The Calm Before the Storm
Michael Smith
Michael Smith
The Morning News/Razorback Central
Posted Sep 6, 2008


After reviewing film of his first game at Arkansas, coach Bobby Petrino took a seat in front of a row of TV cameras and offered a blunt assessment of his young football team as it began to prepare for tonight's game with Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock.

A day later, offensive coordinator Paul Petrino stood in the middle of a pack of reporters and talked about the need to find a running game to help balance out his offense.

And Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson had few positive things to say later in the week about the way his defensive line performed in last Saturday’s 28-24 win over Western Illinois.

“It’s time for us to start defining what our strengths are, so we can start playing to our strengths,” Bobby Petrino said.

The Razorbacks (1-0) had nearly too many dropped passes, missed blocks and rookie mistakes to beat Western Illinois in the season opener, let alone get past teams like No. 10 Texas, No. 13 Alabama and No. 5 Florida.

That’s why, despite being a two-touchdown favorite, there is a sense of urgency hanging over the Razorbacks (1-0) as they prepare to face Louisiana-Monroe (0-1) at 6 p.m. today in War Memorial Stadium.

“We’ve got to get the kinks out this game. We’ve got a tough schedule and it’s a straight run after this game,” Arkansas wide receiver Lucas Miller said. “And (Louisiana-Monroe is) no pushover.”

Arkansas’ schedule takes a turn for the worst after today with arguably the toughest four-game stretch in college football this season. They face four top 15 teams during what’s being dubbed “Murderer’s Row.”

If the Razorbacks hope to get through it relatively unscathed, they must take care of business against ULM and work on getting the problems that were magnified in the season opener corrected.

“Louisiana-Monroe is going to watch this film (of the Western Illinois game) and think they’ve got a chance to beat us, too,” Arkansas defensive end Adrian Davis said. “We’ve got to come with our ‘A’ game and bring it to them quick and early.”

After today, there won’t be much time for Arkansas’ coaches and players to stop and relax.

The Razorbacks end September with games against No. 10 Texas and No. 13 Alabama and then open October against No. 5 Florida and No. 9 Auburn. The only reprieve is a weekend off in between the Alabama and Florida games.

Petrino said his team responded to the season-opening scare against Western Illinois by having a good week of practice. The defensive linemen spent more time than usual working on their fundamentals in the hopes of getting their first sack against ULM.

The return of starting running back Michael Smith from a one-game suspension should help jump-start an Arkansas ground attack that managed only 76 yards and was overlooked down the stretch against the Leathernecks.

And Arkansas’ coaching staff has harped this week on improving the special-team play, getting more out of its pass protection and pass rush and avoiding the dropped passes that made the season opener tougher than expected.

“It’s hard to say that we really struggled that much if you look at the mistakes that we did make. They were just a few mental mistakes and they seemed a whole lot bigger on the stage,” Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams said.

“A couple of drops here, not just from freshmen. Even (veterans) had drops just as well. Those are just kinks we’re trying to clean up, and once we clean it up, I think we’ll be a very dangerous team to play.”


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