Razorbacks look to rebound against Aggies
After an emotional loss to top-ranked Alabama followed by a bye week, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino was curious to see how his team would react.
No need to worry about the 11th-ranked Razorbacks. They are just fine heading into Saturday's game against Texas A&M.
''I liked what I saw from our football team on the first Tuesday after the Alabama game,'' Petrino said. ''I was surprised by our energy and the leadership and the attitude. We came back and just said let's go back to work.''
Arkansas had a 13-point lead against Alabama before the Crimson Tide rallied to a 24-20 win two weeks ago. The Razorbacks (3-1, 1-1 SEC) watched as Alabama dominated Florida in a 31-6 victory last weekend and Petrino believes that gave his team a shot of confidence.
''Some people may still have it on their hearts, but as a team I think we are over it,'' defensive end Tenarius Wright said of losing to Alabama. ''We came out and took a stand not to lose any more games, and we are ready for the Texas A&M game.''
Now they'll step out of Southeastern Conference play to face their old Southwest Conference rival in the Aggies. This is the second game in a 10-year deal to play Texas A&M at Cowboys Stadium annually.
The Aggies are coming off an emotional loss of their own after quarterback Jerrod Johnson had five turnovers, including one that led to the game-winning field goal, in a 38-35 loss to No. 22 Oklahoma State on Sept. 30.
Texas A&M (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) sees this as another shot to improve its status as a contender in just its second televised game of the season.
They're also looking for a better performance after last year's 47-19 loss to the Razorbacks.
''I think it's very important we come back and play a good game against a very good team in Arkansas,'' Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said. ''Like I told the players, you want to be able to play a team like Arkansas on national TV and be able to give it your best and go out there and do what you can do.''
The Aggies are trying to get Johnson back on track after nine turnovers in the last two games. Johnson is the Razorbacks' No. 1 focus despite his turnovers woes.
''He concerns you because of all the big plays he makes throwing the ball, moving outside of the pocket, keeping his vision down field and making plays,'' Petrino said. ''He got us on one last year where he just scrambled out and hit a guy open down field. He's very concerning.''
Johnson has vowed to improve his ball security, but his recent trouble have the Razorbacks excited about the possibility of creating more turnovers. Wright said hearing about all his interceptions makes ''our eyes big.''
''If we come on and give him the pressure Oklahoma State gave him in the last game, I think we have a good chance of (forcing Johnson to turn) the ball over a few times,'' Wright said.
Johnson said the Aggies aren't intimidated by Arkansas and they're goal isn't simply to show they've improved since last year's lopsided loss.
''I like our chances,'' he said. ''Arkansas is a good team, but I think we're a good offense as well. We're not going in there to kind of see where we're at, we're going in there to win the game. We feel we can win the game. We have a lot of respect for them, but at the same time we feel if we play well we can beat anybody.''
Though the Aggies have been up and down this year Petrino knows what they are capable of and won't underestimate them.
''What you do is prepare for their best,'' he said. ''We know how well they can throw it. We are very impressed with their wide receivers. We really have to play fast and physical. (Last year) we were more physical on the defensive front and faster flying to the ball and that's really what we've been emphasizing.''