Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema held his weekly press conference to discuss several things from the Samford game as well as some thoughts on this week's game against Southern Miss
Bret Bielema loved the atmosphere Saturday night in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium.
Here is five key impressions from Bret Bielema:
Bielema liked the atmosphere in Little Rock. He said the same thing about feeling the crowd in Little Rock that he said the previous week about the Fayetteville game.
“I never feel the crowd,” Bielema said. “Our players do and I think they feed off of it. At times in the pre-game I could definitely feel it. I thought it was a very, very positive experience. At first when I first mentioned we were going to go through a walk through at the stadium earlier in the day everybody was like no, no, no you won't be able to get in there. I'm glad we did. Our kids saw that and I think it kind of gave us some juice in the afternoon. When we returned three or four hours later it was absolutely awesome. They were into it in the fourth quarter which was absolutely big. Obviously we had some empty seats but that will come with, A, having success and, B, having an SEC opponent,”
Bielema then spoke of the negatives of playing in Little Rock.
“The only negatives are things Little Rock can't control,” Bielema said. “Obviously you can't control the travel.
“Then there's two NCAA rules that become a big concern. The first is we can't invite high school coaches to the game by NCAA rules and that's a huge hit for us in recruiting. The other thing is we can't take official visits.
“For instance, two of our biggest official visit weekends that we would love to have are erased because we can't have official visits in Little Rock. If we did our Top 12 recruits left on our board, six of those guys have byes the weeks when we have home games, but both of those bye weeks are when we are in Little Rock. That erases the chance for us to have them on campus for a home game. That gets very frustrating and it's hard to work through it. You don't want to have that effect recruiting because of an NCAA rule.”
Kiero Small was named the MVP for the offense by the UA coaches.
Bielema said the 47,000 fans there provided a great environment. He said he was at Kansas State and they are around 50,000 capacity and some of the loudest places he has ever been.
“It's not the number of people there,” Bielema said. “It's the attitude and energy they bring. You saw those people in Little Rock Saturday night.”
“Offensively, honorable mention, I thought we had a lot of guys do some good things,”Bielema said. “Up front, Travis Swanson and (David) Hurd played well. (Jeremy) Sprinkle did an outstanding job blocking. J-Will (Jonathan Williams) and Alex Collins both guys did a tremendous job. The MVP went to Kiero (Small). What he is doing blocking, sealing the game with those runs in the fourth quarter. What he does on the sidelines is just off the chart. Our offensive scout-team MVP went to Scotty Thurman. Scotty is a tremendous asset for us and hard worker on the scout team.
“Our defensive scout-team MVP went to Kevin Richardson, who is a walk-on cornerback who has really been a nice surprise. Defensively, honorable mention went to Eric Bennett and Chris Smith, two seniors who did a nice job. Not a lot of action at them, but they continue to hold together for the bigger picture for us defensively. Up front, Robert Thomas won our defensive MVP. I actually thought he would win the SEC (Defensive Lineman of the Week). The numbers he put up are pretty special for a defensive lineman.
“Special team's honorable mention went to (Matt) Emrich and (Alan) D'Appollonio with the snappers and holders for Zach (Hocker). The MVP obviously went to Zach Hocker. He kicked the longest field goal of his career, but what he was doing on kickoffs and his composure is outstanding as well. He also gave us a punt. The scout-team MVP for special teams went to Matt Reynolds.”
Collins won SEC Freshman of the Week and 247Sports National True Freshman of the Week.
Trey Flowers missed the Samford game but expects to return on Saturday.
Sophomore wide receiver Keon Hatcher didn't make the trip to Little Rock due to an injury he aggravated against Louisiana. It's the same injury that caused him to miss much of the fall camp.
“On that catch he had that he got down close to scoring in Game One kind of re-aggravated the hamstring,” Bielema said. “I made a consious decision last week he wasn't involved at all.
“We knew we were going to sit him and Rohan. We knew by Wednesday they weren't going so we wanted to sit them down and get them healthy. Keon will have a chance if he's ready to go. If not we will stay with the same lineup.”
“They both will get X-rays this afternoon and the doctor will determine if they can play,” Bielema said. “They both were involved in non-contact last week. If they can go through some contact this week they both have a chance to play.”
“He continues to impress us the way he handles the game,” Bielema said. “Some guys in his situation may not have been able to rebound the way he did.
“He made a couple of critical throws when we needed to. His second pass for a touchdown was a really nice read and reaction. He has continued to move forward. He has got an understanding he can run the ball now for a first down which he did on two different occasions. That makes him feel good. It was just another step forward for him.”
Southern Miss put more pressure on Allen than Louisiana did the previous week.
“He got knocked around a little bit,” Bielema said. “They got some pressure on him and the more of that he can see the better he will get.”
Long Losing Streak
Southern Miss enters the contest with a 14-game losing streak. Texas State beat the Golden Eagles at home 22-15 to open the season and then Nebraska blasted them 56-13 this past Saturday.
“We don't really look at much about last year's performance,” Bielema said of Southern Miss' 0-12 record last year. “They had a coaching change and a lot of things went into it.
“They got better from Game One to Game Two. I think this game is like every other game we approach. It's not necessarily what they do, but what we do. Even when we play someone later on that may be undefeated or won X number of games in a row not really going to talk about that. I will talk about let's go out on Saturday and let's play.”
Southern Miss Coach Todd Monken was offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State prior to coming to Hattiesburg.
“They run the no-huddle,” Bielema said. “I don't think anybody is at the Supersonic speed. There's a couple of times they will speed it up. You see the head coach come out of Oklahoma State and they're trying to do the things they have done in the past. It's probably a bit of work in progress for them too because the quarterback coming in and starting for the first time for these guys.”
Senior quarterback Allan Bridgford transferred in from Cal and has thrown for 599 yards in the first two games.