Arkansas Vs. Florida: One That Got Away and One That Was Given Away

Donald FincherAnalyst IOctober 18, 2009

GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 17: Quarterback Ryan Mallett #15 of the Arkansas Razorbacks sets to pass against the Florida Gators October 17, 2009 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

I don't want to be "that" fan.  You know him.  He's the one that wants to find someone or something to blame when their team loses.  And a common target of that blame is frequently on the refs.  I see that as weak and try very hard not to do it.

So when I see bad officiating, I usually try hard to see where it affected both teams and tell myself that the referees did a bad job but not a slanted job.  And even where I feel they might have thrown a few too many flags on one team, I don't point fingers their way if it ends up not making a difference anyway.

Having said that, I'm really at a loss as to the referee behavior in this game.  Many on BR and on message boards (for both Arkansas and Florida) are really ripping the refs over this game.  And some are even alleging the worst kind of cheating...that is conference-sanctioned cheating to keep the national championship "players" in the hunt.

This same crew worked the Georgia-LSU game and the SEC clearly admitted their mistakes for them...after the game.  At the time, before LSU lost to Florida, they were the No. 4 team and were still tracking to be one of the conference's potential national championship teams or at-large bids.

Was LSU being protected in that game after Georgia went ahead?  Many fans from schools outside the SEC think so.

Last week, when Florida played LSU, Florida scored on an obvious penalty play and wasn't called.  The refs later said they didn't "see" the play.  But most think Florida has a better shot at the national title game than LSU did.  Was Florida being aided by the refs?  You be the judge.

But today, it's hard to argue against the impression that the stripes simply took matters into their own hands to ensure a Florida win.  There was the pass interference call on Broadaway in the end zone that gave Florida 15 yards of help. 

Following that, Florida got another 15 yards with an unsportsmanlike conduct call on an Arkansas player for throwing a block...and this was shown by replay to clearly have been a self-defense block as the Florida guy was gunning for him.

With the help of the crowd and the penalties, Florida ends up with first and goal and gets the score.

Then, after Arkansas gives the ball up after a missed field goal, the refs again help Florida get themselves marched down the field for the game winner.  It seemed beyond blatant.  I've got to say that I've never been more in favor of the movement that is afoot to have all referees be hired by, trained by, paid by, and scheduled by the NCAA rather than the conferences.

While I have specifically avoided going so far as to say I personally believe that the fix was in today, I would be an ineffective representative if asked to argue for the other side.

But, if the NCAA was responsible for referees, one would not have to wonder if the referees were keeping their employers happy by keeping their employer's contenders for a national title alive.  Currently, we do have to wonder.  And today did nothing to dispute those who have their suspicions.

As for Arkansas, they should have put this game away to where some bad calls would not have mattered.  Arkansas left a lot of points (or potential points) on the field.  In the late first half, the Hogs badly mismanaged the clock.

They ended up kicking a field goal on third down rather than getting to run another play from the two yard line.  Given Arkansas' red zone percentage, I like the odds of Arkansas getting another play from the two.  That was potentially four missed points.

Mallett misfired on two sure touchdown passes.  One turned into a field goal and one drive ended with a missed field goal.  So getting three points out of a potential 14 means a net 11 missed points on those two drives.

Then there was the missed field goal again at the end.  That's 18 missed points.  If Arkansas had capitalized on any of those missed opportunities, the refs would not even have been able to "fix" the outcome (if that indeed happened).

Having said that, I have to give props to Arkansas today.  Realistically, I didn't enter the game today assuming we'd be discussing whether or not Arkansas was robbed.  I was hoping it would be less than two touchdowns so as to not have a psychological backward step after getting back to back wins.

Arkansas was playing without their leading rusher and leading receiver.  However, that was somewhat negated by the fact that Florida was missing pieces on their defense as well.  But for Arkansas to play as well as they did in the Swamp without Smith and Adams was astonishing.

The defense was nothing short of great.  Defensive breakdowns occur because either the players aren't in the right places or they are in the right places but don't execute.  Arkansas had only one glaring example of being in the wrong place (the 77 yard TD pass in the third quarter), and only a couple of missed tackles.

Truthfully, Florida missed more tackles than Arkansas and I NEVER thought I'd be typing that.

Bottom line is that Arkansas won the turnover battle big time (4-0) and it wasn't carelessness on Florida's part but aggressiveness on the Razorback's part.  And if you can turn a team over like that and can't beat them, then you really don't deserve to win.  But the hogs WERE winning you say?  Well, we've covered that already.

I think Arkansas can take great pride from this game, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  Offensively, Arkansas also put more points up on Florida than anyone else has and were in position to have scored many more.  The special teams didn't allow their star kick returner to break loose one time.  Tennessee can't stop their guy Brandon James but the Hogs had no trouble with him.

Going forward, I mentioned that this marks the halfway point in the schedule and that the tougher half of the schedule is now over with.  After the way the Hogs played today, I'm convinced they CAN win all of their remaining games. 

In fact, they should  be favored in most of them.  They'll be favored for sure in the Eastern Michigan, Troy, and Mississippi State games.  And after the way they played at Florida and with everyone realizing that Ole Miss is a fraud, the Hogs should be favored there too.

The worst I see is 4-2 and more likely 5-1 out of the remaining games.  But Arkansas has already had two get away from them this year so who really knows.  One thing is for sure, it should be an interesting ride.

On a side note, Petrino is one of two coaches so far (and one of only four in the whole season provided Florida and Bama stay undefeated) that have had to face both the number one and two teams in the country. 

Given that those two teams account for two of the three Hog losses (and the other loss was to a team that was number 13 at the time), it's no doubt why many people are saying that Arkansas is the best 3-3 team in the land.  I agree with them.  And Bobby Petrino is the reason why.