Arkansas Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Razorbacks' Loss vs. the Tide
The Arkansas Razorbacks suffered another historic loss today to Alabama.
The Crimson Tide dominated the Hogs during a 52-0 bashing that has left the team wondering if there is any hope in salvaging their 2012 season.
Let's take a look at 10 things we learned during yet another devastating loss for the Razorbacks.
Brandon Allen Isn't Ready to Be the Starting Quarterback
Brandon Allen has been getting a lot of criticism since his lackluster performance during the Louisiana-Monroe game in Week 2.
His performance in that game could be attributed to lack of game preparation during the week with Tyler Wilson getting the majority of reps in practice in his role as the starting quarterback.
No one expects a backup quarterback to enter into a game at a moment’s notice and replace a starting quarterback like Wilson in performance and leadership, but fans do expect a competent performance at the very least.
Allen’s performance in the Louisiana-Monroe game is the fault of a coaching staff that did not have the foresight to develop a contingency plan in the event that Wilson would suffer an injury in game.
Allen doesn’t have the excuse of just being the backup quarterback this week.
With Wilson being day to day during the week leading up to the game, the coaching staff had the time to prepare Allen to deliver a competent performance against Alabama. Was Allen ever going to be Tyler Wilson? No. But could he have avoided being a train wreck? Yes.
All of Allen’s high school stats suggest that he has the potential to be a good college quarterback, but he needs time to develop. Sticking a redshirt freshman behind center against the No. 1 ranked team in the country on his first start is a difficult situation for any athlete.
Arkansas Has a Problem with Fundamentals
Arkansas started this game with a fair amount of momentum and was meeting Alabama play-for-play until the error in the first quarter when Will Coleman snapped the ball over the head of Dylan Breeding.
Coleman also played a part in Zach Hocker’s 41-yard failed field goal attempt by snapping the ball too high.
Breeding was penalized for an illegal kick when, after the high snap, he kicked the ball into the end zone instead of picking up the ball and throwing it out of bounds.
These errors demonstrate Arkansas’ inability to complete routine, fundamental plays at best and a lack of understanding of the rules of college football at worst.
Vince Lombardi began every preseason with the famous statement, “gentlemen, this is a football,” because he understood the need to work on fundamentals such as making snaps and explaining the rules of the game on a constant basis. That is what coaching and teaching is all aboutmaking sure your players understand the basics.
The Razorback players have not been properly prepared to play football at a standard necessary to have success in the SEC.
The Razorbacks Lack Conditioning
The Razorbacks performed well during the first few plays of this ballgame. The defense was stopping Alabama’s running game. A.J. McCarron was having difficulty finding receivers because the pass coverage was executed well, and the offensive line was protecting Brandon Allen well enough that he was able to make some throws.
That all changed after Alabama’s first touchdown.
After Alabama capitalized on the illegal kicking penalty, the entire game changed. The offensive line couldn’t block well enough for Knile Davis to make an impact, and A.J. McCarron magically had receiving options when he dropped back in the pocket.
Less than three minutes had dropped off the clock in the first quarter when the Razorbacks looked like the ballgame was over.
Has all the turmoil during the offseason damaged the mental state of the team to the point that any minor setback is blown up into a catastrophe?
Or, is it something simpler like physical conditioning? Is that the real reason why the Hogs couldn’t contain Louisiana-Monroe last week?
Regardless of whether it is a lack of physical or mental conditioning, a team that started the college football season ranked No. 8 in the country should not look tired during the first quarter of a football game.
Brandon Mitchell Should Have Never Been Converted into a Wide Receiver
Brandon Allen is struggling as a quarterback. He threw two interceptions and only had 60 passing yards during the game with no touchdowns.
The frustration on Allen’s face during the first quarter was obvious. He was in way over his head as a redshirt freshman against a No. 1 Alabama team that was destroying his team on both sides of the ball.
It is a position that Allen should have never been in. Brandon Mitchell is a two-sport college athlete who can pass, catch and rush. He is a superior athlete to Allen, and he has two more years of big-game experience that would be nothing but helpful in a game against an opponent like Alabama.
The coaching staff made the decision to give Mitchell some snaps during the game, but they still relied too much on Allen.
I understand wanting to give Allen the chance to start after a solid week of preparation and practice, but I don’t understand leaving a struggling young quarterback in a football game that has escalated out of control when there is another option.
John L. Smith's Sideline Demeanor May Cost Him His Job
There are many different types of coaches with many different types of personalities, all successful in their own way. A coach doesn’t have to be constantly screaming in his players’ faces on the sideline to be considered a good coach.
But, the contrast between Nick Saban’s demeanor on the sideline and interviews during this game and Smith’s more laid-back approach was glaring.
Saban looked focused and intent on getting the job done. Smith appeared lackadaisical and was making jokes with the sideline reporter on the way to the locker room during halftime.
Regardless of Smith’s actual coaching style, perception is reality. And fans (and possibly Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long) will see both coaches’ demeanor on the sideline and believe that Saban possesses something that Smith does not: standards.
Razorback Fans Are Already Fed Up
If last week’s performance against Louisiana-Monroe diminished the hopes of Razorback nation for the season, today’s game drove those hopes to an isolated location and set them on fire.
Razorback fans were filing out of the stadium during halftime. The rain didn’t help in the matter, but if the Hogs were putting in a good performance, the fans would have stayed to cheer on their team.
By the fourth quarter, the sparsely populated stands featured only little islands of dejected fans who nobly stayed until the end of the game.
This can do nothing but harm a team’s mental state during this tough game and in the upcoming weeks.
The Razorbacks will have to adopt even more of an “us against the world” mindset if they are to salvage this season into something resembling satisfactory.
Knile Davis Cannot Get His Game Going
Knile Davis is looking more and more discouraged with every opportunity he gets to carry the football.
He only gained 59 yards over 20 carries. His frustration may stem from an offensive line incapable of providing the blocks necessary for him to gain any kind of yardage on his carries.
But give credit where credit is due, Alabama has arguably the best defense in the country that disrupts the offensive attempts of every team they face. It’s difficult for any running back in the country to gain headway against this Alabama team, even a running back who was once considered a Heisman Trophy contender.
Tyler Wilson's Story Is a Heartbreaking One
Tyler Wilson deferred entering the NFL draft to contend for a national championship with a team and a coach that had the potential to get him there.
This season was supposed to be a win-win for Wilson. He demonstrates loyalty to the Arkansas Razorback football program and his coach, and he gets a national title and possibly a higher standing in the draft.
He’ll get neither.
Wilson’s loyalty for his team and his coach has been rewarded with a scandal that cost his coach his job and a concussion that put him out of the Alabama game due to an offensive line that couldn’t protect him against Louisiana-Monroe.
Wilson could be playing in the NFL right now building the next phase of his career; instead, he is on the sideline of a game he desperately wanted to play in with unnecessary damage to his mind and body.
With a culture of greed across all levels of sports, fans want to see a college player rewarded for his loyalty to a team. What fans and other college players are witnessing instead is a cautionary tale that maybe it is better to look after one’s own self interest than to be loyal to a program that lets you down.
Arkansas Football Is at a Historic Low Point
Two historic losses in back-to-back weeks should give Arkansas fans plenty cause for concern.
Last week’s loss to Louisiana-Monroe caused the Razorbacks to take a fall from the top 10.
Today’s loss to Alabama was the first time since 1966 that the Razorbacks have been shut out in Fayetteville.
The upcoming SEC schedule and the game against LSU in November have all Arkansas fans wondering, “Where is the bottom?”
This Season's Setback Will Last for Years
The Razorbacks had a small chance at redemption today. If they had beaten the Crimson Tide, last week’s upset would have been forgiven, and the Hogs would have been able to move forward in the season with confidence and maybe some small hope of a bowl game.
These last two weeks will hurt the Hogs’ progress in the quest to become a nationally prominent program for years. Fans will disengage from the team costing the program millions of dollars, and Arkansas recruiting efforts will be even more of a struggle.
By the time Jeff Long has hired a new coaching staff and recruiting picks is back up to the level prior to this season (which wasn’t a high level to start with), it will be years down the road while SEC programs like Alabama and LSU continue to thrive.
This is the beginning of many years of struggle for the Razorbacks.
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