So, I have started this piece many times of late.
“Who we have is who we need” has been an oft-heard phrase from our coaches when there have been injuries or other circumstances impacting the team, and it has rung true more than once.
It has been their mantra in the face of adversities.
And while it has applied many times in the last few months for both football and basketball, today I am focusing on the football team.
With the mass exodus witnessed in the last few weeks from players either declaring for the NFL draft or following coaches on the coaching carousel or just jumping ship to hit the portal, our Razorbacks rolled into Memphis last week for the Liberty Bowl with a severely depleted team. With our Defensive Coordinator taking over the Head Coach duties at UNLV, and some other personnel changes made by Coach Pittman, the team we did have was being led by different, and in some cases completely unfamiliar, faces.
Some of us even wondered if we would have to suit up as a walk-on or throw a whistle around our necks and grab a clipboard to make certain the roster was full.
If you follow social media at all, you would have been astonished to see that that the team bus even bothered to leave Fayetteville for the trip. That was how little faith some fans had in our team.
I hope they were all watching.
The team that took the field last Wednesday night played like their hair was on fire! KJ Jefferson came out smoking on the opening possession and, with help from Rocket Sanders, took the team down the field on the first series to put Cam Little in a perfect position for a 37-yard field goal.
We scored on the first series; something Arkansas had not done with any consistency all season.
Two series later we scored a touchdown and then, thanks to Quincey McAdoo (so glad he agreed to try out a defensive position mid-year!) and his interception we scored again with a touchdown 8 seconds after the first one.
Again, these young men played like their hair was a fully engulfed inferno.
We were seeing drive and determination that we had not seen, in some cases, all season. They were playing as one team, a single unit, a cohesive, well-oiled machine. We walked into the locker at halftime up 31-7.
That was extremely exciting news to the fans who recognize that Arkansas is typically a second half team, meaning the sky could be the limit for scoring. This could have been an even better win than that of the prior year’s Outback Bowl when we beat Penn State.
Alas, in true Arkansas heart-attack Hog fashion, however, this time the tables flipped, and we were only able to score once in the second half, while allowing Kansas to do more of their own. With some very questionable calls late in the fourth quarter, Arkansas found itself tied at the end of regulation and facing overtime.
Again, who we had was who we needed because we won the bowl in the third overtime thanks to KJ Jefferson and an offense that was focused on getting the job done.
I have said it before, and I am not ashamed of it, but I fall into that group that some folks call “sunshine pumpers.” No cloudy days in my world, no sir!
Now, we know that is not true. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, into every life a little rain must fall.
The question is how to you handle the downpour? Do you stand in the rain with your head thrown back, cursing the clouds, or do you grab an umbrella and some galoshes and go stomping through puddles? Do you watch the clouds form from the safety of your home and decide all the things you cannot do now because it is raining, or do you do what you can before the sprinkles become a monsoon?
Do you bemoan what you do not have or find ways to use what you have and move forward?
The coaches at the University of Arkansas fall into the latter category. Who they have for that game, at that moment, supporting that decision is who they needed it to be. Are they perfect, no. Do they try, yes.
We all know there are holes on the defensive side of the ball and our wide receivers’ room still seems to be a bit messy to my untrained eyes, but you never hear the coaches give up. Andlet’s face it – it might be easier for them to do so.
But they don’t. They are continually working to see who they have available and how that particular combination can work best just in case it cannot be changed.
They are committed to molding these young players to the best of their abilities – both their abilities as coaches and the student athletes’ abilities as players.
Pray for rain when the ground is dry and be thankful when it finally falls, but till the ground and sow the seeds in the meantime.
Work with what you have because who you have is all you have and so that must be what you need