Calm Down, Hog Fans: It Could Be Worse in Arkansas
It could be much worse. As a matter of fact, I'm not convinced the best team won in Fayetteville the other night.
Razorbacks fans everywhere started the complaining in the first quarter of the Western Illinois game and haven't stopped since. Instead of complaining, however, we should be thankful.
Just as the Hogs are due for a solid run at the SEC Championship every few years, they are due for a season like this one every few years, as well. And the important thing to remember is that Arkansas didn't lose to a Championship Subdivision school like it did the last time the talent pool was so depleted.
How can anyone ever forget the Vanderbilt loss in 2005?
Comparing that colossal embarrassment to the Western Illinois game should give Hogs fans a better perspective and provide encouragement for the future.
This year, just as in 2005, the talent-level of the upperclassmen is scarce.
It's been widely noted that Houston Nutt knew exactly when to get out of Fayetteville. He waited out the tenure of the greatest player ever born in the state of Arkansas, and promptly bolted with everyone's money. Everyone understood he left the cupboard bare.
Turned out we were wrong about that cupboard. He left a piping hot pile of excrement.
During the text message and Springdale mom's club fiasco after 2006, Nutt signed a recruiting class that was poor by Sunbelt Conference standards. Those guys are sophomores now. The best of the previous year's recruiting class transferred elsewhere. The headliners of the 2005 recruiting class left early for the NFL.
In 2005, a disproportionate share of the talent rested in the freshman class, as well. Darren McFadden and Felix Jones should be enough explanation for that. Further, the juniors and seniors in 2005 were recruited during the infamous NCAA sanction years. Not that SEC coaches needed much help recruiting against Arkansas, but possible bowl-bans were easy fuel for the fire.
Plenty of other parallels exist between the Vanderbilt and Western Illinois games. In 2005, Arkansas' defense was undersized and the secondary was green. This year, Arkansas' defense is undersized and the secondary is green.
Starting defensive end Adrian Davis is a linebacker. Starting middle linebacker Jerry Franklin is a safety. Starting offensive linebacker Walner Leandre is a safety. Every single backup linebacker is an undersized safety.
And by “green,” I mean terrible.
Against Vanderbilt, Arkansas started strong and finished weak. The Hogs gave up a 19-yard pass on 4th-and-10 to allow Vanderbilt to continue its winning touchdown drive.
Against Western Carolina, Arkansas started weak and finished strong. Casey Dick converted a late 4th-and-10 to set up the Hogs' winning score.
Against Vanderbilt, the two most talented freshmen on the team were inexplicably limited in their roles. McFadden and Jones had one carry each, while De'Arrius Howard had 21 carries and Peyton Hillis had 15.
Against Western Illinois, the most talented freshmen were allowed to actually impact the game. Freshmen Joe Adams and Greg Childs caught both of Arkansas' touchdown passes, and the Hogs' freshmen accounted for almost half the total receiving yards.
Adams, who scored Arkansas' first touchdown, was committed to USC this time last year.
Against Vanderbilt, Arkansas blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead and lost in the final minute. This year, the Hogs overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and won in the final minute.
After the Vanderbilt loss, my buddy smashed his neighbor's windows with a golf club. After the Western Illinois game, well, that house has thankfully been torn down since then.
ESPN and the rest of the nation were two minutes away from unleashing the “Karma's a Beast” campaign on Petrino Saturday night. Instead, the game went unmentioned on SportsCenter and most people outside Arkansas only noticed the closer-than-expected final score. The Hogs now have to figure out how to escape Little Rock with a win against Louisiana-Monroe next week.
After the Vanderbilt loss, Arkansas had to travel to Southern California the next week.
See, it could be much worse.
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