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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Robb Smith tried his best to stay awake until the end of Texas Tech's late-night win over Texas-El Paso on Saturday.
Arkansas' defensive coordinator figured he had better get an early start on preparing for the Red Raiders' Air Raid attack.
"First half was on the couch, second half was in bed," Smith joked.
After snapping a school-worst, 10-game losing streak with a 73-7 win over Nicholls State last week, Smith and the Razorbacks (1-1) face a much more difficult test this week when they travel to take on Texas Tech (2-0) in Lubbock for the first time since the schools were Southwest Conference members in 1991.
The step up in overall competition, however, isn't the only area in which Arkansas is likely to be challenged.
Under second-year coach Kliff Kingsbury, the Red Raiders have returned to their pass-happy ways that were prevalent under Mike Leach — who coached Kingsbury as a quarterback at the school.
Slowing the up-tempo approach is a difficult task for any team.
For the Razorbacks, shutting down the opponent's passing game has been a particularly daunting task in recent years — a trend coach Bret Bielema hopes to end on Saturday by controlling the ball and time of possession to slow Texas Tech.
"Obviously, the more that we can monopolize the clock and the more efficiently we can operate and do certain things, it's only going to help our defense," Bielema said.
Arkansas was next to last in the Southeastern Conference last season in pass defense efficiency, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 64.9 percent of passes for 25 touchdowns with eight interceptions. The numbers were even worse against SEC opponents, who combined to complete 70.3 percent of passes for 19 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
While the Razorbacks had little trouble with the Football Championship Subdivision Colonels last week, their pass-defense woes were again prevalent in a season-opening loss at No. 5 Auburn.
Tigers quarterbacks Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall combined to finish 16-of-22 for 293 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 45-21 win, picking apart what Smith had hoped would be a revamped secondary in his first season at Arkansas.
"We needed to shore some things up there, and I think our guys worked hard last week to improve those things and were anxious to go out and do it against another opponent this week," Smith said.
The Razorbacks increasingly turned to their younger players against Nicholls State, with freshman Henre' Toliver and sophomore D.J. Dean seeing extended action at cornerback. Also, freshman Josh Liddell played at safety and is expected to continue seeing more playing time this week.
They will all be needed in support of starters Jared Collins, Carroll Washington, Alan Turner and Rohan Gaines if Arkansas' secondary is to have success disrupting the timing and efficiency of Texas Tech's passing attack.
"After watching the first couple games this year, they're much improved, definitely," Kingsbury said. "They've got guys back in the secondary that have played a bunch. It will be a challenge."
Texas Tech struggled to put away either of its first two opponents in Central Arkansas or UTEP, but little of the blame can be placed on sophomore quarterback Davis Webb. He is 20th in the country in passing efficiency through two games, completing 56 of 83 passes (67.5 percent) for 730 yards and seven touchdowns with two interceptions.
"That position is going to get better every week in their program," Bielema said. "It's a mainstay for what (Kingsbury) believes in, and he's directly in charge of it. So my guess is that (Webb) will continue to improve and take the opportunities that he gets each week."