2009 Arkansas Razorbacks: The Good, The Bad, And The Uga
Arkansas talk radio stations and Internet message boards have been busy since the Hogs' 52-41 loss to Georgia Saturday night. The most common comments are bemoaning the Hogs' lack of defense, many calling for the ouster of defensive coordinator Willy Robinson.
Free Willy to Razorback fans is not another sequel to the whale films of the early 90's, but a battle cry in the wake of the total meltdown in the secondary of the defense that Robinson oversees.
In the 60's film, The Graduate, a chain-smoking woman named Robinson turned to a young man in search of companionship. Willy Robinson, in the opinion of many Hog fans, needs to turn to a young man named Winston after his secondary got smoked last Saturday.
Darius Winston was a five star recruit out of West Helena, AR with offers from schools all over the nation. Young Winston, a cousin of former Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker Dennis Winston, languished on the bench as some of his older, supposedly more seasoned teammates got torched by Georgia receivers.
"Where have you gone Darius Winston, Hog Nation turns it's lonely eyes to you" to paraphrase the theme song of The Graduate.
The feeling by the coaches reportedly is that Winston is not yet ready to play, but how much worse could he have done than some of his older teammates against the Bulldogs?
As far as finding positives in the loss to Georgia, as disappointing as the loss was after having a 21-10 lead early in the second quarter, a lead that looked to be even larger after the interception of a Joe Cox pass, there are plenty.
However, most of the positives were on the offensive side of the ball. Ryan Mallett throwing to Joe Adams, Jarius Wright, Greg Childs, and DJ Williams will give the Hogs the nuclear option at any time. This potent air attack will score on every team on the schedule and give the Hogs a chance to win on most Saturdays.
The flip side of the coin is that if the Hog defense doesn't tighten up their coverage considerably, I mean as tight as UA alum Jerry Jones' facelift a few years ago, opponents will have a chance to win every week as well.
It's easy to figure out the good part of the equation, the passing game. Fans should be happy about that after years of grinding offenses.
The run defense was pretty good, but had a lapse, allowing an 80 yard run for a touchdown. That can't continue to happen in SEC play for the Hogs to win.
The Hog special teams were decent, the only major advantage Georgia had was the punting of Drew Butler. In one sequence, Butler boomed a 64 yarder to the nine yard line, then the Hogs' Dylan Breeding returned a 29 yarder, a 35 yard loss in the exchange.
The bad was just as obvious. While Georgia's defense was gouged for 408 yards and five touchdown passes, Ryan Mallett was throwing with such precision the first three quarters and the receivers were laying out making such spectacular catches, there aren't too many defenses that could have stopped the Hogs.
Georgia's defense switched to rushing three and covering with eight and got the Hogs offense under control. The Hogs' defense, on the other hand, never had an answer for what had been an unspectacular offense in the two previous games.
The uga, or ugly, was the yellow laundry all over the field the entire game on both teams. The officials were likely icing down their arms after throwing all those flags.
Seventy-eight of the Hogs' 100 yards in penalties came in the second quarter, 45 on a trio of unsportsmanlike conduct calls in one drive. Not that they were necessarily bad calls, understand.
But the ejection of UA linebacker Jerry Franklin for drawing two of the flags was critical for the Hogs as Franklin is the best backer in coverage the Hogs have. His replacement got burned for at least one of the long touchdowns by the Georgia tight ends. Franklin must learn to control his emotions better than he did and avoid situations like that in the future.
I certainly don't believe in "moral victories," but believe that there are a few things for Hog fans to be happy about. Mainly the passing attack, although the offense through two games is heavily tilted in favor of the pass.
In my opinion, the running game must improve to balance the offense, not only to keep defenses honest and protect Ryan Mallett, but to keep the shaky pass defense off the field.
As far as fan expectations, the jury is still out on the Hogs. Some fans will abandon ship after a loss, look at Auburn's record and consider that another loss, but it's way too early to concede anything yet.
Some fans have soured on big back Broderick Green already, but Earl Campbell in his prime couldn't run over three-four linemen and linebackers waiting at the line of scrimmage.
A big loss to 'Bama will have some Hog fans humming the Green Day tune "Wake Me Up When September Ends," but the schedule doesn't get much easier in October and November.
This Saturday's game at Alabama would be a major upset if the Hogs' were to win, but anyone who was paying attention should have known that before the Georgia game.
'Bama just may be the best team in the country right now, in my opinion they are, but don't look for Bobby Petrino to try to shorten the game ala Lane Kiffin at Florida, keeping it close and trying to get a break at the end.
Petrino will have the Hogs taking their shots down the field and even though the Hogs could lose by a larger margin if it backfires, the team will be better for it in the long run.
No one expects the Hogs to beat 'Bama, I certainly won't be making any bets, but I would rather lose taking my best shot than playing rope-a-dope for 60 minutes.
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