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Arkansas vs Alabama Recap: It's Still Cloudy, But Forecast Calls for Clearing

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For what it's worth, we're playing big boy ball right now. Big boy ball.

Bret Bielema giving Penn Wagers the business.
Bret Bielema giving Penn Wagers the business.
Wesley Hitt

It's gonna be satisfying, when we finally break through. I mean, satisfying.

Til then, once again we drive back down the mountain under a gray blanket wondering what could've been. And that's getting old.

For what it's worth, we're playing big boy ball right now. Big boy ball. But that fact is lost on many to whom it doesn't matter that we play in a division of college football that could pass for the NFC South. In any other league, we're a top 15 team, maybe even top 10.

As bad as we were believed to be last year -- and measured against the standard to which we aspire, we were -- we were a 6-win bowl team in any other league.

Walking out after the game, in the Section 113 upper concourse, a Bama fan behind us (and there weren't many of them) bemoaned how terrible his team played. As if we had nothing to do with Bama's struggles. My 15-year-old son at my side, I suppressed a desire to turn around and suggest that he, ahem, stop talking til he got to the car.

And a Bama chick kept asking her crew why they had to walk down the stairs and couldn't just go out right there past the concession stand. That way, of course, leads over a railing to become a two-story drop. I suppressed another desire to invite her to take that express exit. (We may be fighting our way still out of the football wilderness, but I'm killing the Cliff Huxtable bit...)

But the game itself. Sigh....OK, some take-aways, then observations.

Take-aways:

  • Still learning to finish, of course. But oh, the possibilities after Derby's impressive score. Our losses have been competitive against some stiff competition, sure, but finish we must to take the next step. Not a coach remaining on our schedule is placing an automatic W next to Arkansas, not even the one in Stark-Vegas.
  • Speaking of the bizarro CFB world in which we now live...going into Saturday, the Maroons, Ole Miss, TCU and Baylor all inhabited the top 10. Wow.
  • As I type, I'm wearing my '64 commemorative jersey. I may wear it to bed. The retro unis are so sweet. I took my jersey away from Hog Heaven with a smile. Of course, American Express was smiling too....
  • The D. Wow. This unit doesn't remotely resemble the defenses of the last two seasons. Robb Smith, Clay Jennings, Rory Segrest, Randy Shannon......well done, sirs. We punched the vaunted Tide offense in the mouth. Develop some depth, and here we go...
  • We're a good team. Young, green, clumsy. But good. Coach B is building a beast.

Observations:

  • It's time to request Penn Wagers not do another Arkansas game. Ever. When officials become part of the fabric of a game, they've done a poor job. As in Gainesville, Penn and crew seemed to crave camera time Saturday night.
  • Jerry Jones: I'd root for the Taliban over the Cowpatties (Hail Skins), but thank you for being such an important and significant booster to the program. I love you for it. But is it asking too much to wear a ##$%% cardinal blazer for the '64 team recognition? We all know you own the Cowboys, and would've recognized you even without the neon royal blue. (Perhaps this was Jerry's version of renting a Caddy to drive to his HS reunion...)
  • The "fireworks" after scores...a little cheesy, but the smoke that lingers over the field in the aftermath looks awesome. Like a battlefield.
  • Speaking of, that was an old fashioned battle on Saturday night. Jackson v. Sherman. (And ironically two Yankees leading Southern armies.) Old style, brutal, hand-to-hand. To me, the most entertaining brand of football. 61-58 in Waco? Really? How can you be a top 5 team without playing any defense? That's arena ball.
  • Brandon Allen is locking onto receivers, but his legs are making plays. And some of his throws are big time. Others, not so much. But the kid's got moxy, as his third-down dives toward the chains will attest. (And that last pass for J-Will was really close to being the probable winning TD.)
  • Chaney, bless his heart, still seems to give up on the run too early. I know we were running into a brick wall, but the idea is to wear 'em down. We didn't give ourselves a chance to do that. That said, we've got to be able to pick up a yard on fourth down against anyone. (Although the spot sure seemed questionable from Section 113.)
  • What an atmosphere. A few empties because of the weather, but that crowd was big time and loud. The entire stadium, even the old folks, stood for virtually the entire game and rocked. The aftermath of Derby's score was ecstasy.

I suppose there remains some satisfaction in playing Bama off its feet and for much of the game outplaying another top 10 opponent. But for now, we'll content ourselves with wallowing in the age-old Arkansas past time of "What if."

What if Kody Walker broke the plain before fumbling....What if Tevin Mitchel Alan Turner makes the pick in the end zone?....What if BA's last pass had six more inches of oomph? Man, our what-if's are measured in centimeters and milliseconds, aren't they?

Razorback Nation is a bubbling cauldron, filled with an elixir that needs just a little more tweaking, maybe a bit more patience. Perhaps some eye of dawg is the missing ingredient? We may not break the streak against Georgia on Saturday in Little Rock, but I like our chances.

The drive back down the Hill always seems longer after a loss, a collective heavy sigh ferrying a cardinal convoy home through the tunnel to points south and east. The sky seemed especially gray and heavy Sunday afternoon.

Cresting a hill on 49 with the river valley laid out below, a sunbeam poked through a hole in the blockade, a promise perhaps, of better days ahead.