If you have ever taught English at any level and have gotten back a set of papers to grade, you know how a student's good idea or ideas can go down in red ink flames from an overabundance of punctuation errors, misspelled words, mangled syntax, citation errors, and just simple carelessness with the English sentence. In the same fashion, a football team can end up losing a game because one time too many they didn't pay attention to the details of the game. For example, not lining up correctly for a play. My "If Only!" of the Hogs' loss to the Rebel Black Bears is if only one of our receivers had recognized he was not on the line of scrimmage when he should've been there towards the end of the game when the Hogs had a touchdown erased because of too many men in the backfield. If we had not had to settle for a Hocker field goal, we have four more points to our score, and Ole Miss on its last possession could not have beaten us with a last second field goal.
Now, yes, they could have beaten us with a touchdown. And I am not saying that would not have happened if Tyler's touchdown pass had stood and Dennis Johnson had still carried the team on his shoulders for a late quarter touchdown. But I would have liked to have made Ole Miss try for that touchdown instead of a simple field goal. The defense at the end of both halves of play was as tough as butter in the sun, but one can still envision, with the War Memorial crowd in a frenzy, the Hogs keeping Ole Miss out of the endzone. Or am I giving this defense too much credit to even envision them making such a stop?
Writing a good essay is a complicated affair, and so too is winning a football game, especially when the talent level is about even. To extend the analogy, the Hogs right now are poor writers. They are the freshmen composition student who fails to proofread, who turns in the paper late, who started writing it the night before, and it all shows. So why is this the case?
They certainly made mistakes, costly mistakes, when Bobby Petrino was the head coach. But you also felt that they could have been making many more if Petrino had not been there to demand attention to detail. At present, the Hogs are either not getting that demand put on them or they are simply choosing not to pay attention to it. Or more probable, some combination of the two.
As Jeff Long looks for a new coach, he has to find one who demands that every last thing be done the correct way. Nick Saban demands this and his students have written some good papers time and time again. A Nick Saban coached team doesn't have too many men in the backfield on a crucial play. They punctuate correctly! And they understand the overall picture of what they are writing on the field.
I don't care to look deeply into the numbers of the game. That one missed opportunity of too many men on the line of scrimmage, the number five, and how it came back to haunt us sums things up enough for me. But I do have a point of historical significance to mention and will take a look at where do we go from here, before a few words about the coaching search.
First, the historical significance. Add this to the dumpster fire of a bad season that 2012 will always be known for. The Hogs have gone winless in Little Rock for the first time since 1993. That year the Hogs suffered a 0-6 loss to Memphis State and a 14-28 loss to Tennessee. The one saving grace was a 13-13 tie with Mississippi State. In 1992, the Hogs lost to Ole Miss, Alabama, and SMU, all at War memorial. So, yeah, we have witnessed something not seen since the Dark Ages of Razorback football, known as the early 1990s.
Where do we go from here? Not to a certain win over Tulsa. Not that. There is no program that the Hogs have beaten more than Tulsa, but this could very well be one of those years when the Golden Hurricane gets a win, something which has happened since 1976. South Carolina will be without Lattimore, but we all know how well the Hogs' defense does against a quarterback who dares to scramble. And that would be Shaw. MSU, they didn't look so hot against Alabama, but who has? A hard fought win in Starkville is still possible. One can hope that the LSU Tigers might get altitude sickness in the Ozarks, haha, but I wouldn't bet on it.
The hiring of a new coach that the fans can envision good things coming from, that will be our bowl game victory this year, for the prospects of an actual bowl game and victory look pretty slim right now. Doc does a great job each week breaking down the candidates for the job, but after each week, I still find myself puzzled about who will be the next coach. There doesn't seem like an obvious candidate out there who we know will also take the job if offered it. Still, here is hoping that Jeff Long can find the Maxwell Perkins of editors to come coach our Hogs how to write a better fate for themselves than what they've written for the 2012 season. It is the collective hope, is it not? That and a really good basketball season for a change, something that also happened in the early 1990s.