If you're a soldier of war, a foxhole isn't the worst place to be. On the whole, when faced with a torrent of enemy fire, being underground beats lallygagging on the ground any day. And if you're a football player at a major program, recovering from one of your program's most disappointing losses of the century, your team's monolithic training and performance center isn't too bad a place to be either.
Although in theory the whole point of higher education is to break down walls and expand horizons, that objective pretty much flies out the window when it's time to bunker down against the escalating number of player haters out there. "We're going to have all kinds of different people with all different reasons firing shots at us," Bret Bielema said after Arkansas' 16-12 loss to Toledo on Saturday night. "We've got to dig ourselves into our foxhole and the only one who can battle ourselves out of there is ourselves."
After today, though, it's going to be a little harder to find the shovel.
Bielema announced Razorback senior Keon Hatcher, who leads the SEC with 198 receiving yards, is out for "at least six weeks" with a broken foot. Add to that the rash of other injuries also coming out of Saturday's game in Little Rock - Kody Walker, Denver Kirkland, Eric Hawkins, Josh Williams and Josh Liddell all missed game time with various issues - and the fall-out from the Misery on Markham keeps looking worse.
How to offset Hatcher's loss and turn it around?
For one, crisp execution by the those not yet lying in the M.A.S.H. unit. Bielema is confident his men will avoid the penalties which killed them against Toledo. "All those things fall on my shoulders," he said. "The good news is they are very correctable. They will be corrected."
Below are other choice excepts from his press conference after the loss, as taken from a wider selection available at BestOfArkansasSports.com:
ON NOT DOMINATING THE RUN GAME
It's on me. It's on us as coaches. We got to give them a better plan. If we can execute it, a lot of times we get jammed up, have big people up in there and we just can't move them. Teams are doing a lot of stunting on us, doing a lot of things last year and this year coming across their face and we've got to be able to wash those big guys down. We definitely got to get our front people playing a lot better at the point of attack.
ON ALL THOSE PENALTIES
I'm not a big stats guy. The only thing I worry about is the win and loss column, but to see the number of yards we gained, the time of possession, the first downs, we really didn't turn the ball over but our one turnover was critical. Obviously it was in the red zone, and it swung huge momentum but also obviously left points off the board. The most frustrating thing was that came right after we just put it in the end zone and had points taken off the board because of the penalty. We had 9 penalties. They had 8, but our 9 penalties were absolutely critical, taking away yardage - a couple of them were on big plays… Last week we had six penalties and three of them were unforced on special teams. I believe we had four holding calls today if I'm not mistaken. A lot of times it's just getting in the right position, finishing the block the right way, being lazy with your feet, and somebody's starting to fall away from you and you just grab. We obviously got to eradicate that from our practice and eliminate from our games.
ON BEING MORE PHYSICAL
You know I hoped from what I'd seen, and what I believed, and what I thought was there, was we are a team that can play physically. You take the first two games, especially in our ability to run the football, and our answer would be no. Defensively we still had some good plays, and we made some nice hits, but overall they were still able to run the ball sometimes on third and short and fourth and short, and we can't have that happen.
They were getting rid of it pretty quick… We were getting our hands up, thought we were going to get a tipped ball here or there, but sometimes that ball doesn't exactly happen. There were so many times where it looks like we had some [pass break ups] and the ball is in the air, and it just kind of fell flat. Then we finally come up with one and it gets overturned upstairs. It was one of those days where the ball didn't really bounce our way, but you've got to make it bounce your way in a game like today.
ON OFFENSE, THOUGH, I know our [wide receivers] were on the ground a lot during intended routes. It's going to be obviously up to us to correct and stay on our feet no matter what happened they got to be able to get there and be able to stay up.
ON HOGS' OFFENSIVE LINE
We try to get our five best players on the field, there ain't no doubt about that. I don't feel any remorse in that regards but we've got to get our five players playing better. In this recruiting thing, this process, everybody wants to make a big deal over offensive line and we have done a nice job doing it. We probably have five and could throw [Brian Wallace] in there - six, maybe seven, guys that could be possibly SEC ready to play. In this league you need to have O-line depth just as much as you need D-line depth, and we're of course just not there yet.
I think we really got to look at our red zone package. Being able to run the football has got to be first and foremost. We can't just keep taking shots in the end zone. Everything's got to be coordinated there… We're not going to win many games by scoring the amount of points we did today… we've got to execute better and clean up the blocking. There's too many things that were in the running backs’ faces before they crossed the line of scrimmage.
It's an uncommon thing in a bad way, probably. The thing that I really try to use that for is in recruiting and trying to develop a certain man, certain kind of character or kid that would withstand something exactly like this. They're going to have all the reasons in the world for people to doubt and say certain things and I think you've got to look inside yourself. I really stress to our guys that we earned this loss today and it started with me. I think the part that we as a program have built ourselves on is you earn everything in life. We'll do everything we can tomorrow to get this thing back on track and work our tails off during the week to get an opportunity to play Texas Tech and see where it goes.
ON THE POSITIVE SIDE
It's not a conference loss. There's a silver lining in any of it. One of our big things is we talk about a 1-and-0 mentality. I was on a team at Kansas State when I was a young coach that lost to Marshall early in the year. We were ranked number five or six in the country and really got our tails handed to us that day pretty handedly. Went on to have a season that actually won a conference championship.
The 1-and-0 mentality everybody wants to talk about it when you're rolling, but it's really designed in rough times. It’s designed for when you don't win and you got to focus on that next opportunity. Tomorrow will be a delicate balance between putting this game to bed and learning from the mistakes that we have to, but also moving forward.
… We got guaranteed ten more opportunities. Nobody's going to be more ready to play us than Texas Tech this coming Saturday. Obviously to go on the road and have three straight games in the SEC is a challenge of itself. We're going to have all kinds of different people with all different reasons firing shots at us. We've got to dig ourselves into our foxhole and the only one who can battle ourselves out of there is ourselves.
Bielema isn't the first head coach to use this analogy, btw:
You send out a picture of Houston Nutt, and you get this back. Somehow, Ive never seen this. I am stupefied. pic.twitter.com/Zc0Picf2D1— Bunkie Perkins (@BunkiePerkins) September 3, 2015
Read more from Bielema's press conference at my BestofArkansasSports.com site.