This could have been the biggest upset on the year in college football, and because Arkansas is the emergence on turf, as a beautiful story in the game, an upset was brewing. So now, as quickly as the Razorbacks had the top-ranked team in the nation, the dark horses fall out of bowl contention when all Arkansas needed was a thrilling win over Alabama.
And so it ends with a surprise, although it really wasn’t a surprise to watch the Razorbacks fall. During kickoff, the lively crowd was electric and believed that every conceivable element, from a high-powered offense to the rifle-armed pocket passer Ryan Mallett to a frenzy erupting early in the venue to the strong confidence, were well-equipped to stun Nick Saban and Alabama. If nothing else, the Razorbacks are the social consciousness in a town, where the masses occupy a craze on Saturdays and traditionally admire a sport we truly idolize.
This might have been, in sense, the game Arkansas needed to win in order to protect its national title bid and be proclaimed as prime contenders. The delusional belief almost happened with the mania increasingly rising in Fayetteville, where rabid supporters wearing seas of red were rambunctious on the opening drive, of course, coming on the first play when Mallett corralled a high snap and hurled a 31-yard pass to Jairus Wright.
Had it not been for Alabama’s blown assignment on defense that allowed Mallett to follow with a 43-yard touchdown pass to Ronnie Wingo Jr., then Arkansas would have had a harder task scoring on the first drive. It turns out, the Razorbacks are immensely talented, but couldn’t survive in the end to cap arguably the most dazzling upset, as Alabama survived a 24-20 win. It was a bit shocking that Wingo raced out of the backfield uncovered and untouched on an eye-opening drive to boost momentum.
By halftime, Mallett had his team in position to pull off the improbable and delight a record home crowd of 76,808. The atmosphere was solemn and tense, until the impressive drive materialized and forced the spiritual crowd to wildly erupt. The startling notion of the Razorbacks possibly winning, simply felt rational and believable. In the case of the uncertainty and prodigy, it figured that the Razorbacks were capable of smearing ‘Bama’s national title hopes, it figured that they were mentally built to disrupt the mindsets of a dominant football program, and it figured that they were poise to encounter a challenging matchup.
The problem isn’t what happened, though. The problem is that the Razorbacks had the Crimson Tide. The fact is, Ar-Kansas almost secured a win and stayed unbeaten in a way to mount into bowl contention. For now, however, the nation is already convinced Mallett is a frontrunner in the Heisman campaign, a favorable candidate by judging his powerful arm and his ability to lead a high-powered offense. Even though he has the components of franchise quarterback, even though he is the factor on why the Razorbacks are a compelling team, and even though he is NFL-ready, he still has flaws for his inconsistent throwing mechanics.
And clearly, his miscues so badly cost Arkansas a chance of mounting into the BCS picture on a night the state was initially ready to launch a party into the wee hours. It has been since 1969 for which fans have waited for a game with plenty of implications, and a pivotal showdown so immense. At last, the Razorbacks had a shot a of redemption with a 13 point lead in the second half, but all of the sudden, turned complacent and stumbled in the middle of an onslaught against a composed and balanced Crimson Tide. So, he wasn’t exactly flawless, but almost led the team to a triumphant moment and honestly almost heightened his Heisman status.
There was plenty on the line in this contest, with much to prove as a redemptive tale almost wrote a gratifying ending, but he faltered with much at stake. Just like that, he gaffed of what might have been his sweetest win in his collegiate career. With all this, he is still one of the most admirable quarterbacks in the game today, if not the greatest with his incredible arm strength and athleticism. In the end, Arkansas blew a 20-7 third-quarter lead, to painfully doom an optimistic program and leave a large population disappointed.
In the end, he unraveled and gently committed miscues, happening at a moment when he is projected to be a top pick in the draft, and happening at a moment when the Razorbacks were elite in the SEC, evidently tough enough to send Alabama home teary-eyed, depraved of sustaining back-to-back joy. Much to the chagrin of disillusioned fans, the Razorbacks weren’t able to survive a sizable comeback as moments became painful and excruciating.
The dream of becoming BCS elite faded out of the equation in a game that was supposed to regard a stable program with tremendous talent. Undoubtedly, this was the biggest game in history, just as much as it was the biggest letdown. On his aerial blunders, he overthrew his intended receiver for an interception that lead to two interceptions, and doomed the state of a revival football program. For a moment there, it looked as if the game plan Arkansas had exploited would benefit in their favor.
Even if he threw for 250 yards, he fell short and was eclipsed by the Tides’ brutal rushing attack of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. See, in the first half, Alabama abandoned its running game and showcased aerial deficiencies. The rare blemishes of turnovers were costly for the Tide. It was a rarity to see Gregg McElroy have first-half miscues, throwing picks on consecutive first-half possessions that gave Arkansas decent field position to gain a 17-7 lead.
But the brand of Alabama is the lethal running game, a clear understatement and underestimating trend. The savoir on a day it seemed the Tide were vulnerable of a collapse was Ingram. Clearly, he had a 54-yard first-half run touchdown run and stiff-armed two defenders down the sideline, and ran for a remarkable 157 yards on 24 carries. His dynamic duo, Richardson, compiled 85 yards on just eight touches. But he had the highlight play of the game, when Alabama picked off Mallett to take over at the 12-yard line.
Losing so agonizingly is a heartbreaker for a state that has been waiting for overjoyed moments and dazzling endings. This was very stunning and upsetting to Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, who had his players prepared for a defining game. This was a major blow to an entire state and town.
This one will hurt for a while.