Troy provides final preparation for Hogs before SEC slate
A week from Saturday, his Hogs travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala. for the Razorbacks’ much anticipated annual date with No. 2 Alabama.
But before the Razorbacks (2-0) can turn their full attention to the Crimson Tide, the final step in their preparation must be completed when the Troy Trojans (0-1) come to call at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Despite their 49-19 loss at Clemson, the Trojans are a much more formidable opponent than either New Mexico or Missouri State, whom Arkansas outscored a combined 103-10. Troy boasts speed, size and depth that the two previous opponents could not muster and the Trojans’ strength along the defensive front should give the Hogs a better tune-up for the size and speed they will see in SEC play.
Left defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi (6-2, 250) and defensive tackle Emanuel Dudley (6-1, 305) are stout performers on Troy’s defensive front.
“They have a very talented [defensive] front and they like to pressure,” Petrino said of Tory coach Larry Blakeney’s defense. “They brought pressure for a third of the game against Clemson. They will challenge for our offensive line. It is exactly we need on Saturday.”
The Razorbacks continue to break in three new starters and depth on the offensive line. They improved from the first to second week, and Petrino wants to see another jump this week. Better competition should only help freshmen like tackle Mitch Smothers and Brey Cook progress.
Petrino liked the progress Arkansas made in practice this week, capped by the best Thursday practice of the season.
“We are getting closer to where we need to be,” Petrino said. “Our focus and our perfection was a lot closer to where it ought to be on a Thursday. I’m excited about the game and excited to see how we play.”
Petrino said running back Dennis Johnson will play on Saturday and likely get the chance to carry the football. Johnson missed the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury and has not played since the second game of the 2010 season when suffered a lacerated bowel and missed the rest of the year.
“His conditioning is a little bit of a concern,” Petrino said of Johnson. “How many plays he can go is uncertain. We hope he can do well.”
Petrino said he hasn’t decided if Johnson will return kick-offs or not.
The Razorbacks will be without the services of seniors Jake Bequette (Hamstring) at defensive end and Jarius Wright (strained knee) at receiver. Petrino said he was encouraged by the progress they made. Sophomore Chris Sanders will start in place of Bequette.
Petrino said senior receiver Greg Childs also missed two practices this week after the death of his grandmother and may not play.
When asked about offensive production, Petrino, whose Hogs are ranked third in the nation in scoring at 51.5 ppg. and eighth in total offense with 549 ypg., joked, “We’ve got to crank it up. We haven’t been able to get enough points or yards.”
After the quip, Petrino also gave a more serious answer to the question saying he likes to see his offense get 72 to 86 plays in a game.
“That’s enough to win the football game,” Petrino said. “It means we’re getting yards and first downs, and with our talent, we feel like we’ll get some big plays. If you’re not getting the yards and first downs and you drop down to around 60 plays, it gets tough. It means you’re defense is on the field more and we’re three-and-out. You have a hard time winning like that.”
Arkansas Razorbacks (2-0) vs. Troy Trojans (0-1)
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville
Radio: Arkansas Radio Network
TV: CSS/CST/ESPN GAME PLAN/ESPN