Welcome back, you masochistic gluttons for punishment. As always, Feel The Rhythm is brought to you by Bob Marley, Tito's Vodka, and the twitchy, tweakerized midfield Razorback that Dan Enos apparently found inspiring enough to emulate with his offensive game plan. Playcalling was reminiscent of a squirrel attempting to cross Markham in post-game traffic.
There are so many angles to take after watching that debacle yesterday that it is almost overwhelming. You've got your people who are still wanting to fight the Great Stadium Debate and are using this game as ammunition. You've got your people who still want to fight about Jeff Long's decision to fire Bobby Petrino and are using this game as ammunition. You've got your people who still hate Brandon Allen and are, inexplicably, using this game as ammunition. And then you have that abomination of a game as a singular event that at some point has to be dissected and made sense of. I'll try my hand at the dissection, but making sense of yesterday will only come as the next ten games unfold. Let's get to it.
Toledo was supposed to be a cupcake, and cupcake games follow a formula. Coming into the game, I would have said that Arkansas was probably two or three touchdowns better than Toledo in a drive-for-drive game without turnovers, special teams, or quick-strike touchdowns. Of course, those things ARE part of the game, and usually the favorite has the advantage in these facets as well. Take a 28-14 game, add a couple of long touchdowns, maybe a defensive or special teams touchdown, and you've got your classic cupcake blowout. Sometimes the favorite doesn't get those extra scores and you get a close game. Sometimes the favorite sleepwalks through the game and must rely on those extra scores to win. And sometimes the favorite sleepwalks through the game and doesn't create a turnover and doesn't get a special teams touchdown and doesn't produce a quick-strike score. And that's when you get Toledoed.
There were so many safeguards that had to fail for Arkansas to lose that football game. And every single one of them did. Crippling, ill-timed penalties. Special teams snafus. Not one turnover forced by the defense. If any one of those facets goes as it normally does, Arkansas most likely wins the football game. But they didn't, so when Arkansas allowed themselves to be outplayed at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, that was all she wrote.
Except it still could have been different. Even with execution and discipline from the players sorely lacking in every phase of the game, Arkansas still could have, and should have, won the game. Let's talk about Dan Enos.
The most disturbing thing for me yesterday was the realization that, once again, Arkansas has absolutely zero idea who it wants to be on offense. It's a horrible feeling when it hits you. Like a punch in the gut that serves as a time warp straight to 2013. Desperation when there is absolutely no reason to be desperate. Bret Bielema has been praised by local and national media alike for months in building a team that absolutely, positively knows who it is when it has the football, and is comfortable with its identity, regardless of how well it fits in with the present offensive culture of college football.
That team threw the football 52 times yesterday.
Dan Enos, who was 0-5 against Toledo as the head coach of Central Michigan, called the game as if he still had Central Michigan's roster instead of Arkansas'. Last week, Keon Hatcher straight-up beat his man on a go route and was rewarded with a touchdown, and Dominique Reed nearly did it twice. Did Brandon Allen attempt to throw over the safeties even once yesterday? Not that I can recall. Not even off of play-action. Instead, Allen worked a soft middle-third of the field and threw a lot of screens, and racked up 412 yards passing. And Arkansas amassed three points in five trips inside the red zone.
412 yards passing. Five trips inside the red zone. Zero touchdowns. Yesterday, Arkansas wasn't a power offense that had added some spread elements to its attack. It was a spread offense operating with narrow splits and two tight ends. AND THAT DOES NOT WORK. You know who is supposed to have 500+ yards of offense yet only produce 10 points? A MAC team playing against an SEC team. Not the other way around. Dan Enos needs to figure out where the hell he is, and who the hell we are. Because yesterday the Razorbacks didn't have a clue.
It was a total team failure, but it's difficult to get on Robb Smith's defense for allowing 17 points when one of Toledo's touchdown drives started on the Arkansas 25. Tackling seemed to be better, but the inability to get off the field on third down is becoming troublesome. Linebacker play needs to be shored up quickly as the SEC season gets closer and closer.
Yesterday was bad. Really, really bad. It had that nightmarish feel of the 2012 ULM game as things went from bad to worse and Razorbacks started dropping with injury onto the turf at War Memorial Stadium. But this team is not that team. This team has a coach it can call upon to lead it. And this team is not the 2013 team. This team has at least tasted some success. It knows that it can win, even if it still must learn how to win close games. Yesterday was bad, but I am not yet ready to torpedo the season. The Hogs just need to be what they have been built to be. Hopefully they can regain that identity next week when Texas Tech comes calling.
I'll see y'all next week.
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.