Tailgating with friends Saturday, a buddy recounted a story in which his family was deciding how and where to spend a holiday meal. Their first and second options (which I cant remember and are not relevant) ended up not panning out, so the family ended up "going to a sports bar and getting grandma drunk."
I thought it was a euphemism. I'm familiar wih these. My brother-in-law once got so hammered following the 2007 loss to Kentucky that he a)dropped his phone from the upper deck of Razorback Stadium, b) fell backwards off a commercial sized ice chest, and c) became so obnoxious that he ended up getting body slammed off his hotel bed by our buddy upon returning from the game. Since then, "Kentucky drunk" is an adjective that is regularly used for the group of friends that witnessed his shannanigans.
It turns out that grandma drunk isn't a state of mind, and my buddy was speaking of actually getting his grandmother intoxicated, but it's too late. "Grandma drunk" is now in the vernacular. And following the debacle I witnessed Saturday night inside Razorback Stadium, "Rutgers drunk" should be a deserving candidate as well.
The only problem is that right now there isn't enough booze in the world to numb the anxiety, angst, or apoplectic rage that comes with a preseason Top Ten team posting a 1-3 record in its first four games, including losses to members of he Sun Belt and the Big East. Whiskey worked wonders for helping us temporarily forget watching Andre Woodson march a basketball school up and down our football field, but it falls way short of medicating properly a loss to freaking Rutgers.
But what the hell, here's what my tortured eyes witnessed Saturday night.
Ross Rasner, bless his heart. I said following the Jacksonville State game that teams would start looking for ways to get him in man coverage and then exploit his lack of speed. I feared it might cost us a game somewhere down the road in 2012. Turns out it was a very short road indeed, and has been a MAJOR contributing factor now in two of three losses. Rasner plays with more heart than most everybody he shares a football field with, but measurables matter, and his just don't measure up at safety.
Where was Tank Wright last night? I had the understanding that he was transitioning back to defensive end from linebacker, but I never saw him out there. He's credited with a lone quarterback hurry, so I know he played some, but I never saw him in a pre-snap scan of personnel, and I certainly did not hear his name called. Was there an injury I missed, or is this one more item to add to the list of inexplicable things this coaching staff has done in September? Tank has to play. Simple as that.
The hesitancy showed by Will Hines on the receiver screen Rutgers scored on is indicative of this defense and this season as a whole thus far. He charged as he should have for about three steps, and then just completely pissed down his leg about five yards from the receiver, got brushed off like a gnat, and watched from the back end as what should have been a stop for no gain turned into a big play touchdown for the Scarlet Knights. Soft. Way too soft. This is not Razorback football.
As best I can tell, the Hogs have gone ten quarters without forcing a turnover. I can't even recall a forced fumble during that spell, and only one near-interception. A lack of turnovers in one game is an anomaly, but after four games it is apparent this team simply doesn't have the nose for the football that is there in teams that create takeaways. When you tackle like the Hogs tackle and cover like the Hogs cover, that happens. But it has to change if we are to win even one more game. If we win another game without forcing a turnover, I will be shocked.
Moving to offense, it was great to see Tyler Wilson back on the field and competing again, but I fear for his safety behind this offensive line. You can almost see his frustration start to boil over at times on the field as well. Last night he looked reminiscent of Ryan Mallett on some plays in which he forced a pass over the middle of the field when his outlet presented both a safer option and a better potential for a significant gain.
After the Jacksonville State game, I lauded Knile Davis for his vision and patience with the football. Four games into his return season, however, it is evident that he is looking for a safe place to land when he gets into traffic. I still like the patience he shows and disagree with those who accuse him of dancing, but it's clear that he is acutely aware of his injury history. The little jump/dive he's added to his repertoire is something that is hurting his stock as opposed to helping it. I want to see Davis get tough yards. That simply isn't happening.
Paul Petrino's offensive playcalling bores me. It's as simple as that. It appears he wants to play the game solely over the middle of the field. Isn't the purpose of a spread offense to spread the defense out? The entire first half Petrino stubbornly worked the middle of the field almost exclusively, trying to establish a power running game and seemingly calling nothing but crossing routes. In the second half, he mixed it up with some sideline routes and things opened up some. What we didn't see even nearly enough of then, though, was the timely draw. Paul had the offense set up for it nearly the entire second half, and didn't take advantage of it nearly enough.
Just about the only positive takeaway from the game is, of course, Cobi Hamilton's record setting performance. Those crossing routes were a thing of beauty, and Cobi has been such a joy to watch over the last four seasons. Somebody get that man a plaque and a ham.
At this point, it's very hard to draw any positives from the first four weeks of the season, and subsequently hard to see any coming forth over the last eight games. It appears at times that the players have spit the bit, and honestly, it's hard to gauge if the coaches were ever truly in it to begin with. The amount of idiotic decisions through the first month of the season has been staggering, culminating last night with the decision to punt late in the fourth quarter while already down two scores and sporting a sieve for a defense. That was the breaking point for me. A defeatist decision that sums up a season of defeat.
After four weeks of football, I have never been so ready for a break. Next week I'll at least get to watch our inevitable embarrassment from the couch.
Trent Wooldridge will be that guy with enough bourbon. He loves the S-E-C chant and honks because he hates Texas. He puts honey on his pizza, demands aisle seats, and sees quitting golf as more of a hobby than actually playing golf. Follow @twooldridge and track his quest to transform his two-year-old into a southpaw ace in the bigs.