Red Bug Field, where Bryant excelled on a state championship football team in 1929-30, will now be know as Paul "Bear" Bryant Stadium. Those four words are in big block letters on the back of a brand new, red press box atop the west stands, in full display for Fordyce fans arriving before every game. In the south end zone, the 25-year-old field house had a fresh coat of red paint and new red roof, along with a new, large placard describing Bryant's playing and coaching accomplishments, as well as a couple of familiar photos of "The Bear."
Saban is still mad about a 35-0 win against Western Kentucky. "It’s a little predictable that when you don’t focus and pay attention to detail like you need to, whether it’s in preparation or actually in your performance, things don’t usually go as well as you’d like them to." Johnson gave the Tide a bit more credit. He said the effort was there, but the execution lacked. "We have to come in this week and correct all those mistakes and put that week behind us and learn from mistakes we made in week two."
Linebacker Nico Johnson said it wouldn’t be easy to replace Fowler. "It’s going to be real tough," Johnson said. "He’s more like a back like Trent (Richardson). He can run, catch out of the backfield, and he’s tough to tackle. So, it’s going to be real tough. But we’ve got enough guys and depth for somebody to step in and fill his role." Saban said it would take more than one person to replace Fowler. "I think on special teams, there’s a different guy on each special team that would take his place now," the coach said. "At running back, Dee Hart, Kenyan Drake will have a little more opportunity. "Kelly (Johnson) was his backup at fullback, which is where he plays anyway. So we are going to miss him. It’s going to take a number of people to replace him in various roles that he played on our team."
"It's going to be real tough," senior linebacker Nico Johnson said. "But we've got enough guys and depth for somebody to step in and fill his role." Senior walk-on Kelly Johnson, who is listed as Alabama’s starting H-back, is the Crimson Tide’s next option at fullback, Saban said. It’s a role that Johnson already "plays anyways," the coach added. Johnson has yet to run the ball and has one catch for 16 yards. "During the summer he was able to make plays in 7-on-7s, stuff like that," Norwood said. "He's been working hard also. I've been watching him. He runs great routes and has great hands."
"I think we have what we have," Saban said. "We have backups at every one of the positions and roles that he filled. There may not be one particular guy. I think on special teams, there's a different guy on each special team that would take his place now. At running back, Dee Hart, Kenyan Drake will have a little more opportunity. Kelly [Johnson] was his backup at fullback, which is where he plays anyway. So we are going to miss him. It's going to take a number of people to replace him in various roles that he played on our team."
Quarterback Tyler Wilson suffered a head injury last week in the loss to Louisiana-Monroe, and he has not been cleared to return to practice. He’s questionable for Saturday’s game with No. 1-ranked Alabama, and coach John L. Smith said the Hogs would prepare with Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell taking the quarterback reps in practice. Smith said Wilson still had some "grogginess" and would not return to the field until he was symptom-free and cleared by doctors. "If we get Tyler back, then that would be icing on the cake for us," Smith said.
There’s no question this team played with an edge under Petrino, and I’ve said repeatedly that he’s worth an extra touchdown by just having him on your sideline calling plays, seeing things in the defense and coordinating the game plan. But he forfeited that right when he hired the woman he was having an affair with as a full-time football staffer and then lied about it. Petrino’s a super coach and will no doubt get another chance somewhere, but it’s not going to be at Arkansas. And while we’re at it, does he not absorb some of the blame for how bad the defense has been? I’ve never been one to evaluate somebody based on two or three games, but Petrino is the one who hired Haynes.
Under the best of circumstances - an undefeated season still going, Wilson unscathed rather than fighting the aftereffects of a concussion, running back Knile Davis back to his 2010 form, no rash of other injuries that includes the top two fullbacks - Arkansas would have been an underdog to Alabama. But Smith rejected the proposition that "the mountaintop" - a win over the No. 1 team in the Associated Press poll - had become unattainable. "I don't think it's any higher than it was," Smith said. "We're just going to make the changes we're going to. And and then go out and get after it. "They are big and physical on defense," Smith said, describing the Crimson Tide. "You have to get a little knock off the ball, be able to run against them. They do a great job in the secondary. You just have to have a great game plan against them and execute it well.
"I think that John L. is a very, very good coach," Saban said. "But the systems that they're running there are certainly totally congruent with the offense they ran last year, which was Coach (Bobby) Petrino's. And the defensive coordinator (Paul Haynes) comes from Ohio State, and they're doing the same kind of stuff they did at Ohio State. If John L. was calling the plays or running the defense or something like that, that may be something that would be beneficial."
"We all feel the same way about how we played on Saturday," Warmack said. "We need to get better as a group, collectively, and we're taking it upon ourselves to do that as a group." Warmack said the problems were myriad, and hinted that the line might have believed its own hype and taken Western Kentucky lightly. "Communication for one," Warmack said. "Some people weren't on the same page in terms of communication. Technique, you can't be sloppy in your technique - sometimes depending on who you play, you take plays off, and you can't do that. You have to play every play like you're playing a high opponent, and those guys are pretty good. Some plays we didn't execute."
"We're going to practice like he's playing or not playing, whatever," senior linebacker Nico Johnson said Monday. "They've got good enough backups, so we're going to prepare the same way we prepare for any other team and keep rolling." Wilson was injured late in the first half of the Razorbacks’ 34-31 loss Saturday to Louisiana-Monroe. He has not yet been cleared by doctors to practice this week in preparation for a 2:30 p.m. CDT game that will be televised nationally by CBS. "Nobody here should be feeling warm and cozy about the other team's circumstance or situation," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "We need to be thinking about what we need to do to be successful, regardless of who plays in the game."
"I saw the score and I was really shocked," Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood said. "But we’re going to their house, so of course they’re going to play their hardest, and it’s the SEC. That’s different. "They might still have the opportunity to go to the national championship ... so they’re going to bring everything."
"Some of our seniors did go up and talk, and we just said the same thing I’m saying up here today," Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg said at the Razorbacks’ Monday news conference. "Just stay focused. This is a new week. This is Alabama. We’re 0-0 in the SEC. Our goals are still in place to win an SEC championship." Gragg said the players brought up Arkansas’ 2006 team, which lost 50-14 to Southern California in the season opener, then won 10 games in a row and played in the SEC Championship Game. "Things like that happen all the time," Gragg said. "It’s just how you respond when adversity comes."
"Everyone knows we're going to run but one thing we have to do to affect the running game is have a great passing game," Christion Jones said. "When we ran the ball, we did a decent job, but we didn't do as usual because of the miscues with blocking assignments and pressure that we didn't pick up."
Beating Alabama is not impossible for the rest of the Southeastern Conference, but it has become a relatively rare feat. The Crimson Tide have dropped just four SEC regular-season games since the start of the 2008 season, and they suffered a fifth league setback in the '08 SEC championship when Tebow rallied the Gators to a 31-20 victory. "You've got to play well, and your offense needs to stay on the field a little bit," said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, whose Gamecocks stunned the top-ranked Tide 35-21 in 2010. "We played maybe one of the best games we've ever played. We had basically eight possessions and had five touchdown drives and didn't kick any field goals. "When you're playing an opponent that is probably physically better than you, you've just got to play close to a near-perfect game."
The Petrino era is over because fans now have a reason to look toward the future instead of desperately clinging to the last few years. It isn’t over because the Hogs are sentenced to mediocrity. They’re not. This group of seniors comes from Petrino’s best recruiting class, and with conference play still yet to begin, anything can happen. And Arkansas complements those seniors with some talented younger players who will spend most of their Razorback careers coached by someone who is hopefully an excellent coach, but will not be Bobby Petrino.
"I am shocked, and I am mad at the same time," Arkansas middle linebacker Tenarius Wright said. "I don't want to show anger. I want to be strong for my team, and our team has to come together and stay together as a family and get ready for next week."