It is done.
Arkansas, which inexplicably ended the regular season by infamously blowing a 24-7 lead to a lifeless Missouri team, went and did the same dang thing against Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl. Only this was even worse, as Arkansas blanked the Hokies in the first half, 24-0, and ended up losing by a wider margin, 35-24.
Unlike the Missouri game, this was not a slow death that dragged on through the second half. This was much quicker. Arkansas gave up the four touchdowns for the lead with over 10 minutes still to play. It was a quick run, almost basketball-style.
Virginia Tech completely suffocated Arkansas’ running game. Austin Allen appeared to be on fire in the first half, but was awful in the second. He threw one of the worst interceptions you’ll ever see in the third quarter that led to a Hokie touchdown in one play.
Arkansas racked up 12 penalties to Virginia Tech’s 4. The Hogs only rushed for 36 yards. Drew Morgan’s two fumbles resulted in a short field for the Hokies for their first touchdown, and likely gave up another Arkansas touchdown. Two of Virginia Tech’s touchdown drives were within 8 yards. Two others were within 44 yards.
I thought Arkansas began to get a little more conservative after the lead went to 24-0. There were more running plays, even some designed runs from Austin Allen, when passing was working really well. It seemed like momentum was killed during a lengthy review process when Bret Bielema successfully argued to keep possession of the ball for Arkansas, a review that lasted at least 10 minutes, but the Hogs went three-and-out with that gift and never really threatened to do anything offensively for the rest of the game.
Dre Greenlaw returned, but left the game late after suffering an injury. T.J. Hammonds got in for a couple of plays, but not enough to have any impact. He finished with 2 yards off one carry. Kody Walker returned, but only ran the ball twice. Drew Morgan was ejected for spitting in a Hokie’s face.
Simply a harshly disappointing end to a season that, instead of continuing to build on progress, only reinforced negatives. There are still some good players on this team for next year, but the Hogs will need more.
Second-half meltdowns are not just unique to these last two games. It’s been a trend. Bielema’s very first loss at Arkansas was a blown 24-7 lead. The Razorbacks have won their share of games since then, but have lost too many that were in which they’ve led or been within a possession of the lead.
Now we head into a long offseason in which, for the first time since Bielema’s first season, Arkansas will operate while coming off not a fantastic end to the season, but a disastrous one. And there will be plenty of questions heading into next season.