It Wasn't Just Bobby Petrino's Absence That Ruined Arkansas' 2012 Season

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It Wasn't Just Bobby Petrino's Absence That Ruined Arkansas' 2012 Season

Former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino has landed on his feet as the head coach of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, but that doesn't mean that his past is behind him.

Petrino was fired shortly after lying to Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long about the specifics of his motorcycle crash and covering up an affair with a staff member whom he hired. 

His dismissal was the beginning of the end for Arkansas' 2012 title hopes, as former special teams coach John L. Smith was brought back to lead the Hogs on a 10-month contract, quarterback Tyler Wilson got knocked out of the second game of the season, a loss to Louisiana-Monroe, and the Hogs sputtered to a 4-8 record.

The struggles in Fayetteville were difficult for Petrino to watch, according to WGFX in Nashville (h/t: CBSSports.com):

It was very, very difficult. It's always been a way of life for me, not necessarily a job. I grew up the son of a coach and it was just something you did every year, every fall. It was difficult, and then to watch [Arkansas] struggle and not play the way they played before, I felt a lot of responsibility for that.

He should feel responsible, but it wasn't just Petrino's absence that sent the 2012 season into a tailspin. Some of the reasons Arkansas struggled were the same issues that it struggled with when Petrino was the head coach. 

Protection has been a problem for a while now. In Petrino's four years at Arkansas, the Razorbacks finished no better than sixth in the SEC in sacks allowed.

They actually finished second in the SEC in sacks allowed in 2012 with 18. However, in the loss to Louisiana-Monroe, quarterback Tyler Wilson was knocked around in the first half and eventually didn't return in the second half after suffering a concussion.

Louisiana-Monroe vs. Arkansas highlights

Arkansas was up 21-7 at that point, but collapsed in the second half. The Razorbacks lost their next three games and the promising 2012 season was over almost before it started.

Arkansas' inability to protect the quarterback wasn't due to Petrino's absence, it was one of the primary reason's Petrino's teams could never break through the glass ceiling when he was there.

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino

The Razorbacks also struggled on defense in 2012, finishing 12th in the SEC in total defense after giving up 409.9 yards per game. This was par for the course for the current Razorback program, as the Hogs finished 12th in the SEC in total defense twice during Petrino's time in Fayetteville and ninth once.

Petrino is wrong in saying that they didn't play the way they played before. With respect to pass protection and defense, they played pretty much the exact way they played before—which was a big part of the problem.

Don't get me wrong, the events of last spring certainly weighed on the players and coaching staff and Petrino's play-calling certainly would have helped the Hogs in 2012.

But let's get past the idea that all of this falls on Petrino's absence and the presence of John L. Smith on the sidelines, because a lot of the issues that faced the 2012 Razorbacks were the same issues Petrino struggled with during his time in Fayetteville.

Arkansas wasn't as good as it was cracked up to be in 2012, and Petrino's absence only played a small part of its downfall.

 

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