This is not a justification to anybody who thinks the coaches should be fired or that Bielema is doomed to fail or anything like that. This is saying that there are things going wrong that maybe didn't have to be as bad as they are.
I'll say this as well, after watching most of the basketball team fail to improve in Mike Anderson's second season, and seeing the development in Anderson's first full class (the 2012 class) at the beginning of this season, I have a much stronger belief in the "wait until he gets his type of players" idea.
All that being said, the "well what did you expect?" argument only goes so far for this football team. It's fair to point out where the team hasn't done as well as expected. It doesn't mean they won't get better in the future, it doesn't mean anybody should lose a job, but it's fair to be frustrated with some things.
This is an excerpt of a column I wrote for Sporting Life Arkansas. You can read it in it's entirety here.
Sportswriters spend a lot of time trying to help keep fans from jumping off the ledge. Explaining that it’s not as bad as it might feel. Provide a bit of perspective. And while there have been moments over the previous two games to which fans can point and understand there is hope for the future, I just feel like it needs to be said:
It’s OK for Razorback fans to be angry.
Yes, most fans knew in August that this would be a tough season. That doesn’t make it any easier to swallow when it’s happening. Especially when games like South Carolina take place.
Corliss McFadden Harper is due to be born next month. If my wife screams while in labor, do you think I’m going to say, "Why are you upset? You knew this was going to happen. This was all expected. Relax. You’re stressing me out."
No. I’m kind of excited about this year’s Arkansas basketball team, and I’d like to be physically capable of writing about them this winter.
Las Vegas set the wins over/under for this Razorback football team at 5.5. They’re now guaranteed to hit the under, and it’s not a stretch to imagine they’ll finish a full one or two games below that mediocre-at-best standard.
The anger doesn’t have to just be limited to this team. It’s still OK to be upset with Bobby Petrino and his staff. They’re the ones responsible for approximately 75% of the roster. If you don’t like the fact that there isn’t much talent at safety or linebacker or cornerback or, somehow, receiver, that would be on the Petrino staff (anybody else notice Dorial Green-Beckham scoring four touchdowns this week?)
But Petrino’s staff isn’t responsible for everything going on. They’re not responsible for making South Carolina looking like Alabama. They’re not completely responsible for a passing offense ranked easily the worst in the SEC at less than 150 yards per game (over 23 yards below the next-worst). Most people expected Arkansas’ defense to struggle, but Brandon Allen isn’t even on the SEC’s top 15 list in passing efficiency. Kentucky has two quarterbacks on the list.
To give Allen credit, the Ole Miss game was by far his best performance since the A&M game. It was the first time he completed a majority of his passes since Samford. If it’s true that lingering effects from his shoulder injury have prevented him from operating at full capacity until very recently, hopefully he can continue that upward trajectory over the last two games. At the very least, it’s a positive sign going forward, but also an indiction of just how awful Arkansas’ passing game has been.
Bielema and his staff have delivered on the promise to make Arkansas one of the least-penalized teams in the SEC. The Hogs are tied for the league lead with just 4.4 penalties per game, over a 25% improvement from averaging 6 penalties per game the last couple of years. That’s an awesome stat, one for which the coaches deserve tons of credit. However, the penalties Arkansas does incur tend to be big dumb personal foul and holding penalties. As a result, despite leading the SEC in penalties per game, the Hogs are sixth in the SEC in penalty yards per game. They’re getting a little something, you know, for the effort, I guess.
I believe the only time I’ve ever seen a personal foul penalty on a kickoff touchback has been these Razorbacks, who’ve managed the feat not once, but twice this season. This seems completely incomprehensible. At some point in the game, if you were watching closely, you might have seen Bielema burying his face in his playcard. He’s clearly trying hard, but if he’s frustrated, surely the fans should be as well.