Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said his team officially closed the book on its bitter 23-20 loss to Florida this past Monday night.
But unofficially, the fallout from that game has lingered all week.
There was the unprecedented move on Wednesday by the SEC announcing that the officiating crew that worked the game would be suspended for the next several weeks. Arkansas’ Malcolm Sheppard was called for a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Florida’s game-tying drive that should have never been called.
There were several other calls in the game that also went against the Hogs, and Petrino vented enough about those calls that he was publicly reprimanded by the SEC on Thursday for publicly criticizing the officials.
So as Arkansas gets set to go to Ole Miss on Saturday, it will be interesting to see if the Hogs can build off their performance at the Swamp last weekend or are still wallowing in what might have been.
“One of the things I try to talk to our players about is that it’s not about what happens to you in life, but how you deal with it,” Petrino said. “We have to deal with it properly.”
One thing that’s clear about this Arkansas team is that it’s a different defense than we saw back in September. The Hogs are playing with more confidence, more poise and more understanding of what they’re trying to get done on that side of the ball.
Petrino said the key has been the defensive staff not panicking, and instead of tinkering with schemes, continuing to work fundamentals and techniques.
“We’ve made sure we were in our run gaps and were using our hands,” Petrino said. “Our linebackers are attacking down the field. It’s helped us that our linebackers understand blocking schemes and are attacking the run instead of sitting back and waiting for it. Our safeties have done a nice job of reading when it’s run and reading when it’s pass. It’s just kind of been the overall package.
“Our guys are understanding better, are getting better at technique and I think know a lot more about what our opponents are trying to do. They’ve learned football a lot better.”