I wish I had something enlightening to say about why this keeps happening.
But I don't. I don't understand it. I mean, sure, we can talk about the reasons Arkansas lost tonight, and if this was the only time Arkansas lost such a heartbreaker, then fine. But why does Bret Bielema have such a horrific record in close games? I don't know. Why can't Brandon Allen make THE play in the fourth quarter or overtime? I don't know. Most everything else goes so well. The table is set up so nicely with finest crystal and china...and then it all just collapses.
It's uncanny. It makes me feel hopeless. I had all these great ideas in my head about what I'd do if Arkansas won. Kliff Kingsbury would've had to block us on Twitter. But, no.
It seems like a lot of people are talking about Brandon Allen, so let's talk about Brandon Allen. He should not have been in position to win or lose that game, but he was, and it didn't work. It's unfair, but some people just don't have the gene to make those plays at the end.
He played really well until the end. He finished 20-of-25 for 225 yards and a touchdown. He made some great plays with his legs as well, including trucking an A&M defender in the fourth quarter and knocking him out of the game. But at the end, on Arkansas' last drive of regulation, he fumbled the one time Arkansas allowed Myles Garrett to get to him. And then in overtime, he underthrew Jeremy Sprinkle again. That's what will get talked about all week.
A lot of people will call for him to be benched. I don't know. I've seen all the other quarterbacks in practices, and none give me confidence they could put Arkansas in position to get a chance to win a game like this. Could they come in and make a play at the end of the game? Perhaps. Could they go 20-for-25 for 225? I don't see it. Granted, I've only seen a few scrimmages, but still. That's my take. I don't think he's the reason they lost. He's not the hero of the game, but I can't say he's the reason they lose.
But again, all of the penalties by players not named Allen put Arkansas in that position. The Hogs officially finished with 11 penalties (would have been more if not for declined penalties), which is at least as many as the Razorbacks were flagged for an any game last year.
Two weeks after penalties cost Arkansas a pair of touchdowns and likely the game, the Hogs went back to it after playing a relatively clean game last week. Denver Kirkland's false start on 4th-and-3 on the next-to-last drive, putting Arkansas in a punting situation, was a killer. In the second quarter, with Arkansas driving into A&M territory, a pair of consecutive holding penalties put the Hogs in a 1st-and-30. They did not convert. There were more.
We should also talk about the defense. It was much better this week than last week. They only allowed two touchdowns in regulation (and really, no one should be upset about that) but the two were ugly for the defense. The first was on a 97-yard drive in four plays that took 1:20, and the other was 85 yards in five plays that took 1:21. The latter was on the drive Arkansas had to have to win the game, and they also gave up a two-point conversion on a rather conservative fade pass. They gave up too many big plays on those drives.
This won't get talked about much, but once again, kicking instead of going for it might have cost Bielema and Arkansas. Last week, it was kicking a field goal from the 5-yard line. This week, on the first drive of the game, Arkansas punted on 4th-and-2 on the A&M side of the field. The Razorbacks pinned them inside the 20 and eventually forced a punt, but it was still a wasted opportunity, and with Arkansas' slow and methodical style of play, said opportunities are precious and shouldn't be kicked away.
But it was, and now Arkansas is 1-3 and facing a trip to Knoxville against a team that feels similarly cursed, and maybe the only team in the country who suffered a worse gut punch than Arkansas did, so we'll try all this again.