This is an excerpt of a column I wrote about for Sporting Life Arkansas. You can read it in it's entirety here. It's a reflection on the Rutgers game and stating that, like in 2008, one of the hopes for this season should be signs of progress throughout, and to leave optimism for the future even if the Hogs don't make a bowl game this year.
There are few things more horrifying as a sports fan than watching a lead slip away after leading the entire game.
It’s a feeling of complete helplessness. It’s especially worse for road games because the crowd, at least the portion that didn’t give up and leave early, becomes as loud as if the stadium is full. The energy on the opposing sideline is at pregame levels. You look at the game clock, begging it to tick faster. Plead for just one player on your team to make a play even though momentum stopped and changed directions like a subway train at the end of its route.
And then, seemingly inevitably, the lead is gone and the team has lost.
Of course that describes the Razorbacks’ game against Rutgers on Saturday. It also describes nearly half of the road games I’ve ever traveled to. I wasn’t in New Jersey for the game, but the feeling was all too familiar. The game it felt closest to, and coincidentally, the season as a whole, is the 2008 Kentucky game.
That game, with a first-year Razorback coach and a not-so-great Hog team, was a toss-up swing game that would likely determine whether or not the Hogs would become bowl eligible. Rehashing that game is still painful, so I’ll just reiterate that it was a game Arkansas led until very late in the fourth quarter, but a meltdown in the final few minutes threw the game away.
Interestingly, another similarity between that 2008 season and this one is that both featured a 4-game gauntlet against highly rated teams. 2008′s was Alabama, at Texas , Florida, and at Auburn. Auburn turned out to be overrated and Arkansas pulled the upset on The Plains, which helped serve notice that the Razorbacks were continuing to improve – even if the next week’s game in Lexington proved that they were still inconsistent.
That same maddening inconsistency seems to be applicable to the current Hogs as well.