The footballs bloomed in the warm air and the synthetic turf sprouted cleats. The rotation of the planet, the UofA Athletic Department, and ESPN brought to us the annual Razorback Red vs. White spring game yesterday. It was not a put your chips on red day, for the white team lead by Tyler Wilson bested the red lead Brandon Mitchell team 45-14, and it wasn't that close. But should it be any surprise really that the team coached by Petrino himself and starring the qb who actually has some real game experience should have bested the other team? No, I think not. But I also believe Petrino and company were looking to see a more equal performance from both sides. As promised on Friday, here are my thoughts, reactions about what happened on Saturday and what it all means.
* One school of thought is to say that it doesn't mean a whole lot. It was just a practice game, and the team still has summer workouts and the fall practice ahead of them. I largely subscribe to that opinion, but the game does give the team a good measuring of the pulse at this moment, and most importantly it gives them film to study and use to make needed improvements with. The sky isn't falling. And the sky is not necessarily the limit based on what we saw.
* Pre-Game: As an expat, I wear my hog gear all about town and hope to run into somebody wearing the same. Yesterday as I was getting some watching supplies at Wal Mart, a nice elderly lady asked me if I were a Razorback fan. I told her I was. And she said her husband was a big Razorback fan and that she had gone to several games with him, though she is more an Oklahoma State Cowboy fan herself. So I asked her if she knew how to call the Hogs, and she said she did. We both did a little Woo Pig Sooie there amongst the Cokes, Sprites, and Dr. Peppers. Before I left, I told her to tell her husband "Woo Pig Sooie" for me, haha. I like moments like that.
* Attendance: Chris Fowler said the UofA was claiming 42,000 there. Okay. But it didn't really look like that from the camera angles I saw. Maybe somebody who was there could comment on the crowd. It certainly had thinned out in the second half and was not close to that number then. Living here in Oklahoma where they also had good weather and a spring game, I can tell you that OSU reported 16,000 and OU reported 25,000 in comparison.
* Thought going into the game - There is no way that the Tat-Five can ruin today, haha. I am sure you will agree with me that it was just good to see those helmets and uniforms again out on the field with the last memory being the sour taste of the Sugar Bowl's ending.
* Speaking of uniforms, I am starting to come around to the present look. But I believe Nike is going to change them again, if I am not mistaken. Oh, boy. And I have to say that the helmets look so much better with just the white hog on them and without all the stickers attached as if they are wearing the sides of WWII bombers for helmets.
* Mark May, Matt Millon, Chris Fowler - I know ESPN stays up at night hating the Hogs, haha, but I thought these three did a pretty good job of talking up our program and what we have in Fayetteville. There were no questions to Bobby Petrino about if he has his bags packed or not, for example.
* Horton of I didn't scoop and score fame from the Sugar Bowl got the first catch of the day. And our receivers would go on and make some impressive catches and runs after the catch, but I saw too many dropped passes out there to where I was having some other Sugar Bowl flashbacks. Hopefully that will get corrected. It simply has to.
* My Friday poll should have included Jarius Wright's name, for I think he comes out of the game with the most buzz. But we already knew a good deal about his impressive play. I don't think a Mr. X really emerged, though I was impressed with some of Marques Wade's catches and thought that Jacobi Walker and Brian Beuhner looked pretty good at the quarterback position for newbies.
* For those of you who voted for Brandon Mitchell as the buzz guy, well, yesterday was a buzzkill. But I have to believe that Brandon Mitchell can play better than that and will play better in the future. He had a bad day, no doubt. But if he learns from it, then that would be good for everybody, for if Tyler Wilson wins the job, there is no guarantee that we get a healthy Tyler Wilson throughout the 2011 season. We didn't get a healthy Mallett thoughout 2010.
* Put me down as impressed with both the Ryan Mallett and D.J. Williams interviews. To the amazement, I think, of the NFL media, Ryan didn't once snort some coke or take a puff off a roach while on air. I thought he represented himself very well. And D.J., wow, with that headset on, I can see a future broadcasting career for him if he wants to go in that direction. He seemed very comfortable and relaxed talking with the ESPN crew.
* But I do have one beef with Ryan Mallett. If you do have people questioning your character, does it really help you to have John Daly sitting next to you on ESPN? What was that about? He was hanging out with Ryan and Chucky (John Gruden) as he was going over some film with Ryan and asking him questions on a segment they showed at halftime. A very honest moment, Ryan grins and tells Chucky, "I am not fast." haha. No sh_t, Sherlock! haha.
* Things we didn't see, so think about them some. No blitzing, no D.D. Jones, no Broderick Green (torn acl), no Greg Childs (but will be there in the fall), no kick-off returns or coverage, and I believe no false starts. I could be mistaken on the last point.
* We did see Dennis Johnson make an impressive return. Tramain Thomas once again was a ball hawk in the secondary. Garrick McGee, thankfully, still with the team. An offensive tackle jr. college transfer called Peacock and a wideout named Funderburk who was at one point rumored not to be with the team anymore. And to Brandon Mitchell's credit, we did see his running skills on display a few times. And there was all 6.7 315 pounds of Brey Cook on the offensive line.
* There was also a cutesy Fayetteville commercial in between plays that along with the Walmart and Stephens Investments commercials gave the advertizing a distinct Arkansas flavor. We got a quick glimpse of Doe's Eat Place as well. All they needed were some ads from Allen Canning, Landers, Petit Jean Meats, Tyson, and an old Bill Clinton campaign commercial, haha. This expat even misses Arkansas commercials!
* The BIG WORRY: The poor performance of Brandon Mitchell and the red team says more than what we want to think about when it comes to the depth on this team. The ying of that is just how well the white team executed their plays.
* NOT AS WORRIED: The commentators went on and on about Arkansas being able to "define" its running game. I am no x's and o's expert, but handing the ball off to either Johnson, Wingo, or Davis sounds like definition enough to me! But I do understand that the loss of some members of our offensive line from last year could make things more difficult for us, but that is why we have the three warmup games to begin the season, to try to find that running mojo we had last year.
* The BIG THOUGHT OF CONFIDENCE: Tyler Wilson (242 yards / 3 TDs) looked very poised behind a line that gave him time to throw the ball. But, of course, the yang of that is the red line couldn't get any pass rush by itself. Such is the shape of things we have just played yourself in a game.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Yes, I would have liked to have seen a score that was more balanced between the two teams. But, hey, we were on ESPN, great advertizing for us, and we put enough offense up to keep it from being a complete snore like they saw down in Baton Rouge. A 10-7 game would not have looked very good to potential recruits. And most importantly of all, I didn't see anybody carted off the field on Saturday. And when the Saturdays in the fall do roll around, we all know that with this coaching staff there will be improvements made from what we saw yesterday, and isn't that the main idea of having a spring game in the first place?