Well, that happened. Again.
For the fourth consecutive week, finding the words to attribute to the Razorbacks' performance on the field is difficult. Finding the words to attribute to the Razorback coaches' performance on the sideline is difficult. Finding the words to make any sense whatsoever of the entire season is difficult. But finding the words to order another round just gets easier and easier.
My wife started getting texts after ULM, and their frequency and urgency have only increased with each passing week. My friends and family keep asking her how I'm doing, and how I am handling this. Like I lost a sibling or parent, or at least a loyal pet. That's how spectacular of a failure this season is. People are genuinely inquiring about my mental state.
I'm fine. But, good grief, is this football team ever screwed. Let's talk some really, really bad football.
Last week I begged for some draws to alleviate some of the pressure on Tyler Wilson, and maybe soften up opposing defenses a little. We got them for most of the first half, and damned if we didn't move the ball some. We even scored a touchdown and had a lead! Unfortunately, the offensive line play is so disgraceful that any continuity or momentum is a laughable concept. Any success the Razorbacks have is an easy fix for opposing defenses because there is so much the Hogs simply can't get done, and it begins and ends with the offensive line's inability to block.
They cannot create lanes when run blocking. They cannot maintain a pocket while pass blocking. 3rd and short or 4th and short is a complete abomination. I have screamed at Alvin Bailey even more this season than I did at Ray Dominguez in 2010. Of course there were questions and concerns about the line coming into the season, but their performance so far comes as the biggest surprise to me. As bad as the secondary, but without as many built in excuses. I think most people knew that the secondary would be awful this season, but I don't know many who predicted an offensive line THIS bad.
With the line blocking as poorly as it has been, success is going to be limited regardless of what plays are called, but that doesn't mean Paul Petrino hasn't been stinking it up. Because he has. Not only are the Razorbacks sticking to what seems to be a predictable jumble of about five plays, it appears that Petrino just shuts down all innovation as soon as adversity hits. Much like the team he's coaching. I loved the call on the deep ball to Cobi Hamilton at the beginning of the game. I approved when Tyler Wilson was working the ball over all parts of the field, keeping the Texas A&M defense off balance and enabling the Hogs to rush the football some. When things went sour, though, I would like to see Petrino try something different instead of going back to the same things that have not worked for an entire month now.
What about calling some plays to let Wilson move around some? He throws well on the run and is mobile enough. What about allowing Brandon Mitchell to come in and offer a change of pace? He actually had some modest success against Alabama, and hey, A&M's defense is no Alabama. What about some misdirection? Some timely play action (when we are running it well, which we were early)? Anything at all but sending Knile Davis into at least two waiting defensive linemen on third down, and firing a shallow cross into a blanketed receiver on fourth down? We have to be the easiest team in the Southeastern Conference to prepare for defensively.
I don't know what else can be said about the defense. They just flat out suck. Why beat a dead horse? The defensive line did reasonably well with what they were charged to do. Better than the other two levels, at least. I am not nearly as upset about the lack of a pass rush yesterday, as it was pretty clear the object was to contain Manziel. There were certainly some gaffes, but I thought they were solidly mediocre yesterday. Ugh, how sad is that?
One thing I did notice was Trey Flowers got completely destroyed a couple of times, one of those being the play where we actually managed to bottle their running back behind the line of scrimmage, only for him to spring free around the right tackle. This happened because Flowers got absolutely blown up and was at linebacker depth by the time the rusher got to where he should have been. Reminiscent of the running play where Rutgers escaped from the shadow of its own goal last week.
Remember the Louisiana-Monroe game the second week of the season? Remember when the undefeated, Top Ten ranked Razorbacks came out after halftime to start the third quarter with a two touchdown lead? Remember intercepting the Warhawks on their first possession of the second half and Brandon Allen marching the Hogs down the field to increase the lead to 21 points? That was the last turnover the defense created. They are now in a nearly 14 quarter drought. That's not a symptom solely of bad luck or bad timing or an opponent being particularly stingy with the football. It's nothing other than very, very bad defense. We will not win a game in which we do not force a turnover. I truly believe that. And right now we are not producing turnovers. Solving the rest of that equation is pretty elementary.
I'm not even talking about John L. What's the point? I don't know what he's doing, so what is there to say? The timeout before an extra point attempt. Punting from midfield on fourth and short and giving up an 80-yard touchdown on the ensuing play. I mean... MY GOD. I can't do it. We just aren't going there.
What I want to see for the rest of the season is something different. The season is in the tank, and it has been, so why not see what some of our new guys can do? I was very encouraged by the play of Jonathan Williams yesterday. Ran hard inside, ran hard outside, used some vision, broke some tackles. He's part of the future, and that's what I want to focus on. Demetrius Wilson also. I want to see more Mekale McKay. And I want to see more Brandon Allen. There is no reason Tyler Wilson should have been out there as late in the game as he was yesterday. I want to see more Otha Peters and Will Hines, too. The fire is not going out, people, so we might as well use it to forge some of our guys.
I was supposed to be making the trip to Auburn this season to take in Jordan-Hare Stadium and the Loveliest Village on the Plains. Needless to say, I'm not wasting my time and resources to sit through a performance similar to those I witnessed in September. I'll probably watch the next inevitable chapter of this meltdown from the same bar I watched from yesterday. The one that keeps the Razorback Fight Song queued up on its speaker system, and blares it with every score. Yesterday it seemed quite fitting that the staff was completely unprepared for the first and only Razorback touchdown, and had to scramble to get it playing.
Being that it fits perfectly the timbre of this season, I think I'll go back.