This is an excerpt of a column I wrote for Sporting Life Arkansas. You can read it in it's entirety here.
Razorback fans are absolutely right to be mad, angry, disappointed, frustrated, despondent, and any other adjective you can think of to describe rejecting the Hogs’ performance on Saturday against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Apoplectic might be a stretch. If you’re reading this, it’s been at least a couple of days since the Hogs’ worst performance since, well, last year – and the world has yet to end. But the smoke and fiery rubble where Razorback Stadium used to be make it more difficult than usual to see any brightness in the future.
There’s not much to really say about the game. It was an absolute failure. The defense couldn’t get off the field, and the offense couldn’t stay on it. That’s all you really need to know, and why there is such a stark contrast in so many statistical categories.
The thing that I have the hardest time coming to terms with is that this was the game they needed to play like it was their game of the year. This was the game that could put them in great shape for a shot to earn a bowl bid. It could balance out the disappointment of the Rutgers collapse. It was, by consensus, the most winnable game during this difficult midseason stretch. And if there was any doubt that was the case, the Vegas oddsmakers made South Carolina a favorite by less than a touchdown, easily the smallest spread since starting SEC play.
The thinking for Texas A&M was that Arkansas couldn’t keep up with the Aggies offensively, and it was ultimately proved correct in the fourth quarter even though the Hogs put up 33 points in the rain and traded punches with them for most of the night. The thinking for the Florida game was that the Gators’ defense was too good for Arkansas’ young and inconsistent offense, and that also proved correct.
But the Gamecocks possessed neither of those elite qualities. They’re just a solid team across the board. Coming into Saturday, they’ve typically done just enough to hold on to decent leads against inferior talent. They’ve hardly been any sort of dominant force, worthy of intimidation or any sort of lackluster effort.
So what happens after a great opening touchdown drive? 52 straight. For the second year in a row, the Hogs gave up 52 straight points in Fayetteville. Only, this wasn’t against the national champions with a backup quarterback the week after arguably the most shocking defeat in program history. This was a chance to prove something, to show progress and prove their record is more of an indication of their schedule and not their quality as a team. Now, that’s in question.
In both of the last two games, Arkansas scored first but lost the lead following interceptions from Allen, and never really appeared to be competitive again. That’s 2012 stuff. Despite everything that went wrong last year, Arkansas was actually a pretty good first quarter team, but would inevitably fall apart whenever something didn’t go their way. The Razorbacks never punched back last year. they did did against Texas A&M a few weeks ago. And the defense fought valiantly throughout the Florida game. But after the interception, or perhaps it was after the epically bad fake punt, the defense finally gave out as well.