What’s done is done. Arkansas must take what good it can from the Alabama game and leave the carcass behind. Had Arkansas cashed it in last year after Alabama, we would have been deprived of Razorbacks’ first BCS Bowl appearance. After watching Alabama and comparing the Tide’s performance to BCS Champion standards, the preseason predictions of only LSU giving them a run for their money are likely correct. Last year it took us until November to realize that we had a shot at the Sugar Bowl.
Razorback fans, Arkansas continues to have a shot at the Sugar Bowl. Although I might be wrong, and have been plenty of times before, a three-way tie for first place won’t help Arkansas. It’s unlikely that Arkansas will own any tie-breakers against Alabama. The SEC tie-breakers try to boil the three-way tie into a two-way tie, and Alabama will own that head-to-head match up. Even if all other tie-breakers are exhausted and result in a three-way tie, the higher BCS ranking will be the final tie-breaker. The better result is for Arkansas and Alabama to both beat LSU and hope that the East Division teams feed on one another this year. In that scenario, Alabama goes to the BCS Championship Game and Arkansas follows to the Sugar Bowl as we did last year.
What Arkansas Needs to Leave Behind
1. The dejection and doubt that comes with the loss — To embrace being a winner is to leave the loss behind and keep the attitude that the Hogs will win every game because the Razorbacks are a superior team. If you believe that Texas A&M is a superior team, don’t go play. They’ve already won in your mind.
2. The injuries — Rosters are always changing where personnel are unavailable and back around again. It is the way an 85 person organization works. Not everyone is going to be thrown into a situation and produce like Roland Sales did in 1978 by setting an Orange Bowl rushing record, but the individual can bring unanticipated things to the table. Where is there going to be film on the backups? It’s time for players to be players.
[Edit] Tenarius Wright will be out 4-6 weeks for an arm fracture which required surgery. Given that he was favoring the forearm, most likely he has a radial or ulnar fracture which couldn’t be set through manipulation. Although surgery may be done for any number of reasons, the most likely is the placement of a plate to insure that the two sides of the bone stay in line. A fracture at the head (i.e. one of the ends of the bone) is typically repaired with screws and can impair the nearest joint. We wish Tenarius all the best and most certainly for a speedy recovery.
3. The running game’s failure — First there’s the recognition that not every team is Alabama. This was as hard as it will ever get for the Razorbacks’ offense in 2011. Everyone tends to remember Knile Davis’ really great season last year and that it was always good. We look forward to the year where the running game is just as potent as the passing game from the beginning of the season until the end, but at least let’s take a cue from Knile last year.
Knile Davis’ 2010 Rushing Totals Game-by-Game
Game No. Game Yards
Knile Davis Total 1362
1 Tennessee Tech 67
2 at La.-Monroe 22
3 at Georgia 1
4 Alabama 42
5 Texas A&M 82
6 at Auburn 93
7 Mississippi 179
8 Vanderbilt 89
9 at South Carolina 110
10 UTEP 182
11 at Mississippi St. 189
12 LSU 159
13 Ohio St. 147
In cardinal and white, it’s there for anyone to see. Knile had decent showings against Texas A&M and Auburn last year, but it wasn’t until game 7 of the season that we really saw the performance we remember from Knile. Whether Ronnie Wingo or Dennis Johnson step up, the running game which complements the passing game may yet happen.
4. Trying to knock a running back over without trying to tackle him — Dear Defensive Backfield, We went through this problem in 2008, and it persisted in 2009 to the point where we were ready to put together a video of all of the poor tackling techniques and if nothing else embarrass players into making an effort doing it the correct way. Employing the correct technique is the point, and having proper technique be unsuccessful is somewhat forgivable. The burden is also on Willy Robinson because fundamentals for players who are 1 to 2 years out of high school are “musts” to make second nature — EVERY YEAR. While we don’t believe that poor tackling cost Arkansas the game, it’s not acceptable to continue to have the same problem every year. On a much less positive note, leave this behind because we’re starting video collection with Alabama. Do better so we don’t have to worry about this. Sharp, et al.
What Arkansas Needs to Carry Forward
1. Experience of the Techniques and Schemes Alabama’s Defense Brought — Anthony Oden’s first start against Alabama in the 2009 game in Tuscaloosa could hardly be forgotten this week. Regardless of how big and imposing of a player he was, his was the place in the dam where the water was going to rush through. Size and physical ability coming out of high school or the juco ranks are different than the size and ability of an SEC defensive line. In the event that some aren’t fully aware of the experience of Arkansas’ Offensive Line, here are those who played on Saturday followed by each player’s number of games of experience coming into the season:
64 Travis Swanson (C), Starter, 13
65 Mitch Smothers (OT), Starter, 0
67 Alvin Bailey (OG), Starter, 13
72 Grant Cook (OG), Starter, 29
79 Grant Freeman (OT), Starter, 18
71 Jason Peacock, Substitute, 0
75 Luke Charpentier, Substitute, 0
76 Tyler Deacon, Substitute, 4
The Hogs need to remember every time they were beat and work on whatever technique, step, positioning or read they need to learn to become better next week and every week through the season.
2. A Desire to Keep Tyler Wilson from Getting Hit — Jarius Wright pretty well summed-up what we were all thinking. He was quoted in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, on Monday, September 26, 2011, saying, “I felt sorry for him. I’d run my route and see Tyler running around. And I’d look at the replay screen and see the shots he took…He did all he could. It’s good to know your quarterback will stand in there and take shots for you to try to get you the ball.” But it can’t last forever. Odds are that continued hits like Tyler took will eventually hurt him. Coach Petrino’s statements last week from his preview of the Alabama game ring as loudly as the bells going off in Tyler’s head:
They are always concerning. When your quarterback’s getting hit there is always a concern with it. We have to do a better job of protecting at times. We have to get rid of the ball quicker at times. I always talk about eleven guys pass protection. It takes all eleven of us, the timing of the receivers, the timing of the quarterback, the protection. So it’s everybody’s responsibility to make sure we keep the quarterback clean.
If everyone feels the same way, it’s incumbent upon the receivers to get open quicker, react to Tyler scrambling quicker and become visible to him. For a quarterback more than anyone, he’s got to see the game in his mind’s eye so that he’s clear on the play’s development and makes the choice quicker. Most of all, the offensive line has to make contact and hold it for even fractions of a second longer which might be done with technique, blocking assignments, or just sheer will.
3. When Tyler Wilson gets protection, Arkansas’ Offense works. — The Razorbacks’ second offensive drive which went for a touchdown was done against the best defense in the country. Replicating that effort on each drive for the rest of the season should turn many games the Hogs’ way.
4. Excitement and Experience of Playing on the Road in front of 101,000 People — While it will be two more years until the Hogs go to Tuscaloosa again, Tennessee has rotated back onto the Razorbacks’ schedule where Arkansas will have to play next season.
It’s time to remind everyone, Embrace Being a Winner from last year. —
1:25 remained in the game when the Razorbacks called a time out. Arkansas faced 4th and 9 at the LSU 14-yard line and were four points behind. Having driven 61 yards over the previous two-and-a-half minutes, it was gut-check time for the Razorbacks while hostile LSU Fans roared into the television break.
Sitting a few rows up in the South End Zone at Tiger Stadium last fall, my friend turned and said to me, “We can get a first down…I can’t do this. I can’t watch. I know they’re going to lose. The game is over, isn’t it? We can’t do this.”
Seconds must have passed before my response.
My friend’s sentiments would have been easy to accept right away almost as a reflex. The words felt comfortable, familiar, and certain. It was certainly about to be a pressure-packed moment. Not sure that I would disagree with a fellow Razorback Fan, the question to myself was simple, “SharpTusk, what do you Believe, Right Now?”
There was less than a time-out’s worth of time for a decision.
My mind reeled through the last two years of reading, writing and watching Coach Petrino transform the Razorbacks. Some things were without question.
No Better Coach existed than Petrino to call this play. No Better Coaches were on the sideline, in the box or back in Fayetteville to have prepared this team. Right now, No Better Quarterback than Ryan Mallett existed in any uniform in the country and no set of receivers like Adams, Childs, Wright, and Williams could be had to catch the ball. There would be no anemic, play-it-safe-throw short of a first down carrying with it hope that the receiver could make it to the marker. The players would have to execute, but Petrino would take responsibility and call a play long enough to get the yardage…however, this was fourth and long or Arkansas loses again.
4th and 1 from the year before flashed through my memory. With two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Hogs were down 27-21 to Louisiana Monroe which beat Alabama nine-and-a-half months before. On Petrino’s call, tight end Chris Gragg raced straight down the field and caught the throw from Casey Dick with a reaching, unforgettable catch for 25 yards….Could I take another call like that again? Wouldn’t a nine-yard, first down play be great?
Simply Believing wasn’t enough. It was gut check time as a Fan.
When we hedged toward the worse, we were still disappointed and rarely freely happy. Over years partial goals and excuses were made semi-worthy through the same tortured reasoning that would have an Okie raised in Texas Longhorn Country named Dr. Phil get a Razorback Fan through any doldrums. Nail biting, worrying and a lack of expectation had us dying a thousand deaths as if we were cowards.
If we’re going to have a Winning Team worthy of our expectations, then We needed to embrace and accept Winning Right Now and for time to Come!
“THIS IS WHAT WE CAME FOR. IT DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS. I WANT TO BE RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW! I WANT THEM… THAT RAZORBACK TEAM… ON THE FIELD RIGHT NOW. I WANT PETRINO CALLING THE PLAYS. I WANT MALLETT THROWING THE BALL. I WANT THE RECEIVERS WE HAVE OUT THERE READY. I KNOW THEY WILL DO IT. THEY WON’T FAIL.”
Mallett from the shotgun rifled to Adams in the end zone for 14 yards. Touchdown!!
It happened just that way.
We left Death Valley without fearing or bemoaning the ultimate loss that day.
Winners don’t lose, they wait on occasion for another day to prevail.
What do You Believe for 2010?
Can You Let Go of the Security of Mediocre “Goals” to Embrace REAL WINNING NOW?
Can You Believe without making a Blind Leap of Faith?
We have high expectations and we’re working daily to try to achieve those. One thing we’re not going to do is be afraid of it and shy away from it. We’ll shoot for the top of the rainbow and go out there and have a bunch of fun. — Bobby Petrino, Transcript of Bobby Petrino’s Appearance on Scott Van Pelt Show, Chris Bahn, ArkansasSports360.com
** The post image is a combination of images from two kind people who followed the Hogs to Tuscaloosa and allowed me to use their photos. They didn’t know in advance how I would use them and their photos are much better than the image. Thanks go to Rebecca Smithson and Logan Kersey. Woo Pig Sooie!