When the ESPN GameCast told me that the Hogs had taken over possession with about five minutes left and a 20-7 lead I thought to myself, "it's our game to lose now".
That was an accurate assessment of the situation. Unfortunately, the team decided to take me up on that unspoken challenge and managed, in the next three minutes of game play, to thoroughly and efficiently snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Sure, losing a game like that sucks on a lot of levels, but the thing that's been bothering me about it the most is that I thought maybe this year, this team was different. I had hoped that the combination of a cold-blooded new coaching staff and players that had been battle-tested under some pretty trying circumstances had produced a team that would deliver in the clutch, that would win the close ones, that wouldn't let leads slip away at the end like we did so many times last year.
That was the hardest thing about last year for me - watching that team give away so many games in the closing minutes. In some ways the 2006-7 football Razorbacks were reminiscent of the 1990-92 basketball team...talented, but somehow doomed to not win the big close ones. Of course that basketball team was followed by one so mentally tough that I always knew they would find a way to pull out a victory in almost any situation (and they generally proved me right).
The comebacks against Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe followed by the goal line stand to save the game against Auburn had me thinking that the karmic tide had turned in our favor once again. Granted, each of those teams was flawed in its own way, but it still requires a certain toughness to pull out a win in those circumstances. So when we headed into those final minutes against Kentucky I just knew we'd find a way to make that one play needed to salt away the game. I was fully ready to write a Monday morning post about what a glorious new era we were entering...an era in which we would find ways to win the close games and not get our hearts broken on a regular basis.
Turns out that thought was a little premature. I still have extremely high hopes for the future (Mallett + M. Smith + our crop of young receivers should be fun to watch), so don't take this post as any sort of bashing. It's more disappointment, really....a rant written by someone who was hoping that the wheel of fortune would turn a little faster towards our favor. As a fan, I don't necessarily expect the Hogs to contend for the national championship on an annual basis, but I do want us to pull out our fair share of the close ones.
And with that said, I'm not going to think about it any more. There are still plenty of chances for big wins this season, starting with Saturday's game. So with that in mind, on to Ole Miss...