State of the Hogs: Toughness

Chris Smith

It took a nasty word from the head coach, but Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith thought the defense found another gear in the second half in a 19-15 victory over Tulsa.

Arkansas head coach John L. Smith didn't like the look of defense in the first half against Tulsa. So he he greeted them at intermission with a word that football players appreciate the least.

Smith called them soft.

"You never want to hear that if you are a football player," said Chris Smith, the Arkansas defensive end who closed out the Golden Hurricane with a fumble-causing sack with 41 seconds left.

It marked a big turnaround from home games this season when the Hogs failed to come up with key plays down the stretch. Smith's sack let them celebrate Homecoming with a 19-15 victory over a red-hot Tulsa team coming off an open date.

"Coach Smith was trying to pep us up and keep us in an attacking mind state. Sometimes when a team plays a read zone type scheme, you get to standing around and I think he wanted to get us going.

"I think he gave it to us pretty good. We played tougher in the second half. I think we were a lot more aggressive in the second half."

Tulsa made just 125 yards in the second half after Smith got after the defense. He said he was disappointed after seeing Tulsa dominate the second quarter, 12-3.

"I told them we were soft at halftime," Smith said. "That was kind of the only word I knew to relate to the way we played in the first half.

"I thought we played the opposite of that in the second half. We got after them and brought some pressure with the front and the linebackers and that helped. Anytime you try to run it into that many bodies, it's hard to run it."

Tulsa running back Trey Watts danced through the Hogs for 68 yards on 13 carries in the first half, but made just 13 on six tries after intermission.

"We were not soft in the second half. The tone I used at halftime were not soft. I didn't have much love for them when they came in.

"I do that once in awhile. When you are soft, you tell them. I was proud of them in the second half. They played hard and fought."

Defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said he didn't hear Smith's explosion. He was still working his way down from the press box and was probably coming up the ramp from the locker room when the head coach got first crack at his defense.

"We made a few changes at halftime that helped, too, but we definitely played hard, too," Haynes said. "We thought we put in a few changes that might get us a sack. That bunch had not given up many sacks all year and we got one to finish them off."

The Hogs came up with a goal line stand late in the third quarter that might have turned the game. Tulsa had first-and-goal at the 5-yard line with a 15-13 lead, but came away empty when Trey Flowers batted down a fourth-down pass by Green. Tevin Mitchel broke up a third down fade that Keyarris Green couldn't hold.

"We challenged our corners all week, don't give up the fade," Haynes said. "I thought we did a great job of not getting beat there. We gave them some short stuff because they'd run at 'em like it was the fade and stop. But I told our guys, that was not going to beat us, the fade was.

"Everytime they ran the fade, our guys were there. I thought that was big in the game."

The Hogs made some adjustments over some plays that they gave up the previous week in a loss to Ole Miss. Haynes said they knew Tulsa was going to look for the slant after their film study.

"So we dropped our ends into the slant area on some key plays," Haynes said. "Our guys got their hands on a few of those. So we took that away with our ends.

"And we got our hands on some when we were in blitz, too. We were in an all-out blitz when Flowers got the fourth-down pass. We played the fade there and went after the quarterback. That's their play in that situation. They just try to keep running that fade and we handled it pretty well.

"I thought we did some things alright in the first half, but played bad technique and lined up wrong. We tried to correct that and not give them anything with alignment. I say that over and over, it's the little things that keep getting you. I thought we did the little things better in the second half.

"I've been saying this for a few weeks, that we are getting closer. We are a different defense on Nov. 3 than we were on Sept. 11. We've improved. Our coverage is better. Our linebackers are better. I saw some things we improved last week and we improved a little more this week.

"We did adjust to one thing in the second half to slow down their run. When they brought a certain package with one back and a tight end, we brought in a five-man defensive line package. Our guys made that adjustment very well because we had not worked on that this week. Our front played well."

There was only one touchdown in the second half, a 1-yard run by Dennis Johnson with 10:08 left in the fourth quarter that completed a four-play, 76-yard drive. Cobi Hamilton had catches for 41 and 14 just ahead of Johnson's plunge.

"The first one to Cobi, that was a blitz where I knew they had one more coming than we had to protect," Wilson said. "You know you are probably going to get hit. You just have to get it off, but I liked the coverage we had, one guy on Cobi."

Wilson said he was upset at the interception late in the first half and thought he needed to play a little tougher along with the defense.

"I thought I made the right read on that one, but it didn't come out of my hand right," Wilson said. "It was just a duck and the safety was able to get over to it. I saw the cover bit and I just didn't get enough on it.

"But I thought we fought in the second half. You have to find a way to win. We haven't done that enough this year, find a way. You just have to fight and be tough enough. We were today.

"There are going to be some where you just have to be tougher than the other guy. That's the bottom line today, we got a little tougher in the second half. Everyone had to step up. I had to step up. We did as a team.

"There were some times today where we knew they were coming and I knew I was going to take a shot. You take the shot to get the chance at some throws. You just have to take it and be tough.

"We knew Tulsa was a tough team. We knew they were going to hang in with us and fight. They had won games in the fourth quarter. We knew we'd have to stick together and just continue to fight them all the way to the end."

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