Hogs need to run it by TCU; injury report; notes

Hogs need to run it by TCU; injury report; notes

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FAYETTEVILLE - Against TCU’s explosive offense, the best defense can be an offense controlling the clock by running the football.

Arkansas running backs coach Reggie Mitchell knows his 'backs have a load to carry, points to score and a clock to burn Saturday when the Razorbacks battle No. 15 TCU at 6 p.m. on ESPN at TCU’s Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth.

“We expect to run the ball, control the clock and play Arkansas football,” Mitchell said of the expectations Coach Bret Bielema has set.

Rolling up points and yards may look easy given underdog South Dakota State amassed 461 yard and 41 points last week before TCU scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to seal a 59-41 victory.

But it won’t be easy, says Mitchell, the former Kansas running backs coach who annually faced Coach Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs in the Big 12.  Last year’s TCU defense propelled the Horned Frogs to an 11-2 record.

“Absolutely,” Mitchell said after Wednesday’s practice of anticipating an improved TCU defense from Game One to Game Two.  “Coach Patterson is the guy who runs the defense so you know he takes pride in it. He’s done a great job since he’s been at TCU, including as a coordinator.”

Bielema anticipates TCU and his Razorbacks improving from last week’s 21-20 escape over an obviously better than 26-point underdog Louisiana Tech.

“I  think one of the coaching cliches that everybody believes in, and should, is sometimes your biggest gains in performance and the things you believe can help you win take place between Game 1 and Game 2,” Bielema said Wednesday.

“Offensively, we want to eliminate turnovers and errors," Bielema said. "We want to be able to protect our quarterback a little bit better. I think defensively we definitely want to tackle better, especially on the perimeter. And if we get a sack opportunity, we've got to make it happen. We've got to get off the field on third down.”

And run it more effectively than against Louisiana Tech, though four QB sacks did skew Arkansas’ 40 carries for 106 yards Saturday even as sophomore running back Rawleigh Williams (top photo) netted 96 yards and a TD on 24 carries.

Williams’ 2015 season ended with a broken neck in October’s victory over Auburn, but he’ obviously healthy and fearless.

“Good,” Mitchell said of Williams’ postgame bounce back. “He has the typical soreness from a game but he was out at practice on Sunday and had a good week of practice this week.”

Williams concurred after Wednesday’s practice. “It feels pretty good, man,” Williams said. “Glad to get out of there with a win and move on to next week. It feels good to be able to play the game and contribute.”

It didn’t feel quite as good to him reviewing the film.

“Oh man, it’s always those first games when you're like, 'Man, there's a lot of stuff I could've done better,” Williams said. “Yards after contact, making the right cuts sometimes. Just being more physical in pass protection. It's just that first game type stuff. I'm not nervous about anything. I'll get it fixed and have a better week next week.”

Still there were big moments for the 'backs and the line like senior tailback Kody Walker converting the fourth-and-1 that iced the game as a fullback.

“That was great,” Mitchell said.  “That play was something Kody hadn’t done, and when it was crunch time Coach said, ‘Let’s go to Kody.’ That was good for Kody."

Any concern running a play that Walker hadn’t run from a position he hadn’t played since last autumn? “No,” Mitchell said. “He’s done it in the past and for him it’s like riding a bicycle.  You don’t forget how to do it.”

Mitchell was asked repeatedly about touted freshman running back Devwah Whaley only getting two carries against Louisiana Tech.
“The way the game was going last week there just wasn’t an opportunity to get him in, but we plan on getting a few more carries this week,” Mitchell said. “He’s had a good week of practice.”

Arkansas senior receiver Keon Hatcher was superb last week catching key passes on all three Arkansas touchdown drives, the last one despite twice nearly getting dragged down by his dreadlocks.

“I told him to cut it a long time ago just for an image thing,” receivers coach Michael Smith said Wednesday.  “But that’s his prerogative, and Coach (Bielema)  is fine with those guys wearing them. But if I was a defender, I would tackle it, too.”

Smith said the staff is being “careful” this week with junior receiver/punt returner Jared Cornelius after some back problems flared last Saturday, but that he should be full speed by Saturday.

Though acknowledging  Adam McFain misfired Saturday on two  “less-than-desirable” kickoffs, Bielema said the senior will get another shot as Arkansas’ kickoff man in Fort Worth.

“He has performed pretty well through fall camp,” Bielema said.  “We are going to go with him.”

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