Sep 24, 2017
by Chase Gage
ARLINGTON, TX — The Hogs fell short in the Southwest Classic for the sixth consecutive year. Texas A&M pulled out the 50-43 win in overtime at AT&T Stadium.
“Very disappointing, the guys are crushed,” Bret Bielema (26-28 at Arkansas, 10-23 SEC) said.
Well, coach, the fans are crushed too.
Not because of the loss. We expected that. We are crushed at the lack of heart that this team has. We are crushed at the fact that we have not played well in the second half of any game going back to the Mississippi State game last season. We are crushed that we almost got a win in a game in which we didn’t deserve it. We are crushed that a win would have covered up how pitiful our team looked this weekend.
That may be a harsh take, but it is something that needs to be said. Just from watching the Razorbacks, you can see the lack of passion in their eyes. They look like they would rather be doing literally anything in the world besides playing football for Arkansas. That is the underlying problem.
The culture in Fayetteville has become one of being content with mediocrity.
The Arkansas offense looked like they had made leaps and bounds of improvement after the bye week in the first half. A targeting call and subsequent ejection of a Texas A&M player lit a spark for the Hogs on their first drive. They marched 65 yards on seven plays and punched in a touchdown. Later in the first quarter, the Hogs put together an 11-play, 82-yard drive that lasted over five minutes and resulted in a touchdown to give Arkansas a 14-7 lead. That team looked solid.
After another touchdown, the Hogs held a 21-7 lead and looked like they were in total control of the game. Texas A&M responded before the half, though, and cut the lead to 21-17 before heading to the locker room.
The second half is Arkansas’ kryptonite.
Do the Hogs make any halftime adjustments? Do they walk into the locker room and think they already have the game in the bag? Do they hold hands and sing Kumbaya? I’m not sure, but whatever they are doing, it doesn’t work.
On the first drive for Texas A&M in the second half, they took their first lead of the game. Surprisingly, Arkansas responded with their first second-half score in their last four games against an FBS opponent.
The second half was very back-and-forth and resulted in a tie. I must note, though, that Texas A&M would have likely won in regulation if not for a huge, blatantly missed call that cost the Aggies a touchdown when the official ruled a player out of bounds.
In overtime, the Hogs looked dead in the water. There was a controversial pass interference call that gave A&M a first and goal, and on the next play an Aggie wide receiver ran wide open in the left corner of the end zone and scored. The morale for the Hogs was shot.
On offense, quarterback Austin Allen had a chance to tie the game. He threw a pass that was caught in the back of the end zone, but the receiver came down out of bounds. Allen held his head in his hands and you could see the defeat in his eyes. On his next pass, he threw into triple-coverage and was picked off to end the game. The ‘leader’ of the offense responded by throwing his helmet on the ground and pouting his way off of the field.
He was not alone in terms of negative body language, as coach Bielema stood there in shock with his mouth wide open for what seemed like an hour.
That is the problem with Arkansas football. These may be small things that most people overlook, but body language can tell you more than anything if you pay attention to it.
When was the last time you saw Nick Saban do something like that? Have you ever seen Peyton Manning or Drew Brees throw their helmets on the ground? It’s not likely.
Let me reiterate something before I continue. I love the Razorbacks. I have loved them as long as I can remember. Never mistake my criticism for hate. I criticize because we shouldn’t settle for the product we are being forced to watch and love.
I don’t have the answer for the Hogs. I don’t know what we need to do to improve. I don’t know if firing Bielema will fix anything. I don’t know if anything can be fixed while Jeff Long is in control. I don’t know if anyone can fix us at this point. I don’t know who to point fingers at, thus I point them at everyone in the organization.
Razorback fans, stick together. Be united in our grief and grit your teeth until basketball season. This season is already done for, and we’ll be lucky to get a win in SEC play.
Those uniforms were sick, though.