The Arkansas Razorbacks nearly let a 20-7 fourth quarter lead slip away against the TCU Horned Frogs on Saturday night, but credit to head coach Bret Bielema for ultimately pulling out the 41-38 double-overtime victory by blocking a field goal with less than 10 seconds left in regulation to force the extra periods.
Bielema joined The Jim Rome Show on Wednesday and talked about the crazy ending that snapped TCU’s 14-game home winning streak.
“It’s all the things we prepared for,” Bielema said about playing at TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium. “One of the things we talk about when we go on the road here in the SEC, and obviously TCU being a Big 12 game we talk about, “Code Red.” It’s just a different environment when you’re on the road. Momentum can swing, they put the student section right behind you, they put the dancing girls right behind us, they do everything to try to distract you and you got to stay at your best, and I thought our young quarterback [Austin Allen] handled it great. Our guys persevered, we converted a touchdown and two point conversion, made a couple stops in overtime and obviously won.”
Bielema then went a little deeper into his “Code Red” philosophy and what exactly it means to his players. He said it consists of four things. The first is the preparation for crowd noise. “The things that we got to do on the road non-verbal communication with hand signals, movements, changing up of our call sheets different things there,” Bielema said.
“Then the second thing is how you handle yourself during the week,” Bielema said, before pointing out that it’s actually a shorter week since the travels on Fridays. He added, “You got to have your back packed. You got to have your toiletry, your laundry all the things that you got to do to take on the road.”
“The third thing is handling the game day environment,” Bielema said. He takes a little time with his players to feel out the new stadium, especially TCU’s last weekend. “So it’s a new locker room, we had a little bit of a walk. They actually have a 45,000 seat stadium, but it’s very, very loud, very deep bowl, so it’s on top of you. So you have to handle the moment.”
Bielema also touched on how rabid the opposing teams’ fan bases can be. “We do know they put the student section, who obviously discusses your ancestry, your hairdo, your haircut, your weight, you’re not weight, all the neat things fans can be creative about not to get involved with that.”
And finally the fourth item in his “Code Red” philosophy, “to reap the rewards of what you sew and go on the road and win it on the road. It makes people talk about you in a positive way and hopefully they’re going to continue that forward.”
Razorbacks 6-foot-10 offensive tackle Dan Skipper was the man who blocked TCU’s potential game-winning field goal at the end of the 4th quarter. A guy of that size is a weapon Bielema loves to have.
“We do try to put everybody in and jump really high for normal situations, but we run a formation where we bring in Skip. He’s 6’ 10” and got really long arms. He’s kind of our version of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and we put him right at the block point,” Bielema said. “We have two guys on his right and left that push and try to get as much movement off the line of scrimmage as they can and it’s been effective. That’s Skipper’s sixth block in his four year career. None bigger than the one on that night. He might get drafted just for that.”
This year, Bielema hired former Montana State Bobcats head coach Rob Ash as an offensive analyst, whose focus has been analytics and how they apply to certain game situations, a fairly new practice the 46-year-old Bielema wasn’t familiar with.
“When I watched the movie Moneybag, it’s kind of those same things,” Bielema said. “It takes ten years of college statistics. It applies it to your team and how you rate your thrower, your kicker, your punter, game day scenarios, is it a turf field or a grass field, what’s the temperature, what’s the line, what’s the projected score. It just throws all these numbers at you, and it’s kind of a unique way to kind of back up what you feel in your mind with numbers.
“I don’t go by it wholesale but I look at the statistics during the week. I really try to grab the knowledge of it, and then on game day, I combine that with what I feel in my heart and my head and that’s what we go with.”
Bielema admitted that he was absolutely skeptical when Ash first brought up the data.
“Couldn’t believe it until I sat down and saw it. Even after the two hour presentation, I was kind of like ah, you know, I don’t buy all this and that,” Bielema claimed. “But during the summer, I always take a summer project and work on it as a head coach, and also the company gives you all kinds of analytical approaches to games that people either do well or don’t do well based on clock management, use of timeouts, use of scoring plays, non-scoring plays, and it was really a great summer project and hopefully one that will continue to grow and do well for us.”