This column was based on ESPN2 sideline reporter Kaylee Hartung's comment in the third during the broadcast on Saturday that Bielema told her at halftime the Razorbacks had lost their confidence.
Asked about the comment in his Monday press conference, Bielema chuckled and insisted that it was taken out of context. That he made a reference to the team possibly losing some confidence after the interception, but "coming out of the locker room I had a lot of confidence."
That's good to know. But I do still think the part of the column looking at the mindset of a team coming off three losses, and playing pretty sloppy football in the second half (really the final three quarters) is worth discussion.
I wrote the column for Sporting Life Arkansas. You can read it in its entirety here.
Now that the game is over, it’s imperative that Bielema and the coaches work to maintain the team’s confidence going forward. The Razorbacks still have a legitimate chance to reach bowl eligibility. It’s a big challenge, but winning three of the final six games, beginning with hosting South Carolina at home this week, is possible.
An upset over South Carolina would go a long way in setting Arkansas up for a run at bowl eligibility in November. The Gamecocks have been effective this year but haven’t been dominant. They don’t have Florida’s defense, nor do they have A&M’s offense. But they are good. If, and it’s a big if, the Razorbacks can play as well against them as they did against Texas A&M, Arkansas could give themselves a shot. But if they don’t stay positive and put in a good week of practice, it’s hard to see them upsetting anybody.
Confidence was the big worry through the off-season. We knew this middle portion of the schedule would be tough. And for a young team coming off an absolute disaster last year, how well would they be able to handle what is now three straight losses? Has Bielema and his staff been able to strengthen the team’s resolve to be able to overcome these obstacles or are they too fragile from suffering last year’s traumatic experience? Are they mature and experienced enough to think about the season in terms of, “These were really good teams. We have nothing to be ashamed of. Let’s keep working and win some games coming up”? Or is the will to fight dwindling?
It doesn’t seem like an overstatement to say this team is at a crossroads. The regular season is halfway over and they’re 3-3, which is close to what most people expected, just as most people expected that the season’s success would be determined by what happens in November. This midseason gauntlet is about improving, learning from mistakes, and if the team can manage an upset during this stretch, that’s gravy. But that doesn’t make it any easier to suffer through it.