There have been several times throughout Razorback history where they’ve been so close to championships. Arkansas has even done things that impacted history around the country.
Obviously, the Reggie Fish muffed punt in the SEC Championship game in 2006 comes to mind as a “you almost had it” deal. Arkansas’ final out “routine pop-fly” in game two of the 2018 College World Series Final. What if Arkansas had actually defeated North Carolina in the 2017 NCAA Basketball Tournament?
Those have all been beaten to death so I won’t go over those again.
Here is part-one of the “what if’s” that could’ve changed the way Razorback sports history has been written.
Bret Bielema leads Arkansas to a win over Texas A&M in 2014:
Honestly, Arkansas and Bielema were very close to agreeing to a “lifetime” deal after the season if the Razorback Football team defeated the Aggies.
Just beating A&M? No, that’s not the only reason. However a win in Arlington, Texas could have started something special.
After suffering a season opening loss on the road to Auburn the Razorbacks showed up and were very competitive throughout. They simply ran out of gas in that game.
Arkansas had won three straight non-conference games and seemed to be clicking on all cylinders going into the Southwest Classic. The Razorbacks had the Kenny Hill led Aggies right where they wanted them in search of their first conference win under Bielema.
A fake punt for a touchdown by Sam Irwin-Hill and a wide open AJ Derby for a 44-yard touchdown to take a 28-14 lead with just over five minutes left in the third quarter. The Razorbacks looked well on their way to their first SEC win since 2012.
Everything that could’ve gone wrong at crucial points did. The Razorbacks had a touchdown pass in the second quarter wiped out by a holding call against Dan Skipper and a tripping penalty also against the huge left tackle in the fourth quarter that negated a 55-yard run the Aggies 3 by Jonathan Williams.
On the final play of overtime, Alex Collins was knocked short on 4th down and 3. The Razorbacks lost their 14th straight conference game. So close again, fans were wondering not if but when their team’s time would come.
So, what happens if Arkansas holds on? What if John Henson didn’t push a game-clinching field goal wide? Do the Hogs win? A 10-point lead with 2:29 left to go pushes Arkansas to a win in the Southwest Classic.
What would a win against the Aggies have done for that team? They likely would’ve learned to close games against 7th-ranked Alabama at home, wouldn’t have been rocked in Little Rock by Georgia the week after that and possibly pulls the upset over top ranked Mississippi State in Starkville two weeks later.
A lot of folks grew tired of the continual “we’re close” statement by Bielema after every loss during the streak. Looking back now, they were very close to 9-10 regular season wins in 2014.
There were a lot of “what-if’s” with that team and if they had figured it out how to win any earlier that season, the expectations for 2015 would’ve been a mile high.
DISCLAIMER: Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate where Razorback athletics sit right now. I’ve always enjoyed looking back at the what-if’s. Give me a follow on Twitter @jacobscottdavis.