Brought to you once again courtesy of Bob Marley, Tito's Vodka, and the complete lack of shame exhibited by grown men across the country Thursday after discovering their nephew's basketball goal could be lowered to eight feet. Tomahawks, reverses, and alley oops accompanied by the requisite chest pounding but not by the first whiff of irony. After a long, difficult season of poor match ups, the Arkansas defense walked out onto a soaked and sopping Frank Broyles Field on Friday afternoon to find that someone, finally, had lowered the goal for them. They took advantage.
William Burke was an Irish murderer in the early nineteenth century whose preferred method of malice was to smother his victims in order to avoid visible damage to the corpse. He was so proficient at it that his last name became synonymous with the act. To murder by smothering is "to burke". Though he has proven over the last half of the season that he is quite capable of winning games through more exciting methods, there should be no questioning that Bret Bielema's favorite way to win is through suffocation. Sitting on the ball and sitting on his opponent and slowly squeezing the life out of them and everyone watching who isn't an Arkansas fan. We should call it berting. Yesterday, Mizzou was berted. It wasn't flashy, but it keeps the Hogs out of Shreveport and Birmingham.
In victory, Arkansas secured its first winning record in the SEC since 2011, its second consecutive bowl appearance, and a giant silver statue in the outline of the states of Arkansas and Missouri to complement its giant gold statue in the outline of the states of Arkansas and Louisiana. It continued the positive trend in victories begun in 2014, and sent a small but notable class of seniors off with a victory in their final game inside Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas will miss Jonathan Williams, who gave fans yards, touchdowns, and something to be proud of during one of the darkest periods in the history of Razoback football. Arkansas will miss Sebastian Tretola, whose leadership and charisma, in addition to his superior play, provided confidence to a team that had every reason to be fragile.
Arkansas will really, really miss Brandon Allen. Brandon Allen, who lost to ULM and Toledo and lost so many consecutive SEC games, but beat Texas and LSU and Ole Miss. Brandon Allen, who threw games away and fumbled games away and had his truck burned, but who closes his career as statistically the best quarterback to ever play for the Razorbacks. It's too bad that Allen played his final game inside Razorback Stadium in a monsoon in front of a sparse and waterlogged crowd and it's too bad that his final pass inside Razorback Stadium was an interception, but does it not seem totally fitting? Allen deserved better, but he's deserved better for five years. Yes, Arkansas will miss Brandon Allen.
Offensively, the Razorbacks finally took advantage of having THE LARGEST OFFENSIVE LINE IN FOOTBALL to shrink the field and shorten the game. Alex Collins handled the football 31 times in a driving rain and never fumbled, accounting for 130 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He was far and away the star performer, and his production alone provided much more than what Arkansas needed to win the game. Collins was at his best, masterfully waiting for blocks to come and cutback lanes to open, gouging the Missouri defense when they did and making chicken salad when they did not. He has to be one of the best ever at turning a disaster into just another play. Kody Walker added 77 bone-thudding and soul-crushing yards and a touchdown of his own, and that was about it. Outside of the trio of Allen, Collins, and Walker, only four other Razorbacks even touched the football.
What happened on the other side of the football was nothing short of a complete dismantling. Six three-and-outs. Eight punts. Three points. Missouri converted one third down in 13 attempts and possessed the football for less than one-third of the game. Eight tackles for a loss plus 17 incompletions plus one interception adds up to 26 plays of 0 or fewer yards for the Mizzou offense. THEY ONLY RAN 52 PLAYS. That's 50% of the time the Tigers failed to move the ball even an inch in the direction they were facing. I'm not an advanced statistics guy, but I feel like that is probably pretty good.
Arkansas finishes the season 7-5 overall and 5-3 in the SEC and as fun as the final six weeks of the season were, Hog fans will likely always talk about what might have been. This was the season when the lucky breaks and fluky bounces seemed to finally go Arkansas' way during conference play, but an inexplicable slow start to the season kept it from being any factor at all on the national scale. 2015 was probably never going to be a title year, but Arkansas got some breaks it never gets and the SEC was down a little more than expected and the Hogs should have accomplished more than what they did this season. It was right there, but for September. Still, a season after which you can look back on wins in Knoxville, Oxford, and Baton Rouge is hard to be disappointed in. If the Hogs can close with that historically elusive bowl win and finish 8-5, the direction Bert has his program headed should be undeniable. This was a good year, but even better years are ahead.
I'll see ya'll in a few 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 five-year-old into a southpaw ace in the bigs.