FAYETTEVILLE — If the Arkansas Razorbacks see their 28-7 loss last Saturday to TCU in their sleep, it wouldn’t be surprising.
They’ve seen it three times in four days awake.
Aside from experiencing it firsthand Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, the Razorbacks offensive and defensive units separately watched the video with Sunday with offensive coordinator Dan Enos and defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads and after Monday’s NCAA mandated day off broke it down all over again Tuesday with their position coaches during this open date week.
The kicking game, four times disastrous last Saturday with two missed short-range field goals, an opening kickoff holding penalty back to the 10, and a fumbled kickoff leading to TCU’s second of two fourth-quarter touchdowns, also got doubly reviewed, Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said before the Razorbacks practiced Wednesday.
“I wanted to drive through the points that existed on film,” Bielema said.
Bielema said the Hogs need to prove you play like you practice.
“I really need them to understand this: I don’t need Superman to show up on Saturday,” Bielema said. “ I don’t need someone to play at a level higher than they’ve ever played at. I just need them to play what I’ve seen them do during the course of the week, and that will lead to good results.”
One of Bielema’s best practice players, junior place-kicker Cole Hedlund, “95 percent” during the preseason practices and practices leading into the Game Two of TCU, has lost his first-team job into his first two seasons and seems apt to lose it again. Hedlund missed the 23 and 20-yard field goal attempts against TCU prompting Bielema to say postgame: ‘“The two missed field goals were just embarrassing. I’m done with this.”
Hedlund’s chances aren’t completely finished Bielema said Wednesday as Hedlund and walk-ons Connor Limpert, the kickoff man, and Blake Mazza compete for the place-kicking job when the Razorbacks next play Sept. 23 in their SEC season opener against Texas A&M at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
However Bielema said he takes into heavy account that Hedlund’s performances kicking in front of the crowds at games haven’t measured to his practices.
“I said I was done with it, I didn’t say I’m done with him, Bielema said Wednesday. “There’s been no bigger supporter of Cole Hedlund than myself for three years. I gave him the opportunity. Because of the results of what I saw Saturday, the chances of him being our kicker against A&M are very slim. But I will reserve judgement to see what I see the next two week to make Blake and Connor have the best opportunities we can to see where they can be on Saturday. Cole was really, really productive with practice numbers and accuracy and percentages. But when the crowd is live and it’s a live game environment, obviously those numbers don’t reflect.”
Bielema and Enos were asked about true freshman running back Chase Hayden, 14 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown in the season-opening 49-7 rout of lower division Florida A&M, only getting one series with two carries for one yard against TCU.
“As the game unfolded I was surprised he wasn’t in there more,” Bielema said. “I had a conversation with Coach (Reggie) Mitchell (the running backs coach) about that. I get it, they were bringing some pressure and we want to protect the quarterback and as a young player that’s an area that you’ve got to gain most. But on the same account I think he gives us a really good opportunity when he’s got the ball in his hands.”
Enos said Arkansas only having the ball 26:08 factored in Hayden playing such third fiddle to running backs Devwah Whaley and Reggie Mitchell but that Hayden nonetheless should have been played more.
“We never got in a rhythm and we didn’t have a lot of plays,” Enos said. “David (Williams) got a little hot there and we kept him in. It (using Hayden just one series) certainly wasn’t by design, but a mistake on our staff we’re going to get corrected. He will certainly play a lot more in our next game and get more carries.”
Bielema said he’s pared his primary wide receivers group to senior Jared Cornelius, Jonathan Nance, the junior college transfer catching the 49-yard TD from Austin Allen against TCU, redshirt freshman Jordan Jones of Smackover, and third-year sophomore Deon Stewart of Hardy.
In part that’s to accommodate more practice reps for Cornelius, the leading returning receiver (32 catches) from last season but sidelined most of spring drills by a pulled hamstring and sidelined nearly all of the preseason with an injured back.
Cornelius’ rustiness showed dropping an open pass against TCU so Bielema and receivers coach Michael Smith up his reps before the SEC opener.
“He did some things uncharacteristic on Saturday,” Bielema said. “But I think now he’s 100 percent healthy. I’m very excited to get him because he’s our lead dog. If he can do that, he’s gonna make us better.”