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November 5, 2016

Bret Bielema

Fayetteville, Arkansas

Arkansas - 31, Florida - 10

BRET BIELEMA: Very excited to get out on the field today with our kids. The last two weeks obviously was a well-needed bye week but also one that you've got to live through. I thought our kids responded very, very well going back to the Sunday after the game against Auburn to obviously yesterday before the game. I just felt they were really in a good frame of mind to just get out on the field and play.

Give a lot of credit to Florida, obviously a good football team. They've done a lot of really good things, and on film you can see why. Today they did some good things again, but I thought our defense played inspired. I thought our offense, especially in the running game, really did some things that we asked them to do. We obviously made some positional changes. We did those immediately. I did those last Sunday after the Auburn game. I just kind of said where we're going to do and what we're going to do.

Offensive line, that was more Kurt and Dan working together, but I wanted to switch some defensive personnel, just get some guys on the field that I wanted to see, and they responded very, very well and played well. Give a lot of credit to our defensive staff. Obviously the psyche was fragile there, and they did a lot of good things to bring them back. It's a good sign of players that believe in their coaches, guys that believe and want to be coached.

We've played traditionally very well in the last stretch, and I thought we would today.

Injury-wise, coming into today, there was some guys that were really playing through some pain, some guys that even got injured this week during practice. We were really physical this week in practice. We went full pads the whole time, which we don't normally do, but I wanted to establish the physicality and the mentality and obviously they responded. I thought our guys really played opportunistic and got out of it pretty clean.

With that, I'll open it up for questions.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRET BIELEMA: Well, obviously we've never had an SEC win against Florida, and I was very well aware of that after first coming here. I knew that we'd recruit in Florida and do what we had to do, and when this game came up on the schedule a couple years ago, I knew that it would be exciting.

I asked Jeff, we had the anthracites for one game this year, and we had actually scheduled them for Texas State. I just thought our guys -- this was a non-traditional matchup from the East. I just thought they'd bring a little juice. I know some of the clientele doesn't like those anthracites, but our kids were jacked. They were excited. It was huge for us in recruiting. We had big recruits in here today, so to see that was really, really big.

But more than anything, to play a top-10 team again that's up on our schedule, I believe that's our sixth ranked opponent this year, I knew we'd fare well just because they love the challenge. Obviously we've got another one next week.

Q. (No microphone.) How big was that, especially for the defense?
BRET BIELEMA: Well, you know, we talked about starting fast. One of the things, we always go the three keys to victory, and as a head coach I get to make the PBR. I have input on OD and all the units, but I got done and I was a little heated this morning after the initial thing. I said, I think I've got three -- I said three keys that I want you to do, and the first thing I want you to swing first. I want you to be aggressive. I want you to come out fighting. I want you to come out and set the mentality of who came to play, and the second thing, I want you to all play together. I thought we were going to have a lot of individual plays, but how we played together was going to define us, and today that was that. I think our offense responded, put the nail in the coffin there to get that last touchdown, defense make a stand at the end, and there was a lot of good plays in between. And the third thing, we actually had Trey Flowers come in and speak to our unit yesterday, and I can't exactly give you his exact words, but they were along the lines of every day in this world you've got to eat, and you've got to find ways to eat, and every day that guy across from you is trying take away your food, and our guys really responded, and we kind of had a little motto out there today about nobody is hungry. Everybody is hungry and nobody getting full until the end. Obviously I can eat with the best of them, so I was staying hungry, as well.

Q. Del Rio didn't really have much of an impact throughout the game, and a completely different defensive stance coming from the game with Auburn. What did you guys work on throughout the week to keep him off his toes?
BRET BIELEMA: Well, again, I think Auburn, one of the things that was out of Auburn game, there's been a lot of times where we've been running all over the people, and I never really had been on the receiving end of that. It's kind of -- people had accused me in the past of running up the score, and I never really thought the flipside of it because we'd always been on giving end of it, some 70-10 games, 80-7, and to come out of that game and realize we couldn't stop the run, I just said, I don't care what we do, we're going to stop the run on defense. I don't care if we play 11 guys, if we have to play with 12, I'll take the penalty. We ain't going to have somebody run the ball on us. And I think they had 12 yards today, so that message was delivered and sent and accepted, and I think that was really good.

Our kids played with an attitude, and it really taught me -- not really taught me, it just reconfirmed how well they'll respond.

Q. Florida was No. 2 in total defense coming into the game. You put up 466 on them. Talk about being able to establish the run and what you did.
BRET BIELEMA: Well, you know, again, I thought Dan had a great plan, Coach Enos, when you have one week, you're good, but when he's got two weeks, he's extra good. I was gone a lot last week in recruiting and came back, and I saw the beginning of his game plan and really liked some of the creativity, some of the things we got back to that we did well. We ran a play, that last scoring touchdown was a play probably ran that thing maybe 15 times today, and our guys had some good success with it.

Again, it there wasn't a lot of change up or variety, we just executed a lot better. I thought Johnny Gibson played his tail off. I thought when Jake Raulerson got a chance to come in the game after Hjalte got hurt, we had two -- we were uncharacteristically penalized today. Even took -- the guy made a mistake and he took it off and removed it from me, which was nice of him, but I think that there was a little bit of give-and-take there.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRET BIELEMA: Yeah, we knew that they liked to get up the field. They're very, very aggressive up front. We thought if we could get off the field and run some stuff underneath it, that would be there, and obviously great execution, great design, and did a lot of really, really good things in the preparation to make those plays work today.

Q. You mentioned the defensive changes, some of the personnel changes. Can you take us through some of those and why you thought they'd be valuable, and also, are those changes you'd been thinking about making for a while and the Auburn game just confirmed, or did the Auburn game make you think about it?
BRET BIELEMA: One of the things as a head coach, I hire coaches that are good at their respective positions. But one of the things I've always done as a head coach is if I feel that a player needs to play, I'll just come in and say it. I'm not going to give a lot of reasons why, I just believe -- and I just felt -- I thought Led had done some good things inside, but I saw him getting a lot more activity on the edges, and he was great out there today. I wanted to get "Sosa" in the mix a little bit more. I wanted to get Randy Ramsey on the field in base defense.

Just things I feel, and you know, I thought I didn't really -- I'm not trying to -- as you guys know, I'm not a guy that stands up here and pats himself on the back, but when s--- needs to happen, I've got to make it happen, and that's what I needed to do, and I think that part is -- it's fun to see your kids respond that way.

Q. What went into Johnny Gibson starting, and other than the penalties, how do you feel he and the line did?
BRET BIELEMA: You know what, I refrain from saying this because I don't want to have 20 guys standing at my door tomorrow, but he came in and asked for it. He came in and said, Coach, I'd like to have an opportunity. He's a kid that came in as a walk-on from Dumas, Arkansas, who obviously fits the picture. He's a big boy that can run, and he's very intelligent, came in on an academic scholarship, was a walk-on. We saw he could compete right away. He's been great for us on field goal.

Kurt was the one that really pushed this move. Kurt thought that this would be a great match-up for him and the way he played, and I can't say enough about Kurt. I know some of you guys think you've got it figured out, but I've had a lot of good offensive line coaches. That guy might be the best one I've had. Just the development of Dan Skipper, the authenticity to get some guy -- we're not very good up there. We don't have a lot of depth. We need to recruit and do a better job of getting football players in this program, and he's doing an amazing job.

Q. Can you talk about Drew Morgan because it seems like both on and off the field he was really gutsy out there today.
BRET BIELEMA: Yeah, Drew is a fun kid to be around. We had a punt block with him in there today. Every time I turned around on 3rd down he was on my foot trying to get me to call it. I just kind of wanted to play the field position game. He's just got so many desirable traits. You know, he's a guy that plays every snap like it's his last. He's tremendously talented. The thing about Drew is he's very, very smart and very confident. There's nothing in this world he doesn't believe he can't do, and that's good to a certain point.

But I just -- I love the way he plays inspired football, and if I could have 10 of him, I would.

Q. Can you speak to the play of Austin Allen today, and then you said anthracite one time this year. I know superstitious wise, do we see them next week?
BRET BIELEMA: I doubt you see them next week. I'm overly superstitious, and LSU, I already know we're all red in that one. I think we've had that the last couple.

I had one fan call in and say he was going to boycott the game on Saturday because we were in anthracite, so we've got one mad guy out there at least. Maybe he came around during -- we've got a couple more than that? (Laughing).

But the anthracite, maybe, possibly down the line. We had to get clearance through the SEC to have those.

As far as Austin Allen, to just get out there -- I mean, he's healthy, I get it, but he's not 100 percent, and for him to play the way he did, step into his throw, do a lot of great things was huge, so that was big.

Q. I know the numbers kind of speak for themselves with the SEC West versus the East this season, but does today just kind of confirm for you what you face most weeks?
BRET BIELEMA: I appreciate what you're saying, but I'm going to leave that one floating out there a little bit. I think in the SEC every game is very, very tough. I get it. You know, I think I saw Mississippi State won, right, today against A&M, and again, I think the quarterback got hurt, right? So a lot of it is health to be quite honest, staying healthy, and if we had to play a game last week, we probably would have had five to six guys out that played today. The good Lord looked over us and gave us a blessing.

But I think anything in the SEC, East or West, I know the numbers are going to say one thing, but you've got to respect everybody in this league.

Q. Usually you bring them together to start the fourth quarter, but it looked like you kind of backed out of there and gave it to Drew.
BRET BIELEMA: I gave it to the seniors. One of the things that -- we've had kind of an emotional couple weeks, and last night I just let some of the seniors talk about their home, playing at home. We've only got two more games left, so one of the great things as a head coach, you get to go to everybody's home one time. But these seniors, I've never been in Hatch's house, I've never been in Taiwan's house, I never been in a couple other guys' house, Keon, Taiwan, Jared Collins, Jeremy Sprinkle, and I just asked them to talk about their home and what they've learned because I know they've got great characteristics. I talk about Sprink when I brought his dad in his sophomore year, we needed to get him right, and he's a guy now that's probably put him in position to be one of the best two tight ends in all of college football, and to hear him talk -- Hatch, I didn't know I called on him, and he actually opened up a little bit. I just love that stuff, man. You've got to care enough to cry or whatever you want to say, but when you've got kids that want to play for one another, you usually can go beyond what's normal, and that's why I kind of turned the whole thing over to the seniors today, even last night in my team meeting. I let them talk, and obviously it spoke for itself.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRET BIELEMA: Well, I can't repeat some of what he was saying. He is a good Christian boy, but I think loose lips sink ships. There was a lot of -- about attitude, a lot about winning that game. I told them earlier that they're a good football team, we're going to have to withstand some punches, you're going to have to battle through some momentum swings, and that's exactly what they did, and I think that fourth quarter was a great indication of what this team character is always about.

Q. Is Hjalte going to be all right?
BRET BIELEMA: Yeah, he actually came out on the field. He could have gone. I think it kind of scared him a little bit. He got rolled up on and swelled up a little bit, and his mom and dad are actually all the way over here from Denmark, so I knew that he was going to get back. I saw Lisa and Hanzi before the game last night so I knew they were in town, and I knew he'd play well.

Q. How important was it to establish the run game early on?
BRET BIELEMA: Vital. You know, it's part of our DNA. It's part of who we are, what we like to do. A lot of our play action passes feed off the run game. I think any time -- we threw for 400 yards against Alabama and lost by 17 or whatever it was, you could throw for 400 yards and lose every time, but if you rush for over 250 or around 200 to 250, our winning percentage goes off the charts. I think once we get above 150, my winning percentage is pretty significant.

We knew we needed to do that and kind of take it at them. They're a very athletic group. If you play to their game a little bit and don't come downhill at them, you're going to play to their strength. So I thought it was a great game plan for our guys and great execution by our players.

Q. Talk about Toby Baker today and the rest of the special teams.
BRET BIELEMA: Yeah, Tobe responded well. I know he had one kind of -- today he flipped the field a couple times again. Special teams, how about Do-Wop came down there, and I kind of grabbed him after that play when he smacked that guy because I've tried to get him to play defense a couple times and he didn't like the idea of hitting every day. But you wouldn't know it on that play. And I thought a lot of Cody Hollister, was unbelievable on punt coverage.

Again, here's guys that are seniors that aren't -- Cody wants to play more at the line of scrimmage and we get him involved, but he is just selfless, unbelievably precedented young man. He flew down there on punt team, like no one really noticed it, but that's what made that guy drop that ball at the end there, and I know it. I see it and appreciate it.

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