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September 30, 2017

Bret Bielema

Fayetteville, Arkansas

New Mexico State - 24, Arkansas - 42

COACH BIELEMA: Yeah, you know, I just thought our guys from last Sunday when we brought them back in after the A&M game, had a little chip on their shoulder, a little anger, and practiced really well all through the course of the week.

We're healthy going into this game; the healthiest we've been this year. So I thought there's a good indication we can play well and obviously that happened.

At half-time, had to still make some tweaks, some adjustments. Didn't want Austin to get anymore. Asked our guys to play a little bit cleaner up front on offense.

Defensively, I knew we just didn't want to let that quarterback get outside the pocket because they just run all goes and they hit two big plays before the end of the half. To get out of their as a teaching moment is really, really big.

Give credit to them. I think they have a good football team. We knew they were going to throw it around the field quite a bit. That quarterback has got a really good arm, and a couple good receivers. But I just thought our guys prepared well and played well.

We've got to be cleaner in certain regards but to get that feeling coming off the field goal and into a nice run of SEC play; to get a chance to get off the field at a decent hour and have some recovery time before our preparation for South Carolina, and then to go on the road next week is a good place to be in.

So we're back to an even ballclub. But we take it one game at a time, and nobody is more important now than South Carolina.

Q. What was the key to getting Stewart and Jones more involved, and also, we didn't see Pettway out there.
COACH BIELEMA: Yeah, removed Pettway from the program on Thursday till Sunday. We'll have a conversation on Sunday. Just needed to get a couple things straight for him. Nothing bad or anything. He didn't do anything wrong, other than a little bit of academics, a little bit of being on time, being where he needs to be at the right time, right place. Kid is a good kid and I like him but he's got to learn to do it. So that -- took him out. I knew that Thursday moving forward.

Really, he had not gotten anything with the ones for the last two weeks. He had been with the twos and threes. Stewart really pore the first time practiced healthy to be quite honest. He had tweaked his ankle in the opener and had missed a little bit of practice time going into the TCU game and A&M. So I think him practicing, and you saw the speed on that first touchdown run, when he puts that foot on the ground, he can go.

Jones, again, a guy last year we wanted to play, but because of the way it all kin of worked out, we didn't play him. We thought he's a guy that could make a step forward and he did it. And Jonathan Nance, again, just continues to -- I think him and Austin have a nice connection in the short game and the long game and he's a very, very detailed player.

Q. Time of possession really was pretty essential.
COACH BIELEMA: I knew their offense was -- most quarterbacks lineup about five yard deep, and he lined up about six, six and a half and they get rid of the ball pretty quickly in normal situations. And they had designed a little bit of a -- they felt the pressure, felt too long -- he did a really weird spin out and broke pressure to the outside. Nice adjustment our guys made for the second half.

But I knew we weren't going to be able to get to him all that much unless we just brought our pressure. We thought offensively to keep the ball in our hands and move the chains, make first downs and score in the red zone is going to be big. That's why I was really aggressive on fourth down calls.

Q. The turnovers -- Micahh Smith on that play.
COACH BIELEMA: Yeah, Micahh, we really hammered our coverage units.

Again last week, they were really good except for one. So we kept telling our guys, every time they took the field: This is the one; this is the one; this is the one. We added Derrick Munson in there, I'm sure you saw that; a kid by the name of Brenden Young who is a transfer, who really has a physicality to him. I saw him doing things against our offense on scout team and asked him to come on and be a part of our special teams unit, and he did a really nice job. He was blowing people up in there today.

And then the addition of some of the standard, usual guys: Ryder Lucas, Reid Miller and another guy that's been really good for us, Nate Dalton, on special teams. Tremendous for us last week and again for us this week.

Q. I think there were three times you were in field goal range but you went for it. Was that more you just didn't want to try field goals, what went into that, and do you plan to try a field goal at some point?
COACH BIELEMA: No, in the game, based on who we are playing or where we are at, we get an analytic report that takes percentages of college football. But also what you've produced this year, the range of your kicker and it kinds of gives you a formula to tell you whether or not it's a good decision to go for it. Just basically play percentages, kind of like a moneyball approach to fourth down.

I told Paul, on all of those occasions, I told Dan on all of those occasions, hey, we have two downs before we call third down play. So it's set up, maybe if we're third and four we can run two runs, rather than trying to go for it on one pass play. It was detailed thought before the game. It wasn't really anything that instinctually happened during the game.

I think our kicker is good. Connor has hit the ball really, really well. Hit it good during practice. Just wanted to be aggressive with it today.

Q. How important, as far as keeping away their momentum, the interception that Richardson had off the Morgan deflection.
COACH BIELEMA: That was big. Month are began is one of those players that he's a really, really instinctive player, and a guy that just feels the game really well. He saw a vertical route there, and he just kind of buried a turn and ran and took that play, and it was a big-time play.

Q. Just talk about the run game today, what you thought about Whaley and Williams?
COACH BIELEMA: All three of those guys, each one of them has got a different skill set. I think we wanted to get the ball north ask south against these guys because they were running so much pressures, we just needed to get a hat on a hat and try to crease one and all of them were doing a really good job of that.

I think protection-wise, Devwah and David probably still give us a little bit more but Chase is a dynamic player, and we got a pregame script on how many plays we want to get him before -- so Dan has his openers, and we had in the first six plays a way to make sure that all three of those guys touch the ball in the first six plays.

Q. You got a sack on their first series and a pick on the second. Getting them off rhythm, how important was that?
COACH BIELEMA: It was big. Again, it was a dangerous team. They are coming in here and they obviously played Arizona State down to the wire at the beginning of the year. They are not afraid of Power Five opponents. I've known Coach Martin for a long time, and a lot of my coaches knew he's well-coached. The O-line coach is my former GA and I knew what he was all about and what they were being taught up front.

It was a fun game to be in. Obviously it's behind us, but I did think we were going to have apply a ball control offense just to make sure we got out of here with a W.

Q. You mentioned a few things that you wanted to clean up. The receiver, the 6-6 receiver, you knew he was potent, but what you thought of him and the things you want to clean up?
COACH BIELEMA: Again, I think the plays that really broke down for us were plays that were in the pocket and all of a sudden he would dash, kind of do that spin coming outside and break contain.

So we had answers there, but we've got to get off the thickness of our block. I think they were getting around on our perimeter too much. Offensively, I thought we had -- although I didn't get mic'd last week as Bob mentioned, but I'm afraid I would have got mic'd on a few that -- when Paul Ramirez that holding call, it's silly. It's a screen play. He's 20 yards away from the play and he grabbed the collar. The roughing the passer call in the first half, we kind of hit the quarterback, once near the boundary, once in the pocket.

And I knew that flag was going to be coming. Wrote it in my half-time notes. Said it to both people. I said: They are going to get us. They are not going to let you hit their quarterback and that play -- it's pressure. As a defensive player, you want to get that sack, and you get in there, and that hesitation is -- he just kind of two-hand pushed him but I would want them to protect our quarterback just like they protected theirs.

Q. Following up on Stewart and Jones, how important, especially moving into SEC play, was it to get those guys more involved?
COACH BIELEMA: Other than the first time -- (Laughter) I think they are both very dynamic. They are two different players, too. Deon is a shifty guy, very quick. He's fast but he's more quick, and I think Jordan is on the flipside of that. He's very fast and better on long routes, vertical routes and Jonathan Nance is a hybrid of the two.

For us to get into SEC play, we know that a third down call, they might bracket Jonathan or they might roll up on him if they can, and those two guys have got to be productive. There's a very conscientious effort by Mike and Dan to get those guys involved in the game plan.

So you can see what they do, you know what I mean. So they can -- a defense can say, hey, we do got to be aware of where 13 is and we go got to be aware of where 10 is what he can do.

Q. You talked a little about this already but could you elaborate more on the offensive line; what do you think they did well today that?
COACH BIELEMA: Again, it's by committee. I thought there was some guys that stepped you during the course of the week. I told them, let's get Zach Rogers in there. Let's see what he can do. We're just at -- and Ty is doing some things but we've got to keep him coming along.

Obviously the part that we've got to try to find is our four best players to play together. And you know, Russell came in; our guest captain came in yesterday and gave a speech yesterday. I think he held the record for the most starts -- saw a player with 46 starts in a year. And he had two great comments, the first thing he said to our group was, you know, when he got the phone call two or three weeks ago to be a guest captain how excited he was, but nervous because he's going to be talking to his brothers.

And those guys had never met him, seen him, and they gave that connection to the old regime which I think was huge. He talked about his first play against Alabama as an SEC starter and made the message: Hey, you didn't believe that there was a guy that could be 12 inches away from you and hit you that hard, and how he responded to that, you know. And it's tough. It's a difficult road but you have got to respond the right way. I thought that message from him was great for are our O-lineman to hear.

Q. It's been a while since you won. How good is it to win and what momentum does this give you going into the SEC stretch?
COACH BIELEMA: Yeah, we haven't won since our opener, I get it. We lost two in a row. I think our guys knew going out of that game that we can win. I think that's what's kind of the chippiness, the angerness, even from the coaches. You do all this work, why not win the game, you know. Why not put us in a position to be talked about on a bigger scale.

I look at tonight he's game and you know, you see Virginia Tech, Clemson, I made that point to our guys on Thursday night. I said, you're up on these guys 24 points at the end of the year, we didn't close the second half, and look where they are at and look where we're at. You could be there so easily.

TCU, everybody wanted to say, well, how good, TCU is up to whatever, Top-10 in the country, knocked off a really good Oklahoma State team. We went, swing-for-swing, with I think one of the better teams in the country. Just this is a difficult league. A&M played hot. Got themsevles in an overtime game. Could have had one; didn't. I'm tired of saying could've, so we tried to change the narrative. Told them at half-time, wanted to change the narrative about being a better -- an explosive second half team, and that was a big point of emphasis.

Q. And now moving forward in the SEC?
COACH BIELEMA: Well, I'm excited. My first year, I think was when we played South Carolina and that was when Coach was still there. If you remember that game, we actually ran for a lot of yard but we fumbled like five times. I remember Coach saying something about "you can run for those yards, but you can't fumble that many times." You know, I just wanted to -- you know, play golf with him. (Laughter). I thought about that.

You know, Will is a guy that I've known for a long time. I know it's a big game for David. I think obviously we have a South Carolina transfer, not going to ignore the elephant in the room there. I think our guys are excited to get into SEC play and see exactly where they are at. I do like the fact we can kind of tweak our schedule a little more tomorrow to have more of a jump on South Carolina on a Sunday and have a little bit more preparation and make it into a great week.

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