No excusing that one. That was a debacle.
Arkansas dominated the first half in a way that made the second half seem immaterial, but all of a sudden, Austin Allen threw a pick in the end zone, Mizzou converted a fake punt from their own end zone, and then everything went to hell.
The Razorbacks did not score a single point in the second half despite three trips to the Red Zone. And let’s be clear, Missouri’s defense has been dreadful all season. That’s an embarrassment. It is consistent with Arkansas’ red zone performances from earlier this season, but still, those were against much tougher defenses.
I expect the biggest question specifically about the game (I think most will be discussing issues with the program as a whole much more than complaining about this game) will be why Arkansas seemed to abandon the running game in the fourth quarter. Rawleigh Williams was having success running the ball, but Arkansas was calling their offense as if they felt there was 30 seconds left on the clock. Granted, they did try to run when they got a 2nd-and-goal from the 1 with a few minutes left, but that was stuffed.
Passing plays led to an ill-timed holding penalty that forced a 1st-and-goal from about the 20 yard line with about 90 seconds left. The first passing play lost yardage. Second and third downs were both decent throws into the left side of the end zone, but Missouri defenders pushed Keon Hatcher out of bounds before he could get a foot in the end zone, and Jeremy Sprinkle couldn’t hold on to a touchdown pass on third down.
Some fans will likely make reference to Missouri’s first quarter touchdown that maybe shouldn’t have been. The Tiger receiver dropped the ball before crossing the goal line, but the officials gave them the touchdown because a Missouri player picked up the ball just before it rolled out the back of the end zone. It was not an immediate recovery, and we’ve seen other games this season in which similar plays were ruled touchbacks. Regardless, it’s hard to say Arkansas wins the game if a touchback is called there because almost the entire 4th quarter was called as if Missouri led and Arkansas was trying to score. If that play hadn’t happened, the entire 4th quarter is called differently and who knows how it plays out.
And besides, Arkansas didn’t deserve to win. The Razorbacks were absolutely awful in the second half. Missouri probably could have scored a couple more touchdowns in the game because their receivers burned Arkansas’ secondary plenty of times, but rarely were able to convert the pass. On one such play in the 1st half, the Tiger receiver had an easy touchdown put he dropped the ball.
So let’s not go to that well. Arkansas lost and they deserved to lose. Ugly, disappointing performance. The coaching staff should get plenty of criticism. Throughout the year, we heard Arkansas only lost to really good teams. Not now. The Tigers were 3-8 coming into this game, with a loss to Middle Tennessee State and their only victories coming from Vanderbilt, Delaware State, and Eastern Michigan. That’s not the club Arkansas wants to be in.
The good news is that the loss probably doesn’t effect anything in terms of which bowl the Hogs go to. Arkansas is still in the Pool of Six. I predicted before the season Arkansas would end up in the Music City Bowl and that’s still very much on the table. We’ll find out in a little over a week.
That being said, Arkansas isn’t the type of program that can afford to throw wins away. Some said last year after the Hogs lost to Mississippi State that it didn’t matter too much, and the same reasoning could be said this year. However, it’s harder to sell this program with fewer wins to show off.
And, since this was the last game of the regular season, Arkansas has to sit on this for about a month.
Let’s be clear, the Hogs now have the same regular season record they had last year, with two fewer SEC wins, and that’s not progress, especially when this loss may be the worst team Arkansas has lost to during these seasons.
Now we wait and see how Bret Bielema handles this seasons’ disappointments with his coaching staff.