Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and several Razorbacks players addressed the media following the Hogs’ 41-9 loss to Alabama on Saturday.
Here is a rundown of what they said:
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema
— Opening Statement: “Very disappointed as our guys put in a lot of good prep. Obviously, a tough situation for a new quarterback to walk into, but [quarterback] Cole [Kelley] makes you excited about some things. I thought our guys were excited to play for him, play with him. We knew during the course of the week that [quarterback] Austin [Allen] was not going to be there. We got some good news early in the week that it wasn’t as bad as, well, wasn’t one of the worst diagnoses. He got lucky in the fact that it’s not anything that needs surgery. We’ll get him back, and there’s a chance for next week, but if not it may be a couple of weeks yet.
“I thought Cole [Kelley] did some things that were very, very positive. He’s a fighter, a competitor. Just asked our guys to keep swinging, swing for swing, fight for fight. The way we started defensively was just very disheartening. Just a routine stretch play to our left, and we had some people just get caught up in the moment, get a little over zealous in their pursuit. They cut it back, and it goes for a score. Just something you can’t do.
“All plays that bend back behind the backside linebacker, if they get a hit, turn into big plays, and that was frustrating. I thought they rebounded and played pretty good in the first half. Wanted to get some points on the board right before the half. Unfortunately, obviously, didn’t get points. Would go for it a hundred times over again. I just thought we needed a touchdown there to stay where we needed to be and make a big statement. Obviously, didn’t get points.
“Came back in the second half, fought. I thought when we had the pick early, we’d change that into something and make some points off the turnover. We’d have a chance to swing momentum back to our side, but we didn’t do anything with that drive. And then just really back-and-forth. Defensively, I thought our guys, for the most part, battled even though they gave up a couple of scores there at the end. It just seemed like it was steam-willed against us. We had a turnover. The one that Cole [Kelley] tried to do a little too much. We knew that going in. He rides the highs and tries to do too much. There’s some good teaching moments. The first start for a quarterback, obviously, there’s going to be the good and the bad. We’ll make some strides with him and keep moving forward. I don’t think there’s anything we can’t correct on film.
“We’ll lick our wounds, go back and try to make it as positive as we can for the week. Get ourselves ready to play Auburn. The only other thing I shared with the guys there at the end: The only people that can change this answer are the people in this room. Everybody on the team, all the coaches, all the people involved can change the answer in a hurry, and we can’t give up free plays on every aspect of the game. It was a solemn, quiet locker room, but we’ll get back and strap up and play.”
— On Freshman Cole Kelley’s performance: “I was excited to watch him play today. There’s a lot of positives and some things he can build off of. At halftime I said let’s just keep going two-minute (offense). I thought his poise was good. I felt his confidence level was there. We thought we could limit what they were doing defensively. I think the part that Cole has to understand, and he will make these strides, is just play every play for what it is. You can’t hang onto that last play too long. He’s such a competitor and if anything goes wrong, he wants the answer right now and you have to flip the page and move forward.”
— On the running game versus the Alabama defense: “I think, in the first half especially, it’s part of the reason that we went tempo. It seems we weren’t getting any movement … obviously we had some new guys in new positions and we knew there would be some growing pains there. I felt at halftime that we couldn’t do anything in the run game so let’s just try and see what we can do in the throw game and play with a little bit of tempo.”
Cole Kelley, Arkansas quarterback:
— On playing No.1 Alabama in his first game: “On offense we have 11 people and it’s 11 verses 11. I can only do my job. I can’t be Superman, but also you can’t make mistakes and stuff like that. It’s just football, man. It’s just a football game. That’s my mindset. Have fun and play football.”
— On his thoughts on the game: “We lost, and that’s not good. I thought we started to do some things offensively, which was good. But I don’t care who we’re playing. I don’t like to lose, so I’m not very happy.”
Arkansas linebacker De’Jon Harris
— On his thoughts on the game: “It always hurts to lose, man. Especially, on defense. You’ve got a certain amount of things that you work on in practice and you always execute throughout the week. And to see it come the way you do it in a game, and we do it wrong, that always hurts. But we finished strong. That was the big thing. Didn’t go out like we did last week. Put good things on film when you’re down. That’s when guys start to put their head down or just go out there and just do whatever. I think we finished strong.”
— On the opening play being a 75-yard touchdown: “It’s always tough to see because you picture yourself making plays throughout the game. You know, making that snag and imposing your will. To see them go 75 [yards] the first play of the game really hurt us.”