Mental Mistakes Are a Problem for Razorbacks
Three UA records fell Saturday, but the Razorbacks still came up short against South Carolina 38-20. UA interim head coach John L. Smith believes mental mistakes cost Arkansas the game.
“We shot ourselves in the foot in the first half with penalties and hanging on to the ball,” Smith said. “It should have been a tie game at halftime.”
Senior quarterback Tyler Wilson set the UA career record for completions with 539 and senior wide receiver Cobi Hamilton set the UA career record for receiving yards with 1,149 against the Gamecocks.
Junior kicker Zach Hocker also broke a UA career record, passing former Razorback Steve Little with 285 points by a kicker.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know I broke it until after the game,” Hocker said. “It’s cool. Steve is one of the best all-time, so it’s an honor.”
Injuries and disciplinary issues have forced younger players to play significantly more. Senior linebacker Terrell Williams sat out as the first game of an indefinite suspension and junior running back Knile Davis and senior tight end Chris Gragg did not play because of injury.
Freshmen Otha Peters and A.J. Turner at linebacker, Mekale McKay and Keon Hatcher at wide receiver, Alex Voelzke at tight end, Nate Holmes at punt returner, and Rohan Gaines, Davyon McKinney and Will Hines in the secondary have all received a lot of playing time.
“There are going to be some young mistakes that we’re going to have to live with,” Smith said. “We have to minimize those.”
Williams, who is serving an indefinite suspension after being arrested for DWI, is “still working to earn his way back on to this team,” Smith said.
Gragg reinjured his leg against Ole Miss after initially injuring it against Rutgers and is doubtful to play this Saturday. Davis is still recovering from a hamstring injury, but Smith hopes he can play.
“(Davis) feels better and his leg is coming along,” Smith said. “He had a good weekend of treatment. I am more optimistic with him than Gragg.”
Against South Carolina, Holmes suffered an above the shoulders injury and Smith is “keeping his fingers crossed that he’ll be ready for Saturday.”
If Holmes cannot play, senior Kaelon Kelleybrew, freshman D’Arthur Cowan and Hatcher will be looked to as replacements for kickoff and punt returner.
Arkansas travels to Starkville, Miss., to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Bulldogs come into the weekend with a 7-3 overall record and 3-3 Southeastern Conference record.
After starting the season 7-0, they have lost three consecutive games to teams now ranked in the BCS Top 10.
“You’d rather be facing a team that has lost three in a row than one that’s won three in a row,” Smith said. “Let’s go and make it four (consecutive losses).”
Defensively, Arkansas will face junior quarterback Tyler Russell, who averages 224.9 passing yards per game and has only thrown four interceptions to 17 touchdowns.
“I really like what I see out of their quarterback,” Smith said. “He does a good job and they do a good job of protecting him.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Razorbacks must worry about a defense that “approaches” the physicality of Alabama and LSU, Smith said.
Even with all of the records being broken, the players remain intent on winning.
“Our main focus is to win and perform when our number is called,” Hocker said.