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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Hog Calls

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

FAYETTEVILLE -- Last year Bobby Petrino wouldn't have dared said he prepared for Arkansas' season-opener practicing beyond it.

As the Razorbacks' first-year coach last year, Petrino had two supposed non-conference cupcakes before the first SEC game.

Those cupcakes nearly cooked the Hogs. Arkansas was lucky to escape Western Illinois 28-24 in Fayetteville and Louisiana-Monroe 28-27 in Little Rock.

Petrino has started his second season at the Hog helm with a better team nearly 100 percent more familiar with him and he with them than in 2008.

So, yes, he said, even with this bye-week upcoming, the Razorbacks had done some advance preseason prepping for their Sept. 19 SEC opener with Georgia in Fayetteville while simultaneously prepping for last Saturday night's 48-10 season-opening rout of the lower division Missouri State University Bears.

"I was happy with the maturity our team showed," Petrino said in Saturday's postgame at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. "Because we practiced a lot in camp for Georgia and knew we had to come down here and take care of business."

It ought to be an interesting situational contrast when the Georgia Bulldogs come to Reynolds Razorback Stadium for the Sept. 19 ESPN televised 6:45 p.m. SEC clash.

Georgia will have played two tough games.

Last Saturday, the Bulldogs lost 24-10 to ninth-ranked Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla.

This Saturday for its SEC opener, Georgia hosts South Carolina, a 7-3 non-conference winner last Thursday at North Carolina State.

It's conceivable the Bulldogs, ranked 19th by the AP to start the season, could be 0-2 upon Fayetteville arrival.

Even should that 0-2 prove true, they will arrive thoroughly tested and in game rhythm.

The Hogs won't. Arkansas would be better served if its bye-week was later to repair and refresh well into the 12-game grind.

But the Hogs do have some advantages with an extra week to work off their first-game plusses and minuses going into perhaps this season's most pivotal game. It's not only the Hogs' SEC opener, but given a rugged road SEC slate of at Alabama, at Florida, at Ole Miss and at LSU, seems a near must-win for Arkansas to achieve a winning SEC campaign.

"Whatever cards you're dealt," Arkansas offensive coordinator/receivers coach Paul Petrino said post-Missouri State, "that's what you deal with. It gives us two weeks to get ready for Georgia, so that's what we're going to do."

They will start the SEC season feeling SEC worthy.

A feeling they acknowledge now was hard to feel last year knowing they could have lost to Western Illinois and Western Illinois.

"That," Arkansas senior defensive tackle team captain Malcolm Sheppard said after the 48-10 beating of the Bears, "is what a SEC team is supposed to do to a team like that. We weren't an SEC team last year. That shows definite improvement on our part."

Arkansas went 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the SEC last year and never really felt good about itself postgame until upsetting LSU 31-30 in the season finale.

Now the defense feels better, holding an opponent to a record low 10 points for the Petrino era. The offense set an Arkansas single game passing record 447 yards. And the special teams kick-started especially well with a fatal blow to the Bears' bread basket. Arkansas sophomore Dennis Johnson returned the opening kickoff for a 91-yard touchdown.

Though outclassed stepping up in class against Arkansas, the Bears have a big-time tight end, NFL scouted Clay Harbor, a good quarterback, Cody Kirby of Rogers, and a geared to stop the run defense that could have given Missouri State a hang around with a fourth-quarter underdog's chance if the Hogs slopped around early.

Johnson returned the underdogs' chance to no chance.

"That kickoff return was demoralizing," Terry Allen, the Missouri State coach and former Kansas coach, said. "It really deflates you. College football is all about momentum, and we started without momentum."

Arkansas started 2009 with so much momentum that Bobby Petrino believed the Hogs could sustain through Missouri State while working on Georgia.

Now he must keep up the good work while Georgia plays.

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