Arkansas looks for renewed fight against Aggies
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP)
Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee didn't mince words.
Watching a replay of the Razorbacks' 38-14 dismantling at the hands of No. 3 Alabama last week, McGee was unhappy all over again. What really bothered him wasn't the loss or how dominating the Crimson Tide looked.
It was a lack of fight.
''Our prime-time players, our top performers, our upperclassmen - the guys that we're counting on to come up huge and teach everyone else how to compete at an extreme level, those guys did not come through for us,'' McGee said. ''It's not their production that didn't come through. It was their competitive spirit.
''We're just not proud at all, and I'm not happy at all with the way our headline guys performed in that game.''
Whether Arkansas' performance was a sign of things to come has yet to be determined. But the No. 18 Razorbacks (3-1) will find out quickly when they step out of Southeastern Conference play to face No. 14
Arkansas entered last week's SEC opener leading the conference in scoring at 47 points and total offense with more than 500 yards per game. However, that production had come against the Missouri States, New Mexicos and Troys of the world - hardly the quality of opponent that the Crimson Tide proved.
The Razorbacks gained only 226 yards against Alabama, including a woeful 17 yards rushing on 19 attempts. The offensive line that was rebuilt after losing three starters from a season ago was unable to push the Crimson Tide in the running game or keep Alabama from putting hit after hit on quarterback Tyler Wilson.
Wilson finished 22 of 35 passing, but his season-long trend of looking for shorter passes underneath had little success against a Crimson Tide defense that closed quickly on receivers and running backs after catches.
''It's hard for me to talk about missing passes or us missing runs or us not running the ball well,'' McGee said. ''Because in this league, if you're not willing to go out and fight for what you want, you don't have a chance.''
Wilson said the plan against Alabama was to hit receivers quickly and look for yards after the catch. However, with no Arkansas running attack, the Crimson Tide defenders stayed close and kept the receivers from turning in big gains.
McGee said he's worked with Wilson this week on speeding up how fast he throws the ball as well as throwing with more velocity - whatever it takes to keep Wilson upright behind the struggling offensive line.
It's a line that includes true freshman Mitch Smothers at tackle, one that Texas A&M's experienced defense is looking forward to facing. The Aggies had eight sacks in a season-opening win over SMU and lead the country with 4.7 per game - including 3.5 so far from Sean Porter and three from Tony Jerod-Eddie.
''I think it will help us out a lot,'' Jerod-Eddie said. ''Just because those guys aren't experienced doesn't mean they aren't good, but I do think our experience will give us an advantage.''
Wilson called an offensive team meeting the day after the Alabama loss. The adversity wasn't something the Razorbacks have become accustomed to on offense under coach Bobby Petrino , and the junior thought it was time to clear the air.
''I think it's important you make sure everybody's on the same page,'' Wilson said. ''You get to a point like this where you get beat by a pretty good margin, and you kind of have to realign things.''
Petrino said he's not considering simplifying the offense to help production, saying it's already simplified in the first season after the departure of quarterback Ryan Mallett.
One thing McGee expects corrected against the Aggies is Arkansas' fight.
''I expect our guys to play at a really high level this weekend and compete like crazy,'' McGee said.
AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken in College Station, Texas, contributed to this story.