Press Conference Transcript from Arkansas-Toledo (aka The MACastrophe)

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Bret Bielema after Arkansas’ 12-16 upset loss to Toledo last Saturday:


It’s on me. It’s on us as coaches. We got to give them a better plan. If we can execute it, a lot of times we get jammed up, have big people up in there and we just can’t move them. Teams are doing a lot of stunting on us, doing a lot of things last year and this year coming across their face and we’ve got to be able to wash those big guys down. We definitely got to get our front people playing a lot better at the point of attack.


You know I hoped from what I’d seen, and what I believed, and what I thought was there, was we are a team that can play physically. You take the first two games, especially in our ability to run the football, and our answer would be no. Defensively we still had some good plays, and we made some nice hits, but overall they were still able to run the ball sometimes on third and short and fourth and short, and we can’t have that happen.

They were getting rid of it pretty quick… We were getting our hands up, thought we were going to get a tipped ball here or there, but sometimes that ball doesn’t exactly happen. There were so many times where it looks like we had some [pass break ups] and the ball is in the air, and it just kind of fell flat. Then we finally come up with one and it gets overturned upstairs. It was one of those days where the ball didn’t really bounce our way, but you’ve got to make it bounce your way in a game like today.

ON OFFENSE, THOUGH,  I know our [wide receivers] were on the ground a lot during intended routes. It’s going to be obviously up to us to correct and stay on our feet no matter what happened they got to be able to get there and be able to stay up.


Toledo is very well coached and came here expecting to win and obviously they didn’t disappoint. The ones disappointed today were us, starting with myself… We really hang our hat on five edges that we built this thing on. We will continue to build it on moving forward. The fifth one is the most telling is you earn everything in life, you earn a victory and you earn a defeat. Today we earned that defeat by what we weren’t able to do and obviously allowed them to do.


I’m not a big stats guy. The only thing I worry about is the win and loss column, but to see the number of yards we gained, the time of possession, the first downs, we really didn’t turn the ball over but our one turnover was critical. Obviously it was in the red zone, and it swung huge momentum but also obviously left points off the board. The most frustrating thing was that came right after we just put it in the end zone and had points taken off the board because of the penalty. We had 9 penalties. They had 8, but our 9 penalties were absolutely critical, taking away yardage – a couple of them were on big plays… Last week we had six penalties and three of them were unforced on special teams. I believe we had four holding calls today if I’m not mistaken. A lot of times it’s just getting in the right position, finishing the block the right way, being lazy with your feet, and somebody’s starting to fall away from you and you just grab. We obviously got to eradicate that from our practice and eliminate from our games.


The good news is they are very correctable. They will be corrected. All those things fall on my shoulders. I am embarrassed for our fans, the people who traveled today. For all the people in Little Rock here. This game means a lot to them. It means a lot to us. To not play well here for the second year in a row is very frustrating…


We also had some guys get banged up, injured. Everybody hopefully will come back out of that all right because we’re going to need the 70 guys that came over here today to get better in a hurry, starting with tomorrow’s practice. As far as the guys that got injured, I really don’t have any information on them. I know when I walked out to see [Eric] Hawkins, he was moving his hands and his extremities and stuff like that. I think it was just a pretty big precaution there. He had some pain in his stomach and also was a little light headed, so I don’t really know if there is anything more than that out there. We obviously had a couple guys suspended before the half – some guys that were a little late to our meetings on Friday. That’s why I suspended Jared [Cornelius] and Dominique Reed but those guys joined us in the second half… Alex [Collins] really hadn’t practiced with us since Wednesday. He spent Wednesday night in the ER. He had an infection that kind of got the better of him. He really didn’t practice until today but at times he flashed out there today. Rawleigh [Williams II] keeps coming along. Unfortunately we lost Kody [Walker] there. He jammed his thumb up a little bit. We didn’t think he could carry the football in the third and fourth quarters, so we got to continue that and just bring that along.  

Our number 1 team goal this year is zero distractions and if we were distracted today to start the game in any way, it was very evident that we weren’t ourselves in the first half. At times, we flashed back, but it just wasn’t good enough.



We try to get our five best players on the field, there ain’t no doubt about that. I don’t feel any remorse in that regards but we’ve got to get our five players playing better. In this recruiting thing, this process, everybody wants to make a big deal over offensive line and we have done a nice job doing it. We probably have five and could throw [Brian Wallace] in there – six, maybe seven, guys that could be possibly SEC ready to play. In this league you need to have O-line depth just as much as you need D-line depth, and we’re of course just not there yet.


I think we really got to look at our red zone package. Being able to run the football has got to be first and foremost. We can’t just keep taking shots in the end zone. Everything’s got to be coordinated there… We’re not going to win many games by scoring the amount of points we did today… we’ve got to execute better and clean up the blocking. There’s too many things that were in the running backs’ faces before they crossed the line of scrimmage.


Well I think we got to take what they are giving you. We were throwing the football I think fairly well. For what we do and how we want to be able to manage a clock, we got to run the football a lot better than we did today…


[Toledo] went through some deeper routes over the middle, I think, and they took advantage. They got inside us, some funnels, and some routes that we were trying to re-route over the top and got inside. Obviously any time you got a third and extra long, there’s no question we got to come up with a better package or better idea of what we can do to stop them.


All of our coaches called it, as soon as we lined up, they said [Hunter] Henry was going to be open on the shake route. Obviously he was, and we just overthrew him a little bit and weren’t able to convert it but that’s kind of the story of the day. Touchdown opportunity is there and we missed it by about a foot.


Everybody strains on that last two minutes. We could have won that game so many times in the first half, maybe even the third quarter. We just weren’t able to do it. Everybody wants to concentrate on those last two minutes and I was actually halfway pleased with how we moved the ball there with 45 seconds… Our guys talked about how we had actually been in that same exact scenario two times in the last two weeks, practicing two minute [drills], and came away with a touchdown. I think they had some confidence going into it but we’ve got to play a fourth quarter game to make those games a win.


He snapped the ball right over the guy’s head…  Drew just let the ball sail a little bit. Toby did a nice job even getting a hand on it. I thought he was going to be able to snake one off and get that out of there, but that was a huge, huge factor in the game. On the flip side of it, when we blocked that field goal and our offense went down there and scored I thought that took the momentum back…You have got to win these types of games, but we didn’t do enough in the end.


We’re still trying to train a few guys. I think the glaring thing we always have to think about as coaches during recruiting is a position that you traditionally you got to find a guy who can adapt to that role as fullback and middle linebacker. When Josh went down we had to move Brooksie over to Mike and put Dre in at Will. Those are two positions that we didn’t have a lot depth at is fullback and when Mike linebacker and it kind of shows its fleas now.


If you like these hyper-detailed interview excerpts, make sure to check out post-Toledo excerpts from B. Allen,  M.Smothers and R. Gaines through my email interview newsletter. More info here.




…They did a great job of reading coverage. He for the most part threw some pretty clean balls that were only in a place where those players could catch it. I thought in the third and extra longs he was a very accurate thrower down the field. Which sometimes that doesn’t always go hand in hand. They came here with a really good plan.


We kind of wanted to bring some things, brought some weak side pressures. I do think a little bit defensively we got on our heels a little bit, and we’ve got to get our confidence back to get those guys be attacking and pressing downhill. When we’re not, and if we’re standing at the line of scrimmage and just put our hands in the air, that’s not going to get it done. We’ve got to move the line of scrimmage and be able to play with our hands up on the quarterback’s throwing.


It’s an uncommon thing in a bad way, probably. The thing that I really try to use that for is in recruiting and trying to develop a certain man, certain kind of character or kid that would withstand something exactly like this. They’re going to have all the reasons in the world for people to doubt and say certain things and I think you’ve got to look inside yourself. I really stress to our guys that we earned this loss today and it started with me. I think the part that we as a program have built ourselves on is you earn everything in life. We’ll do everything we can tomorrow to get this thing back on track and work our tails off during the week to get an opportunity to play Texas Tech and see where it goes.


Yeah, absolutely. Anytime you give up some yards it’s a play that’s supposed to be like we did with some third and extra long, you can’t just pencil in on just one thing. I think past defense is affected by pass rush and pass rush a lot of times is affected by past defense. If they can cover them up maybe they can get half a second more pass rush and get the lay in on the quarterbacks, so it’s a little bit of everything and we’ll get our hand on it.


It’s not a conference loss. There’s a silver lining in any of it. One of our big things is we talk about a 1-and-0 mentality. I was on a team at Kansas State when I was a young coach that lost to Marshall early in the year. We were ranked number five or six in the country and really got our tails handed to us that day pretty handedly. Went on to have a season that actually won a conference championship.

The 1-and-0 mentality everybody wants to talk about it when you’re rolling, but it’s really designed in rough times. It’s designed for when you don’t win and you got to focus on that next opportunity. Tomorrow will be a delicate balance between putting this game to bed and learning from the mistakes that we have to, but also moving forward.

… We got guaranteed ten more opportunities. Nobody’s going to be more ready to play us than Texas Tech this coming Saturday. Obviously to go on the road and have three straight games in the SEC is a challenge of itself. We’re going to have all kinds of different people with all different reasons firing shots at us. We’ve got to dig ourselves into our foxhole and the only one who can battle ourselves out of there is ourselves. 

For similar post-Toledo breakdowns from Brandon Allen, Mitch Smothers and Rohan Gaines, check out my new interview roundups newsletter here. Just scroll to the bottom. 

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  1. RUN THE FOOTBALL we are Arkansas. In the great state we are known for running the football. Sometimes you have to go back to your roots and that is running the football

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