I don’t have time to craft this and words don’t just flow from my head in any reasonable order (damn that Latin word structure!) I apologize in advance. Arkansas lost 52-41 to Georgia this weekend.
I also apologize for not putting the word out that the over/under on the UA/UGA game was only 54 points. I nearly called a bookie myself because that point total was ridiculously LOW before the game started. (Below Georgians call the Hogs!)
Following the Razorbacks nearly all my life, nothing has epitomized Arkansas’s teams of the last two decades more than a game some umpteen years ago. Ken Hatfield’s Arkansas team tried persistently to run the ball up the middle on Jimmy Johnson’s University of Miami resulting in the Hogs getting whipped 51-7 . Hatfield and Johnson were practically brothers having played on Arkansas’s 1964 undefeated team together, but had the teams been brothers, Miami would have been the older one holding the younger one at bay with part of the strength in one arm. Arkansas might as well have had a goat thrown on the field or the Bambino come spit on the 50 yard line when it passed over Johnson three years before for
Arkansas’s head coaching job. While many other teams and coaches with Arkansas connections produced high-scoring, defensively-difficult offenses, Arkansas continued to run the ball. Coaching promise after promise to bring an up-tempo game [we wanted the football version of Nolan Richardson's Forty Minutes of Hell] faded into excuses so long as Frank Broyles and others remained in control.
Arkansas’s forty-one points and a school record five touchdown passes against Georgia are a beginning. The more scary thing for opposing teams is that Petrino has been kicking himself overArkansas’s rushing and run blocking this week. At best, Arkansas’s offense was operating at 75% of its potential against Georgia. In fact, many believe that had Arkansas’ defense and special teams had not gone Plaxico Burris on the Hogs, Arkansas may have easily ended the first half with 35 points, settling for 21 instead.
For this game, QB Ryan Mallett had the best arm in college and better than some pros. WhenGeorgia’s defensive players’ broke on the ball, the ball was there before they were. One pass in particular came from 35-40 yards out rocketed 6-7 yards deep into the end zone for a touchdown. The Georgia defender had a normal separation on Arkansas’s receiver and would have had a hand on the ball with anyone else throwing from that distance. I don’t care what Sir Issac Newton would have to say about it, the ball wasn’t lobbed and didn’t drop. The Georgia fans will probably think I’m slighting their QB Joe Cox, but folks, most of the time, Mallett’s receiver was reasonably covered. Cox’s receivers might as well have had any one of us covering them. When Georgia’s AJ Green is open by five yards, Arkansas could only hope that he’d drop the ball. By comparison, watching only part of the Cowboys-Giants game on Monday, Eli Manning could have used the extra velocity on a few different occasions for completions. Mallett’s velocity is akin to a football equivalent of a Rosco Tanner serve or an Al Hrobosky(sp?) pitch. Malllett was the best quarterback on the field Saturday night and throws the ball noticeably faster than anyone I’ve seen.
How relieving it was to see so few, only one, dropped passes! The dropped pass has been the also-ran quarterback excuse around here for ages.
Arkansans have waited literally 25 years for a passing offense of this caliber. Like I’ve said, Certain moments are just right….
I have to drop some facts you won’t likely hear anywhere else. I don’t know that I’ll become the SEC regular season scoring guru, but I now have all of the scoring data from 1993 to the present, nicely sortable, at my fingertips. Here are some observations:
1. Only two teams, Vanderbilt in 2005 and South Carolina in 2003 have lost in regulation when scoring 40 or more points. In both of those games, one team outscored the other 19-0 in the 4th quarter. South Carolina scored 19 and lost while Kentucky scored 19 to beat Vandy. The final score of the 2005Vanderbilt / Kentucky game was 48-43 Kentucky. The final score of the 2003 South Carolina /Mississippi game was 43-40 Ol’ Miss.
2. No team has ever scored 40 or more points and lost by more than 5 points in regulation until now.
3. Prior to this weekend teams scoring 40 points have lost only 9 times in regular season conference, regular season play. Obviously, the other 7 games are overtime games with the least among them needing 2 overtime periods for the loser to score the 40th point.(2005 Florida / Vanderbilt)
In large part, defense is mutually exclusive of offense except to the extent that players might be raided from one side of the ball to play on the other. I don’t hear of that happening any more than normal at Arkansas.
A couple of blogs ago, I said Arkansas’s defense would suck and that Willy Robinson doesn’t understand how to coach the college game. Only Vanderbilt has scored more points in regulation and lost out of the 768 SEC regular season games played since 1993.
Nothing about Willy has changed, and I’m not the only one figuratively calling for Willy’s head. Only rarely did the Arkansas defensive backfield make Georgia work for anything. Coverages were blown more than I have time to write, and it’s more inexplicable given the state of Arkansas’s passing offense! Many times a defense will be good at defending whatever its offense is good at simply because they see it more in practice.
Bobby Petrino has taken responsibility for it all as he should, but we’ve been through this at Arkansas before. How many times did we call for HDN to have an offensive coordinator and let someone else call the plays? It took two 4-7 seasons before HDN hired Gus Malzahn (how ’bout Auburn beating West Virginia 41-30 this weekend) and even then HDN wouldn’t let Gus take over the offense. Bobby Petrino already has both offensive and defensive coordinators and should expect them to get their jobs done! Razorback fans have wanted it this way for sometime because we know that one man will not likely be able to handle all of the details of both sides of the ball and continue to improve the team. It’s nice to seeBobby Petrino accept the burden and not pass the blame. It will be nicer to see him to make a change in the defensive coaches because it’s not working out.
As for next week with Alabama, expect personnel changes on the offensive line and the defensive backfield. It’s been hinted but practices are closed. Mark it down because Petrino will make changes!
As a side note, some may think of Bobby Petrino’s teams as being WAC weak on defense anyway. His 2006 Louisville team gave up an average of 20 points per game while scoring around 35 points per game. He’ll work for that combination again.
I’ve got to give a shout out to Florida State, BYU, Oregon and Utah. Now that both BYU and Utah have lost, one will eliminate the other from any BCS Championship Game contention !! One more time, whenBYU and Utah play tough in-conference schedules year after year, then they can complain about BCS fairness! I realize that these are not in-conference games, but teams become worthy on the field by playing elimination-type games against unavoidable opponents. So where are the complaints this week about BCS fairness? Not even Utah and BYU will contend that they’re getting screwed when they fail to win on the field! Utah and BYU have proved my point. This issue is ultimately settled on the field between good competition. I’ll listen when their conferences dissolve or most of the teams get decidedly better than I-AA ball.
Arkansas actually has 4 teams it can follow in Division I ball. They are Arkansas, Arkansas State, University of Central Arkansas (UCA), and UAPB. In a game no one followed or heard (it began here at midnight on a Sunday morning) UCA played University of Hawaii for the first time on September 5, 2009. The Rainbows completed a touchdown pass with 1:22 left to play in order to win 25-20. UCA became a Division I-AA school last year, moving up from Division II. Hawaii went on to defeat Washington St. last week 38-20.
The best college football is yet to come!