Now that it's over, I guess we can all look back and ask ourselves the question again. One more time. You know, the same question we've been asking ourselves since the second week of the season.
Is this real life?
Did that really just happen?
Did we really just watch a team that was ranked in the top ten before the season finish 4-8? Did the Razorbacks really fail to win one SEC game against a team that had an SEC win of their own? Did they really lose their first game EVER to a team from the Sun Belt Conference?
Did the program that launched not one but two Heisman Trophy campaigns in August suffer losses to Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers, and Ole Miss IN THE SAME FREAKING SEASON? AT HOME!!!?!?!
Did we really finish dead last, absolute rock-solid bottom of the cellar in turnover margin for the season? Out of the entire Football Bowl Subdivision, did we really finish last? OUT OF EVERYONE???
Did we really give up 110 points in our first two SEC games? And get outscored by 100 points in the process? That shit needs a nickname so the sports world will be prepared the next time it happens.
Did CBS actually record and produce a television show that chronicled the brutally precipitous fall to the bottom of the college football world?
Did the season that would finally see ESPN College Game Day on campus for Alabama and finally see LSU play in Razorback Stadium to decide the West actually end up seeing the worst home loss ever and a season finale with absolutely nothing, zero, zilch, nada on the line?
Did the head coach really tell the media to smile in the middle of the worst September in program history? Did he really talk about "being a state of Alabama program" after getting beaten by Alabama 52-0? Did he really brag on his team by telling everyone how well behaved they are while traveling to games?
Did he really allow his starting quarterback to decide on his own how much he would play? Did a season which saw at least six games already decided by the start of the fourth quarter really afford next year's probable starting quarterback only 49 pass attempts for the entire season?
Did Johnny Manziel really run a complete 360-degree circle on a play he would eventually throw a touchdown pass on?
Did we really allow Gary Nova of Rutgers to pass for 397 yards and five touchdowns? He threw for 200 yards in only FOUR games this season, and we allowed him 397. 397!
Did we really allow Ole Miss to successfully run the same play four times in a row?
Did we really shelve the SEC's all-time leading kickoff returner in favor of a freshman whose redshirt wasn't even burned until several games into the season?
Did we really finish 112th in red zone offense? 108th in time of possession? 105th in pass efficiency defense?
I sat in Razorback Stadium for the final home game on Friday afternoon, completing another season of perfect attendance inside the state of Arkansas. It was, unfortunately, another very difficult game to watch. They have all been difficult this season, with the exception of the Kentucky game. Even the wins against Jacksonville State and Tulsa were ugly and difficult to watch.
But I sat and I watched as long as I could. Until the same mistakes and the same penalties and the same turnovers dampened my hopes and allowed the cold wind to take over from there. There was booze and a fire back at the tailgate. And as has been the case all season, there was no booze and certainly no fire in Razorback Stadium.
Turns out I was wrong about the fire part. After I left following LSU's third quarter touchdown that opened the game up to a 14-point margin, Arkansas found some backbone and clawed their way back into the game. Both sides of the ball played hard despite being let down, again, by their coaches. I'm proud of all the players. Really and truly, I am.
In the end, of course, Arkansas could not make the plays necessary to win the game. No matter how hard they tried. After the way this season has gone, I'm just happy they did try.
So for the last time this season, yes this is real life and yes that really happened. Yes, it was a horrible nightmare year from hell. But now it's all over and we can finally put the Bobby Petrino Era to bed. A new coach and a new staff will be on campus soon, with new philosophies and new personalities and new mantras for tee shirts to be emblazoned with. If Jeff Long delivers the way he delivered with his last football hire and with his last basketball hire, the excitement that has waned over the past three months will come roaring back.
And if he doesn't, we might be able to put the Jeff Long Era to bed as well.
Trent Wooldridge will be that guy with enough bourbon. He loves the S-E-C chant and honks because he hates Texas. He puts honey on his pizza, demands aisle seats, and sees quitting golf as more of a hobby than actually playing golf. Follow @twooldridge and track his quest to transform his two-year-old into a southpaw ace in the bigs.