Brought to you this week by Friedrich Nietzsche, The Cure, and the hollow consolation that is offered when you layer cheese dip over deer chili over Chick-Fil-A nuggets and sprinkle a few Fritos on there for good measure. I'm not going to sit here and tell you it wasn't delicious, because it was, but it would have been so much better as a victory meal.
This one hurts. Equal parts sadness and anger, with this weird twinge of optimism because we (and I will be sticking exclusively with we/us for this, because pain) not only stayed with them for most of the game, not only led for most of the game, but handled them for most of the game. But the optimism only brings more anger, because it feels like a moral victory and moral victories are bullshit and let's not try to paint this game as anything other than a loss, because that's ultimately what it was.
BUT WE HAD IT. WE HAD THE DAMNED GAME WON. MULTIPLE TIMES. STUPID JEFF GOLDBLUM AND HIS STUPID CHAOS THEORY AND THE STUPID ARRANGEMENT OF HAIRS ON THE BACK OF HIS STUPID HAND FIND THE ONE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS THAT TURN THAT GAME INTO A LOSS.
If you're scoring at home, that sequence is: Needless tripping penalty (on the backside of the play) to negate touchdown to ice game, fumbled snap to stall drive to potentially ice game, Tiffinesque shank on field goal to ice game. Are you kidding me? That's not even well played, football gods. It's capricious, spiteful bullshit. Of our last four SEC games, we've lost one by giving up a 99-yard scoring drive and two in overtime. So, yeah, enough is enough. Find another rhesus monkey to inflict your torture upon, assholes.
There is no way in hell I am reliving this game through video or statistical analysis, so I'll just make a few off-the-cuff claims regarding the game that likely will not hold up to the scrutiny of facts or logic.
This is the best defense since Houston Nutt was coach. I'm thinking 2006, probably? Strange to say after giving up over 500 yards, but we are living in strange football times. Going into the game, the party line was that Arkansas had a chance if they could stop A&M two or three times and score to keep up with them. Texas A&M had 14 possessions in regulation, and scored on four of them. Kenny Hill was pressured much of the game, and completely out of sync for a good portion of it. Linebackers policed the middle of the field. And the secondary maintained tight coverage, breaking up several passes and contributing to Aggie drops. Still, I would sure love to see Michael Grant back there, though.
Alex Collins would have converted that fourth down in overtime if we had lined up with him in the shotgun behind five linemen and five tight ends. With all of those options, there is no way he wouldn't be able to pick his way for two yards. He could have found half a hole and just dragged a defender for two yards. We are the only team in the country with the personnel (or the desire) to run an Aught-Five package, but I really think it would work. It needs to happen. Bertitude is at its most dangerous when it straddles the line between genius and insanity. See yesterday's fake punt for Exhibit A on that.
The Dan Skipper that we lauded after Texas Tech for running 50 yards downfield trying to find somebody to block is the same Dan Skipper that didn't give a rat's ass if his assignment wasn't playside when he decided to illegally take him to the ground. We can bitch that he needs to be smarter on the field, but we probably shouldn't bitch too loudly. The rough edge and mean streak is what makes him elite. If Arkansas had to take one in the shorts yesterday for him to learn a lesson that doesn't affect his motor, then so be it. I hope that happens. If learning that lesson IS going to make him second-guess his aggression, though, I'd rather look at that penalty as a "price of doing business" moment that just had unspeakably bad timing.
Jim Chaney lives to be successful zigging when the world knows he should zag. Contrary just for the hell of it. He's probably a Doomsday Prepper, and he is definitely one of those guys who gets a thrill out of playing the Don't Pass Line. He wants to be cute when we just need to run it down their throat (end of the first half), and he tries to run it down their throat when the situation calls for something just a little more (last play of the game). He made some great calls yesterday, but the numerous idiotic ones were egregious, eye twitch-inducing rage fuel.
By the end of the season, we will no longer be complaining about missed tackles and dropped passes. These were probably the two biggest gripes about the Auburn game, and there has been noticeable improvement since. I feel like I have been complaining about poor tackling every season since I've been a fan, but we really are getting better there. With the offensive firepower in the SEC, we are still going to whiff on some plays. And Todd Gurley and Alabama's corps of running backs are going to run over us a few times. But the days of repeatedly screaming "WRAP UP!" from the stands or at the television are coming to an end. Similarly, this year's receiving corps is not going to keep any defensive coordinator up at night, but they are showing that they are capable of making the plays that are given them. The catch that Jared Cornelius made to move the chains on third down yesterday is a ball that would have been dropped at the beginning of the season. The two big play-action passes were balls that WERE dropped earlier in the season. Bert and staff have taken our biggest liabilities and improved them. They aren't where he needs them or wants them to be yet, but they are better and should keep getting better. For those who are wanting to compare him to Houston Nutt, THIS IS THE REASON YOU ARE WRONG.
And now we are looking at a week off. Two weeks for us fans to agonize over this loss seems like cruel and unusual punishment, but it should give the players a chance to avoid the sluggish performance that so often follows an evisceration like yesterday. Alabama is a behemoth and terrifying and the Hogs are probably going to lose their 15th SEC game in a couple of weeks, but yesterday showed that they at least have a puncher's chance. Since Bielema was hired, the phrase "can't out-Bama Bama" has been used ad nauseum, but the fact of the matter is the finesse approach never worked, either, so why not try it Bert's way? The Hogs are likely another year or two away from being brutish on a level that can compete with Alabama, but if you can't see them heading in that direction, I'm not sure what you're watching.
I'll see y'all in two weeks.
Trent Wooldridge will be that guy with enough bourbon. He loves the S-E-C chant and honks because he hates Texas. He puts honey on his pizza, demands aisle seats, and sees quitting golf as more of a hobby than actually playing golf. Follow @twooldridge and track his quest to transform his four-year-old into a southpaw ace in the bigs.