There were harbingers, believe it or not.
Subtle, to be sure, but I was given signs. I should have taken heed and prepared myself. The buddy who called and left a voice-mail four hours prior to kickoff in which he stated his uncertainty over the outcome. Missing the last of the pulled pork at the tailgate by a matter of seconds. Finally, the quiet, ignorant befuddlement of a text I sent to my brother-in-law watching at home following the last play before the end of the first half, a half which saw Arkansas somewhat comfortably in command of their opponent.
7:35 PM: Jay, why did [Brandon] Allen take the last snap?
I should have seen it coming. Braced myself somehow.
Let's get to it. The PPDGAF, at least for the time being until PP is no longer a Hog. As always, presented to you in stream-of-consciousness form, with minimal efforts taken to review statistics or video, and Herculean efforts taken to confuse all logic with that wonderful tailgating mirepoix of bourbon, barbecue, and bullshit. Simply the observations of one guy in the northeast corner of War Memorial Stadium. For the first time in history, the recap comes as a simulcast via Expats and its original home, Woopig.net.
- At some point about midway through the second quarter, I made a mental note to mention on this recap that Ross Rasner, while very easy to cheer for, what with his nose for the ball and all-over-the-fieldness, is a liability playing man coverage and will cost the Razorbacks a victory at some point in the season. It comes to pass before I can look like a genius. Taken off at the knees. Well played, football gods.
- Cobi Hamilton was wide open all night. I mean, ALL NIGHT. Tyler Wilson missed him on one play in particular where Hamilton beat his man off the line and found himself open on the sideline with no safety in the vicinity. I could have made the throw, and Hamilton could have walked in for six. When you lose in overtime to a Sun Belt team after giving up a three touchdown lead, these are the plays that come back to leave a knot in your stomach for days.
- Never in a million years thought I would yearn for the complexity of a Willy Robinson defensive scheme. Honestly, last night was such a debacle I do not even know where to start when discussing the defensive performance as a team. Well, I guess I do. WHERE WERE THE LINEBACKERS??? I watched Kolton with a K Browning throw the ball over and over to places where there should have been linebackers. NO LINEBACKERS. I watched the same thing happen last week, and told myself that at any point we could have thrown in some zone and forced a mistake from the Jacksonville State quarterback. Apparently we can't, because I have now watched eight quarters of football in 2012, and I am so freaking tired of watching linebackers chase receivers away from the middle of the field only to have the football thrown to the exact spot they just vacated.
- I also now know how Texas A&M must have felt in the second half last season when Tyler Wilson kept connecting with Jarius Wright between the hashes for play after play after play. Where were the safeties? Shrug. Out of position. Middle of the field was wide open most of the night for the Warhawks. They should have made the Hogs pay more than they actually did.
- The only defensive unit that could be counted on with some measure of consistency was the defensive line. And they could be counted on to not bring down the quarterback on critical third and fourth downs, despite getting to him over and over. And over. And over.
- Evaluating the offensive performance is just as difficult as evaluating the defensive performance. It just flat out stunk, in just about every facet. Execution was awful. Could not run block. Could not pass block. Could not break tackles. Could not run with patience. Could not catch the football consistently. And the playcalling was just as bad. As high as I have been on Paul Petrino recently, he is truly the one I place the most blame upon for last night's upset.
I recognize that Arkansas rushes the football most effectively when using a fullback to pave the way, and that Kiero Small went down earlier in the week, and his backup Kody Walker was injured in the second half. That is still not cause, however, for the complete abandonment of the rushing attack that I witnessed in the fourth quarter last night. Knile Davis showed on his touchdown run that he still has the speed to get to the edge and move the football. Three or four yards were there for the taking, and Petrino should have seen that what we needed so critically were first downs. Davis could have provided that. Dennis Johnson also could have.
Yet they disappeared when they were needed most. It really was reminiscent of that last series against LSU in 2006 when Houston Nutt chose to shelve Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in order to heave it down the field four times. Just completely inexplicable and inexcusable.
- Even during a complete abomination of a team performance, Alvin Bailey's effort managed to be more odious than all the rest. He is an upperclassmen. He should be a leader. He appeared to play most of the game from his knees. He should be ascribed some of Wilson's bruises.
- Arkansas would have won the football game if Brandon Mitchell had played quarterback in the second half, Paul. It would not have been pretty. It would not have been any meaningful tune-up in preparation for Alabama. But Mitchell at quarterback would have produced enough first downs and points to secure the victory. I believe everyone knows that. Damn your stubbornness.
I feel as if this PPDGAF is a pretty good reflection of the showing the Razorbacks gave last night. It feels mailed in, though I assure you it is not. Really, what is there to say about the disaster that was last night? I am as optimistic a fan as anyone I know, and there were zero positives that I could take away from that football game last night. None.
It is always a fan favorite to pull out the "if these two teams played ten times, x team would beat y team so many times." This is a situation that is supposed to 9:1, if not 10:0. It should truly never happen. ULM's performance last night is supposed to be Clarence the Barber's Rocky Marciano to the Razorbacks' Joe Louis. Last night was "they one". What is more horrifying than anything to me about last night is that I am afraid to proclaim that. If those two teams lined up again today, players and coaches prepared to give comparable effort to last night, I can't say that I would have any confidence whatsoever in a Razorback victory.
Of course, the Razorbacks don't line up next to play ULM again. Alabama is coming to town.
I should have seen it coming. I should have braced myself.
Trent Wooldridge (BVC) 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.