Brought to you once more courtesy of Bob Marley, Tito’s Vodka, and the maddening frustration of predictability. For all of its glorious chaos, some things in college football do not change. Nobody will ever know what targeting is. Kickers will always break your heart. A team with a superior rushing attack and superior defense will blowout a team without those things, if the team without those things allows the game to be played in the box formed between the tackles, the running backs, and the linebackers. These things are practically a mathematical constant. Last night Arkansas fought the math and the math won.
After an inspired performance against Florida that resulted in Arkansas’ first ever conference win against the Gators, the Razorbacks made what was already a long week that much longer by affirming to Vegas and other number nerds around the country that what they think is going to happen is usually what happens. Though the Tigers were ranked almost equal to Arkansas, LSU came into Fayetteville as a touchdown favorite on the road, due in equal measure to their consistently dominant defense and their inconsistently (but currently healthyish) dominant rushing game. Each held up their end of the stat book as the Bayou Bengals made quick work of an Arkansas team that appeared from kickoff to be ill-equipped for the game at best, and disinterested at worst.
I received a text early in the game from a friend in attendance that said “No juice” and there is probably no better summation of the game than that. I would credit LSU for taking the wind out of Arkansas’ sail early were it not for the troubling sense that there was never any wind there in the first place. It was Senior Night in Razorback Stadium, with a game that mattered against a hated rival, and the play on the field and the energy that accompanied it suggested that LSU was marching through an early season rent-a-win against an opponent whose mascot you’d need to Google in order to know. How the hell does that happen?
How does Devwah Whaley get forgotten about after getting outside the LSU defense on a run that culminated in his manhandling one of the best defensive backs in the country? How do Drew Morgan and Cody Hollister get opportunities to test the LSU boundary for weakness instead of Jared Cornelius, who scored on the same type play last year in Baton Rouge? How could Dan Enos expect to produce enough points to win the game by calling an offensive game that not only played to LSU’s strengths, but also seemingly away from the Razorbacks’? Arkansas needs to run the ball well to win football games, but that rushing attack has often needed help from Austin Allen’s arm to get on track, and the intermediate passes that have served to loosen the ketchup bottle throughout the season were conspicuously absent last night. Enos instead favored short passes whose mixed success did nothing to combat LSU’s choke-hold on the line of scrimmage.
On the other side of the ball, Arkansas found itself outmatched and overpowered in yet another SEC West game, displaying neither the personnel nor the fortitude to stop an opponent perfectly willing to show its cards and call its shot. We watched it against Texas A&M. We watched it against Alabama. We watched it against Auburn. And we watched it last night against LSU. There is no trick to running the ball successfully against the Hogs. You simply have to try to run the ball. That’s it. Florida couldn’t find success running the ball because Florida didn’t really try to run it. Something has to be done with the front seven of this defense before next season because there are few things as demoralizing as watching a defense that is so helplessly hopeless in stopping the run. They are Texas Tech bad, y’all.
So now Arkansas sits at 6-4, with road games at Mississippi State and Missouri remaining. After facing six consecutive ranked opponents in SEC play, the Hogs finally get to play a couple who are not. It is never easy to win a game played inside another team’s stadium, but Arkansas finally plays a couple of teams that it should be able to dictate its terms to. The Hogs should be able to execute its preferred game plan on offense, and they should not look so helpless to stop their opponent on defense. Should. It took ten games, but I finally feel like I have a good grasp on who this Arkansas team is. They are an okay football team that lacks the components to be a good football team. It’s not a matter of waiting for things to click or for the light to come on. There is no light. They are who they are, and unfortunately they play in the toughest division in college football. And next Saturday they’ll try to beat the worst team in that division to win their seventh game of the season.
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 six-year-old into a southpaw ace in the bigs.