The back-to-back losses at Tennessee and to Ole Miss at home had Hog fans scratching heads and reconsidering if we had, indeed, turned the corner in Mike Anderson's fourth year in charge on The Hill.
The jury may still be out, but here we sit, 15-4 and on schedule, sort of. We'll need an extra road win to balance out the (bad) Ole Miss loss, but we'll head to Gainesville this weekend 2-1 on the road in league play.
How is it we're batting almost .500 the last two seasons in SEC road games? Given our SEC history, the last dozen years in particular, it seems absurd. But there it is: 5-7. Wins at Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Kentucky (aaaaaah, soak it in), and this year Georgia and Missouri.
After an 0-4 start to the 2013-14 campaign, that glorious win at Vandy fueled what has grown into a 5-3 road run.
Are we hallucinating, perhaps? Saturday in CoMo, we sure didn't seem like road warriors, playing right into Mizzou's hands. Luckily, gratefully, we escaped with a 61-60 win in the kind of ugly, grind-it-out affair that represents a template on how to overcome Hawgball, as laid out here by Adam.
Of late, teams are forcing their will on us, and despite Saturday's outcome Mizzou used that template to perfection. Plain ol' perseverance plus a record-low in turnovers committed, a recommitment to defense in the second half and some clutch offensive rebounding got us out of the league's Midwestern outpost with a win.
And, well, a couple of missed free throws, of course.
(I know we had a foul to give and offered it willingly, but sure seems like Ted and crew were intent on blowing the whistle that last possession no matter what.)
So, we welcome Tennessee to town on Tuesday night, and it feels like payback will be on the menu. Let's face it: We showed up for about 8 minutes in Knoxville. We're due for a big Bud Walton win, one in which we force the tempo and shed the layer of funk under which we've been operating for a couple of weeks now.
My Pollyannism, however, is at odds with cold stone observation. I swing back and forth from, "We're just not as good as we thought" to "We'll be fine."
Here's hoping for the latter. I think it's the latter...
A good crowd Tuesday worthy of our pedigree would be nice, anyway. The Hogs deserved more than 11-12k for Bama. I know life is conspiring to make the in-person, spectator experience a relic, something to be mused over by sports historians of the future. But NWA -- and for midweek games, it's mostly on NWA -- should be able to fill the palace or come close for any league game, just like it used to do.
So, funk or no, the schedule potentially is close-out-strong friendly. And for now, we're in the Dance and comfortably so. While this isn't a classic Razorback defensive-stopper team, and that's something we'll just have to live with and overcome, it's one that I still believe could prove to be a matchup nightmare come March.
The installation of classic Hawgball, which used to embolden teams and fans alike, is ongoing. Until it's complete, we can make do. We can play SMARTER defense, for starters. And eventually, someone...Bell, Madden, Qualls, Beard...is gonna heat up from outside.
We'll ride out this funk. If we truly want to turn the corner, behind which we've seemingly been stuck for the last 15 years, we'll have to.