Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Coach: Programs are fragile
Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino (right) told the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club on Wednesday that coaches had told game officials during the Ole Miss game that the Razorbacks would be running a play where they would move a lineman out on the field. Despite the advance warning, Arkansas was penalized on the play, which negated a touchdown pass to Austin Tate.
FAYETTEVILLE Tulsa Coach Bill Blankenship opened up more than the average coach when asked this week about how a single incident — such as former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino’s motorcycle wreck and subsequent firing — could seemingly have such a profound effect on a program.
“Any time I see those situations, it just reminds us of how fragile our program is,” said Blankenship, whose team plays Arkansas at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday. “Even at its best, it’s a very fragile program that you always have to protect. You have to be vigilant.
“It doesn’t take a lot of adversity to start the spiral in the other direction. That’s the thing that keeps me awake.
“We’re eight games into the season and things are going well. But if we’re not absolutely vigilant, it can always go the other direction, and I’m not just talking about wins and losses. I’m talking about the direction of a program.”
Arkansas Coach John L. Smith said he did not have an update on the status of receiver Brandon Mitchell, who did not travel to Little Rock for last week’s game against Ole Miss after violating a team rule and whose status is still uncertain for Saturday’s game against Tulsa.
“We’re trying to collect everything,” Coach John L. Smith said during the SEC’s weekly coaches teleconference. “Brandon right now, at this point, is still where he was, so I haven’t any news for you there.”
Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said defensive tackle D.D. Jones would be available to play against Tulsa after missing the past two games with leg issues.
Tulsa quarterback Cody Green, who has been slowed by an injury to his throwing shoulder since a 45-38 victory at Marshall on Oct. 6, had a solid showing in Tuesday’s practice and looks on track to be closer to 100 percent against Arkansas.
“When I threw it, I didn’t feel a thing,” Green told the Tulsa World about a hard 19-yard sideline throw to Keyarris Garrett early in Tuesday’s practice.
Tulsa Coach Bill Blankenship said he felt “pretty good” about Green being ready to start Saturday.
Green has completed 107 of 205 passes for 1,329 yards with 10 touchdowns and 6 interceptions this season.
Sophomore Kalen Henderson started at quarterback in Tulsa’s 28-24 victory over Rice on Oct. 20 and completed 8 of 23 passes for 201 yards.
On the bus
Arkansas’ players and coaches have colorful ways to describe Tulsa back Alex Singleton, a 6-1, 260-pounder who has scored 15 touchdowns this season.
“He kind of looks like Jerome Bettis,” Arkansas safety Ross Rasner.
“They’ll put in [Singleton] to be the bus,” defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said. “He’s their bus. He’ll get in there, and that’s usually when they compact the formations and just come at you and just pound you with power. But they also will try to get it out on the edge, too, so we’ve got to be good on the perimeter.”
Arkansas safety Eric Bennett’s father, also named Eric, played middle linebacker for the Tulsa in the mid-1980s.
“I was interested in them ... but they never recruited me,” Bennett said.
The elder Bennett attends all of his son’s home games, but he went to Tulsa’s homecoming against Rice on Arkansas’ open date two weeks ago.
“He’s going to root for his son,” Bennett said.
Arkansas linebacker Terrell Williams, who is from Tulsa and is one of several native Oklahomans on the roster, went to camps at Tulsa and was recruited by Coach Bill Blankenship.
“It’s a great school, great education, and they’ve picked up their football program a lot over the past years,” Williams said.
Didn’t we talk?
Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino shed some light Wednesday on why the Razorbacks’ sideline was so upset about having a 15-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Wilson to Austin Tate called back in the fourth quarter last week against Ole Miss.
Addressing a question during his appearance at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club, Petrino said he had spoken to both line judges before the game, alerting them the Razorbacks would be running that play.
“I told them we were going to move a lineman out on the field and both he and the receiver were going to be on the ball, so don’t be surprised by it,” Petrino said. “It might look like one of them is off, but they are both going to be on the ball.”
Arkansas was flagged for illegal formation on the play, on which Tate released down the middle uncovered and easily scored what would have been a game-tying touchdown. The Razorbacks had to settle for a field goal to pull within 24-20 a few plays later.
SEC Network analyst Andre Ware said on the air the officials got the call right, and Coach John L. Smith said the alignment in question left doubt in the official’s mind, making it the Razorbacks’ fault.
Sports, Pages 22 on 11/01/2012