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arkansas RAZORBACKS
MATT GAGNE
August 17, 2012
The shocking end of coach Bobby Petrino's reign might have sent the team reeling. Instead it may have hardened the Hogs' resolve
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August 17, 2012

Arkansas Razorbacks

The shocking end of coach Bobby Petrino's reign might have sent the team reeling. Instead it may have hardened the Hogs' resolve

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JACKSONVILLE STATE

8

LOUISIANA-MONROE (in Little Rock)

15

ALABAMA

22

RUTGERS

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AT TEXAS A&M

ABOUT AN HOUR BEFORE ARKANSAS ANNOUNCED COACH BOBBY Petrino's firing on April 10, athletic director Jeff Long broke the news to players and assistant coaches in the team's amphitheater meeting room. When Long finished speaking, a stunned silence was quickly replaced by the sound of spring-loaded seats snapping upward and feet shuffling toward the door, everyone heading in different directions with different thoughts racing through their minds.

Acting on instinct—as if he were smothering a fumble, you might say—senior linebacker Tenarius Wright jumped to the front of the room and told everyone, at the behest of defensive coordinator Paul Haynes, to "sit your ass back down." Quickly joined by quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis, Wright stood in the exact spot where the head coach should have been and delivered the first of three impromptu speeches (Wilson and Davis each spoke as well) that helped the Razorbacks begin the task of coalescing.

"My goal was to make sure we were all on the same page," Wright says. "To make sure we kept our focus on playing for the national title."

Thirteen days after Petrino's ignominious ouster—he was found to have given a prominent recruiting job to Razorbacks employee Jessica Dorrell, who was revealed to be his mistress after she and Petrino got in a motorcycle accident—Arkansas hired former special teams coach John L. Smith to be the interim coach. By that time, the program's leadership and direction was clear. "Tenarius said this wasn't the time for us to take a step back," linebacker Alonzo Highsmith recalls. "We're still the same players, the same team."

It's a team that lost only to Alabama and LSU last season. The offense, led by Heisman hopefuls Wilson and Davis, is fortified by several players who shone last season, while the defense forced 19 turnovers during Arkansas's final nine games. Two of those came against Kansas State in a 29--16 Cotton Bowl win. In that game—Haynes's first at Arkansas after leaving Ohio State—the Razorbacks held the Wildcats to 87 yards rushing. "We have some of the most explosive players in the SEC," Wright says. "We have to take that dynamite and let everyone know we're a great team no matter who's leading us out of the tunnel on Saturdays."

the vitals

COACH John L. Smith (1st year)

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR Paul Petrino

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Paul Haynes

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