FAYETTEVILLE — In recent years, fans have grown accustomed to the University of Arkansas’ secondary getting torched by opposing offenses.
This season, against an all-SEC schedule, the secondary has played well enough in the first pair of games to gain the conference’s leading pass coverage grade according to Pro Football Focus. Junior safety Joe Foucha is part of what appears to be a vastly improved secondary.
“Like Coach (Sam) Carter says, man, our goal at the end of the season is to be the best defense in the country,” Foucha said. “That’s pretty much expected, because we work for that, and we’re still putting in work for that. Like I said, our goal is to be the best defense in the country, and that’s going to show consistently throughout every game.”
Foucha was still in high school the last time the Razorbacks beat an SEC school prior to Saturday night. He talked about the win over the Bulldogs.
“It was amazing to get our first SEC win,” Foucha said. “The biggest takeaways for us was that we don’t get happy from this. We still have a lot to prove. We’re not getting big-headed from this. We’re taking this W and we’re moving forward into getting our defense even better than what it was Saturday.”
Foucha has come off the bench the first two games after missing some practice time. Instead of sulking about his role, Foucha stepped up to earn Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Week with teammate Bumper Pool.
“Yes, I was coming off the bench,” Foucha said. “I trust Coach (Barry) Odom. Everything he’s doing is not to hurt me, it’s to put me in the best position that I want to be in. I didn’t think too much of coming off the bench, I just wanted to make a play for my team and the whole state of Arkansas.”
Pool is one of Arkansas’ four captains and Foucha touted him as one of the leaders.
“You know, Bump, we kind of came in together, so just seeing that award, it was crazy because what we went through the last two years,” Foucha said. “It wasn’t really good for us, but for us to just go out there and have success, it was amazing because I felt like we were touted at his positions and at my position, so just showing them the talent that we have that we can go out and there and do it, that we can be one of those guys, it was a great thing to see. And then, Bumper Pool, he’s a good leader for our team and definitely for his group. He’s always making plays. He’s been put in the right position to make plays, and he’s going to run to the ball, he’s going to run to the ball full-speed. And I know this because there was a play where I had the outside containment, and I knew for a fact that Bumper Pool was going to be there for the inside hit if he was to go inside.”
The Razorbacks had three interceptions Saturday night and all came from players from Louisiana. Foucha is from New Orleans McDonogh 35 and nickel back Greg Brooks Jr. from Harvey West Jefferson.
“That’s crazy that you said that because he got me going,” Foucha said. “I was on the bench and I was looking at him and he came up to me and he was like, ‘Let’s go brudda,’ and I was like, ‘I got you, bro.’ So when it came for my time, man, and I came to him, he was like, ‘That’s crazy, bro.’ Both of us got a pick and we’re from Louisiana. That moment still kind of makes me happy with him saying that to me. It was everything, because that’s everything we dreamed of before we came to Arkansas – even when he was being recruited to come here. That’s our dream of us balling at the same time at a high level.”
One area of Arkansas’ defense that has drawn praise from Sam Pittman and others is the tackling. Foucha talked about being able to tackle well against the Bulldogs.
“We had a good week of practice,” Foucha said. “We were running to the ball as a unit. Wasn’t one person, two people running to the ball, it was all 11. So, our tackling, we were confident when we were coming up to hit because I know Greg is going to be there if I don’t make this outside hit that I’m supposed to make. We’ve been taught that just go, don’t hold back, just go because I’ve got 10 more people running to the ball, so I can be as confident as I want.”
Possible heavy rain is in the forecast for Saturday’s game at Auburn. Foucha talked about using a lot of wet ball drills in practice.
“I was going to use, like Coach Pittman said, today in meetings that you have an eagle and you have a hog,” Foucha said. “An eagle when it’s raining and cold go inside, right? You know a hog we love that mud and that water. So, that’s what we’re going to be out there Saturday. We’re going to be some wild hogs getting dirty, muddy, rainy. We’re going to be in that weather. So, we’re not concerned about that. We just ready to go play, to keep showing the world what we have here at Arkansas. That’s what we’re going to do.”
The kickoff for Saturday is set for 3 p.m. on the SEC Network.