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Tab's Take: Cotton Bowl Post-Mortem

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After his excellent work before and after the LSU game and his top-notch pre-Cotton Bowl analysis, we once again turn to one of our favorite commenters, Tab Prewett, to get his thoughts on the New Year's Day bloodletting in Dallas. So, sit back and enjoy his feisty take on the latest sorry chapter in Arkansas' pathetic bowl history:

(AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)

Losing breeds negativity, and we’re now left with nine months of negative memories of the Nutt era, each inept area on prominent display yesterday. Fortunately, the Nutt era is finished because I don’t think I could stand another few years of special teams bumbles, offensive dullness, defensive inconsistency and terrible quarterback play. What was consistent about Nutt’s teams was their inconsistency. Like the emotions of the man himself, when Nutt’s teams were down, they were awful.

The main reason we even played in the Cotton Bowl was in homage to both Broyles’ legacy and the certainty that Arkansas fans would buy a large number of tickets and secure a Cotton Bowl profit. Truthfully, neither team should have been in the Cotton Bowl. We deserved lesser, Missouri greater. Because of our tradition of impeccable Dallas attendance, we got thrown into a game against a superior team motivated to show it deserved more respect, while we had to play amidst the chaos of a coaching search and with the self-satisfaction of just being glad to be there. Scarily, it could have been much worse.

When Missouri stuffed the I-formation numerous times in the first half, I kept waiting for a total commitment to the WildHog. David Lee stuck though to the standard offense, and we suffered because of it. With no blocking, Darren and Felix had no hope. When we went to the Wildhog in the third quarter and scored, I thought maybe Lee would see the light. But, no, like a trained dog, he went back to his Nutt tricks, hoping against all odds that Casey Dick would suddenly make plays. We’ve all seen Dick under pressure before, and it’s an ugly sight.

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(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

I am so happy Shibest is gone. Arkansas’ special teams have been horrendous for years, and yesterday was a quintessential example. Shibest calling a time-out to negate a first down on a fake punt, then running a play out of the same formation on the very next play -- wow, that’s fooling them. Like Lee reverting to the I formation, Shibest also was loyal and obedient to his training.

How about the fumbled punt? Let’s see. Anybody remember the SEC championship game last year? And why were we changing punt returners every time Missouri punted? Was there some master plan that Shibest had concocted? Oh, and I love the squib kick that goes a grand total of 10 yards. Superb execution by the kicker. And let’s not forget the punter who averaged around 30 yards a kick, excellent for junior high, or Tejada’s miss of two easy field goals. Wind or error, the entire special teams performance was abysmal, consistent with what Arkansas fans have come to expect from Shibest.

However, the most significantly poor performance yesterday was by Casey Dick. Lee gave Dick the chance to win the game. Dick failed. Dick’s lack of poise and inability to scramble negate any arm strength he possesses. Missouri ran the same blitz with number 12 coming off the corner every passing down, and each time he forced Dick to make a quick decision, something Casey is incapable of. Imagine Petrino’s plight: Casey is the best we have next year. Yes, if he is allowed to stand back in the pocket unmolested, he’s accurate and a decent passer; but apparently he can’t throw deep since we never try a long pass. He can’t run. And he can’t think quickly and make the on-the-fly decisions a top quarterback must make.

I like Herring, but his defenses are perplexing. When they’re bad they can’t adjust, and they can’t stop anyone. And yesterday was the worst since, oh, yeah, USC.

Now that the year is finished, it’s clear this year’s team played some of the worst periods of football I’ve seen in 45 years of watching the Razorbacks. The first half at Alabama, the second half of Kentucky, the entire Auburn game, the entire Tennessee game, and then yesterday -- all of these games were out and out shut-downs of execution, a reflection of the coaching staff. That we let down the SEC like we did yesterday is embarrassing, and I’m only glad that the coaches responsible for such play are leaving.

It was the worst performance since we played USC last year, and it epitomized the worst of the Houston Nutt teams. No matter what happens under Bobby Petrino, it clearly was time for a change.