I was the runner myself. I kind of like when I hit a guy and I see Dennis (Johnson), Ronnie (Wingo) or Broderick (Green) just run past me. I know it's over with from there."
(on the team's slow start in recent games) – "We approach every game wanting to get off to a great start. Some games we haven't been able to do that, but that's why you play four quarters. We come out and play good ball in the second half. But of course, we want to come out in the first half and play great."
(on making adjustments at halftime) – "We really just take a couple of deep breaths and approach it like we aren't down. We approach it the same way as if we are up. It's not like there's a lot of finger pointing. We just got out and execute."
(on the play of RB-Dennis Johnson) – "Dennis is low. A lot of defenders confuse short and little. Dennis is not a little guy, he's short. He's compact, so when a defender comes up, he has to bring his A-game. Then, he's fast. You saw the burst on that long run (at Ole Miss). Once he gets into open field, you can pretty much count it a touchdown."
(on RB-Dennis Johnson being named SEC Offensive Player of the Week) – "I really enjoyed seeing that. It put a smile on my face to see him get that honor. Dennis is a good running back, and he practices hard and works hard. He's just a really good running back."
(on playing for a team that is in the national spotlight) – "It's an honor. It's something I've always wanted to do and knew I could do. It just took me a few more steps to get there. Right now, I'm just happy to be living my dream."
(on playing on offense after playing defense in junior college) – "It's something me and my junior college coach always talked about. He saw skills that I could play offense and defense. That was one of the tactics we used out in California. I played on both sides of the ball. Offense was just the best fit for me when I wanted to transfer."
(on the number of facemasks that he's broken) – "I think it's eight. I don't know the exact number. Every time I go to turn my helmet in, the equipment guy, Chuck (Hall), has to get a new one. I think he's got a tally sheet back there, but I think it's eight. I don't know too many guys breaking them all the time. I think I'm the only guy with a tally sheet. I think right now I lead the team."
(on the way the facemasks are breaking) – "They're bending. I'm not shattering them in half. I don't think I'd be sitting here and talking to you if I was shattering them. They're bending and there's a lot of contact. Every play is me hitting someone and meeting someone face to face and bending a lot of facemasks. I used to not notice it, but now I know when I see it happen. The first couple of times I wasn't really paying any attention."
(on getting recognition from the media for blocking) – "For me, even if I wasn't getting the love, I would still be going out and blocking. For my mom and them to hear my name on TV, it's really for them. I really like to call my mom after a game and she tells me all the things they said, it's like an excitement every time for her. Even if I wasn't getting my name called, I would still go out there and do the same things. I just like for her and my family members back home, since they don't get to come to the games, to be able to hear it."