Everyone Loves a Good Road Story
As a collegiate head coach, Petrino has compiled an 18-14 record in regular season away games, a winning percentage of 56%. Not stellar, although the 1-8 record in his first two seasons at Arkansas significantly tarnish the shine off the 17-6 mark he built at Louisville, where he won on the road at a 74% clip. His two stints on the surface could not be any more disparate, but there is a common thread that appears when taking a closer look at things.
In his 14 losses as a head coach at Louisville and Arkansas, Petrino lost an astounding NINE by a field goal or less. Only one of the other five losses occurred while he was at Louisville, a 45-14 defeat at the hands of South Florida that is the only real head-scratcher in the bunch. The rest of those "bad losses" came while Petrino was with the Hogs, rebuilding a depleted talent base and facing a murderous schedule. Among them, Texas destroyed the Hogs 52-10 in Austin in 2008 en route to a 12-1 season and a Fiesta Bowl victory. Last season, Alabama handled the Razorbacks 35-7 in Tuscaloosa on their way to a national championship.
Even with the murderous schedule Petrino has faced the past two seasons, he has still managed to coach his team to within a field goal more than half the time. The Hogs lost heartbreakers on the road to Kentucky and Mississippi State in 2008, and Florida and LSU in 2009, all decided by a field goal or less, and three of the four featuring missed 4th quarter game-winning or game-tying kicks by Alex Tejada. Yeouch.
Petrino lost his share of heartbreakers at Louisville, too, including overtime games to South Florida and West Virginia, and a 28-25 loss at Rutgers in 2006 that knocked the Cardinals out of their bid for a BCS National Championship. It also turned out to be their only loss on the season.
So what does all this mean? If you're a Hog fan, it means exactly what you likely have already known. That Bobby Petrino will not coach himself out of any game, but especially one in which the deck is stacked against his team with a hostile crowd and potentially less-than-impartial officiating. Far more often than not, his team will have an opportunity in the fourth quarter to either win or extend the game. And as we have heard so much, that is all you can ask for when you're on the road.
If you look at the four games on Arkansas' road schedule this season, the thing that stands out is the certainty of what the Hogs bring to the table, versus great uncertainty in each of their opponents. Georgia and Auburn are breaking in new quarterbacks. Mississippi State is searching for a replacement for the great Anthony Dixon. South Carolina is mired in controversy, and could potentially be without the services of one of the best players, tight end Weslye Saunders, for the entire season.
The Razorbacks, on the other hand, return three-quarters of last season's offensive and defensive starters, and are virtually assured of being a better team than last year, when they went 3-1 at home against this season's road slate. The odds of the Petrino getting back to his winning ways on the road seem favorable, to say the least.
As long as they don't have to kick it.
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