Defense can only make so many opportunities for the offense to score. At some point, the offense has to score points to have a better chance to win. As much fun as it's been to shut out LSU and Ole Miss, expecting or hoping for a third straight shutout wasn't very realistic.
Arkansas' offense was whipped in the second half. The Hogs got absolutely nothing going. They started one drive in Missouri territory after forcing a fumble immediately after a Tiger reception, but gained just 15 yards in five plays and punted it back. Only two second half drives lasted more than five plays. One was extended on the Sam Irwin-Hill fake punt but was stopped on downs after another trick play to Kody Walker failed. The other was the final drive, which was aided by the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that kept Arkansas from attempting a 4th-and-long play.
Despite scoring twice in the first half, the team was just too sloppy. The worst sequence was with just over 5 minutes until halftime, Arkansas started a drive with a big 16-yard run by Alex Collins and the Hogs got 15 extra courtesy of a late hit by Missouri, but Jonathan Williams fumbled on the next play. Fortunately, Arkansas got the ball back immediately when D.J. Dean picked off a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage, setting the Razorbacks up in Tiger territory again. But two more false starts pushed the Hogs back so far they had to punt away again.
That leads us to the drive just before halftime. That was terrible. Bielema clearly had a ton of faith in the defense when he called the first time out, and he was justified in that faith, although with just two time outs and Missouri not being aggressive on the first play of the drive, he probably still should have waited until after second down to call the time out, but it was nearly rendered moot when Maty Mauk was sacked and lost the ball, apparently setting Arkansas up with a 1st-and-10 deep in Tiger territory. However, the replay officials ruled it an incomplete pass, keeping the ball with Missouri.
**I was in the stands during this game and was limited to in-stadium replays, so I'm not sure what the right call was. The replays I saw were certainly questionable at best, but if those of you watching the endless replays think it was the right call, ok.
A big run by Mauk and a soft roughing the passer flag pushed Missouri into Arkansas territory. The Hogs forced them into a 50-yard field goal situation with 9 seconds left, and Andrew Baggett kicked it and missed, but Bielema called his final time out just before the snap. In a bit of outcoaching by Gary Pinkel, the Tigers decided to run a play since it was 3rd down and 9 seconds left and they knew Arkansas was putting the field goal defense team on the field instead of the regular defense. Arkansas was out of timeouts so they couldn't stop it. Mauk threw a pass into the end zone but Arkansas was able to break it up, but Mizzou still had time to kick the field goal and Baggett nailed it this time.
If the officials kept with the ruling on the field on the fumble/incompletion, Arkansas has a great chance to go into halftime 21-3 or 17-3 instead of 14-6.
It was huge, and since the Hogs were never able to keep the offense on the field in the first half, the defense appeared to eventually wear down and couldn't hold the Tigers anymore by the time they got into the 4th quarter. The Razorbacks have averaged a time of possession advantage of about 8 minutes all season. But against Missouri, the Tigers held the ball for 32:43 and all the extra plays seemed to zap the Arkansas defense by the time they got to the final two drives.
Beginning on their own 2-yard line, the Tigers went 98 yards mostly behind a pair of big passing plays. The Tigers had tried to go deep a few times earlier in the day but were never successful. Arkansas had Missouri at a 3rd-and-7 at the Tigers' 19-yard line, but Mauk finally hit a big play, a 44-yard completion to Jimmie Hunt. A few plays later, on 2nd-and-16 after a holding penalty, Mauk found Bud Sasser for 28 yards and set up a 1st-and-goal, which allowed Missouri to tie the game.
Again, I was 75 rows up in the stands, and I know there are some other plays that many Hog fans are upset about, so I'll watch the replay at some point and join in that fun. Even from our lofty vantage point, we could tell Brandon Allen was hurting. I assume that's what caused his accuracy to drop what seemed to be pretty significantly by the end.
But ultimately, Missouri's defense prevented Arkansas from moving the ball at all in the second half. Credit to them. I'm sure plenty of Arkansas fans were upset with Jim Chaney and all the pitches to the side that were called when all week we were told the Tigers are more vulnerable up the middle than by running to the outside. And I'm sure, knowing Hog fans, there's plenty of other things. I'll dive into our GameThread, Twitter, and the message boards later.
I don't feel as bad about this loss as I would if Arkansas had not earned bowl eligibility last week. The Hogs still get to play again in about a month or so. It remains to be seen if this loss will have any effect on where Arkansas goes.
However, the momentum and publicity the team's gotten the last two weeks is likely gone, and that's unfortunate. But with a good bowl performance the team will still be a pretty hot team going into the offseason, so all is not lost.