The official Arkansas Expats, Inc corporate policy after a tough loss (we've had plenty of experience with this) is "onward and upward", meaning we're not going to spend too much time here gnashing our teeth over the Saturday's events. (On a personal level, I probably won't be following that policy at all, but as a good soldier I'll adhere to it in this public space.)
So, I'm going to clear out my mental notebook with a few random bullet points:
* I'm very curious about the team's mental state. In our podcast yesterday, Chris Bahn noted that he'd never seen Ryan Mallett as down as he seemed after the game (quite understandably). But how will the team react? Will this loss send them in a downward spiral, or will it be motivation to regroup and re-inspire the team for the rest of the season? Either way, the bye week comes at an absolutely perfect time.
* During the 4th quarter on Saturday I'd been working under the assumption that Alabama would make a close game of it, so when they scored to take the lead I wasn't all that surprised. But looking back on it after a couple of days we were even closer to winning than it had seemed to me at the time. All we needed were a few more first downs on that 2nd to last drive and the win would have been ours. Painful.
* Adding to the painful theme, my dad and stepmom were at the game and said that, on the play when Mallett threw his fateful final INT, Joe Adams was wide open on the other side of the field for what likely would have been an easy TD had Mallett seen him. Did anyone else in attendance notice that?
* Going into that final drive, I honestly believed we were going to pull out the last-second victory last week. I really did. If nothing else, that change in mindset must mean something...I never would have felt that way in the past.
* The sad fact is, the Hogs played well enough to beat any team in the country but one on Saturday...it just so happened that Alabama was that single team. Still goes down as a loss just like any other in the standings, though.
* It's very small consolation, but when I'm feeling particularly bad about the game I like to imagine what the Alabama coaches, players and fans must have been thinking after the Razorbacks dropped that nuclear bomb of an initial drive on them.
*was right when he said the Hogs just had to play their game, rather than give some superhuman effort, to win. Unfortunately, they had just enough sloppy execution in the wrong places (dropped passes, bad penalties, interceptions at the end, etc) to keep "their game" from happening.
* This game served as the official visit for six recruits, including all-everything 5-star WR Quinta Funderburk. I wonder what they thought?
* As heartbreaking as this game was (and it gets worse the more I think about it as all the close calls truly dawn on me), it's most definitely NOT the end of the season. The good thing is, there are still two full months left to play, and this group is still capable of putting together something special. The special teams are better, the defense is better and the offense, although flawed, can still be pretty damn spectacular. So, hang in there Hog fans - the next game will be here soon.