Welcome, fellow Razorbacks, to Dante's Inferno.
We only thought we were toiling in the SEC West on a journey to enlightenment and Atlanta. (Well, this year, more like Memphis or Shreveport.) But in fact, we're living Dante's Inferno, the 14th century allegorical poem that depicts the soul's journey through the nine circles of Hell on its way to God and salvation.
The nine circles are depicted as suffering and their representative sins on Earth, beginning with Limbo, reserved for virtuous pagans, and climaxing in Treachery (you know, where Penn Wagers dwells).
Whatever the reason for our banishment to this odyssey (a dalliance with a devil, the act of merely existing), as Razorback fans we find ourselves in the previously undiscovered 10th circle.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Dante's 10th circle.......Razorback fandom.
How else to explain the roller coaster of emotions and unforeseen curve balls that come with being a Hog fan?
I'll be the first to admit: I didn't see Georgia dropping 31 in the second quarter. In Little Rock. That's a new one, and we've seen more than our fair share of face plants, pies-in-the-face and outright bad luck. Yeah, we had that one tragic quarter (35, was it?) in Knoxville under HDN back in 2000, but this is different.
We thought we had this one. And that's just it: We thought we had this one. Pride goeth before the fall, and all that, I suppose. Were we really so foolish to think this could be the week? Logic, common sense, the numbers themselves...it all pointed to a competitive game and perhaps even a win.
All due credit to Georgia, a legit top 10 team, and it won both battles on the line of scrimmage, but how many ways can we invent to create heartache and disappointment? Dropping a ball -- just outright muffing a pitch...a 54-yard fumble recovery for a score?
This is tragic comedy, folks.
- The defense got whooped. Plain and simple. Great job making some adjustments in the second half, but that was a little like a finger in the dyke after the town had flooded. As much progress as we've made defensively, Georgia made clear just how thin we are. No Ellis, then no Mitchell -- an ejection for Braylon, really? And I'd love to know what Tevin said to warrant that 15-harder that gave Georgia new life early and may very well have changed the dynamic of the game. Mitchel has been a great nickel back -- credit the coaches for figuring out how to use him. But I'm not sure just what it is we've done lately that warrants trash talk. Our D is so improved -- surely Robb Smith deserves Broyles Award consideration -- but man oh man, we're thin and apparently not very disciplined.
- Three surprises: Our DL got moved off the line of scrimmage, we're back to letting receivers get behind us in the secondary, and Georgia backs ran through arm tackles. (Of course, Chubb's pretty good, too.)
- I was just as surprised to see our OL fail to move Georgia. I didn't expect a 300-yard run game on Saturday, but I didn't think we'd have to resort to drop-back mode so fast. I'd like to have seen if the run game, especially Williams, might've worn 'em down eventually. The first drive was a thing of beauty, of course, but UGa made adjustments and we couldn't counter. We couldn't pick up the corners, couldn't force the Dawgs to back off the run blitz....couldn't convert PATs. Sigh.
- The first defensive and second offensive series.....head scratchers.
- At this point, AJ Derby is playing to determine how high he's drafted. Same, ultimately, with Hunter Henry.
- Brandon Allen is locking onto receivers. Several times, receivers ran free down the middle or safety valves in the flat with lots of green to roam went ignored. Granted, he was running for his life most of the time.
- Special teams are a mess. What in the Sam Hill (yes, that just happened) is wrong? Return game, punt or kick....almost non-existent. And mark my words -- we're on the verge of giving up a kick return for a TD. Hopefully McFain is the answer at kicker.
- My Little Rock seats were improved this year [insert half-hearted 'Yay!' here], moved to Section 4 about 10 rows up from Ken Hatfield, as it turns out. It was really cool to see him decked out in Razorback gear, cheering and calling the Hogs in the stands with the rest of us. And he stayed, like most of us, til the bitter end. Despite the tension that existed at the end of his tenure on the Hill, I always loved him. Good man.
- The SEC crew again made clock mistakes (just what is up with that?), but the stadium clock also malfunctioned on its own. Only seems to do it for Hog games. Take that little nugget and run with it, conspiracy theorists.
At one point in the second half, a glimmer of hope did remain. We threatened to make Georgia sweat, and maybe it did, if just a little. Maybe a pinprick of a pit stain. Give the Hogs credit for fighting through to the bell.
But it sure feels like more of the Hogey pokey -- two steps forward, seemingly three steps back.
Moving forward, all we can do is chalk it up to a better team assisted by more self-inflicted wounds. Because despite UGa's success at the line of scrimmage, without them it's a competitive game.
As Doc points out, 3-4 is about where we thought we'd be at this point with a November gauntlet awaiting. A gauntlet that, including apparently revived LSU and Missouri squads, may represent Dante's 11th circle...
Our quest is the CFB version of a walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and it's not fair. But as somebody somewhere once said, it is what it is.
For what it's worth, Dante eventually does emerge from Hell in the pre-dawn hours on Easter Sunday, under a starlit sky...