Sifting through pans full of negative in search of a few minute specks of positive. Sunday morning opinion and analysis of The Charlie Foxtrot in Columbia.
I didn't think it could be done, but I am pretty sure this season has brought me back. The combination of John L. Smith, putrid efforts on a weekly basis, and pre-lunch kickoffs has pulled it off.
My alcohol tolerance is back to a strength it hasn't seen since college.
Today's flavor was Old Charter and ginger ale because I'm a creature of habit, but it really doesn't matter. I've had to season myself so much to get through this shitshow of a season that I could shoot Sambuca round-for-round with Dana Holgerson and like my chances. The hangovers are even getting easier. Last week I mowed the lawn on Sunday after a 16-hour yeoman's effort with the bottle on Homecoming Saturday, and the plan for this Sunday is to rearrange furniture and go shopping for a washer and dryer.
Things are that bad.
Is it even necessary to go over the game? The Razorbacks followed their custom blueprint for how to lose a game in the most pitiful, pathetic, infuriating way possible. Seen it many times before. Crippling turnovers, including one in the red zone and another returned for a touchdown. The biggest gain of the day called back because of a freaking alignment issue. Allowing the opponent to convert on third and long and on fourth down to continue drives that resulted in touchdowns.
Some thoughts that are still with me on the day after:
Tyler Wilson's passes get less and less accurate every week. I think the world of Wilson for what he has given the program and the resiliency he has shown, but there is no longer a reason to be the stoic leader on this team. Not when the carrot of a bowl game has all but fallen off of the stick, and especially not with his performance suffering the way it is. You can see his frustration in his body language as well as his play. He's just flat out struggling.
John L. is a hopeless case, but Paul Petrino needs to recognize this and lighten the burden on Wilson some for these last two games. Tyler needs to know that his legacy will be in place regardless, and that he can come off the field for a few plays if he needs to after getting drilled into the turf yet again. Yesterday I watched him limp to the line on a critical third down play in the red zone. That shouldn't have happened. He also should not have been in on the final play of the first half, the Hail Mary that wasn't. Brandon Allen is more mobile, and right now certainly has a stronger arm. Finally, Allen should have played toward the end of the game. Allowing a battered and bruised Wilson to play every snap made absolutely no sense. It's selfishness from all parties involved, plain and simple.
I'm not sure I can watch this defense play two more games. I'm just over it. I'm tired of the same things happening week after week. Tired of begging for blitzes and then cringing when they get picked up with ease. Tired of seeing the secondary shake their heads after getting beaten for a big play yet again. Tired of watching them prance and gesticulate while down three scores after finally making a play on the ball to break up a pass. Tired of the hesitancy we habitually show while breaking down to tackle that allows opposing running backs to turn negative plays into positive ones. I'm tired of saying "Ohhhh noooo" every time I see a play-action pass developing, because YOU KNOW WE BIT WE BITE ON EVERY FREAKING ONE.
Over. All. Of. It.
Putting my mangled rose-colored glasses on and turning a blind eye to all of the bad things, I did see Otha Peters get into the fray and mix it up. I saw Trey Flowers get upfield and close on the ball carrier on numerous occasions. And I saw the young secondary I berated earlier make some plays to break up passes. Sure, they may have come after getting beaten, but at least they were able to find the ball at some point, which is definite progress from where they were at the beginning of the season.
Offensively, it's all about looking to the future. Jonathan Williams, Keon Hatcher, and Mekale McKay all had good games yesterday. Williams running style is kind of hard for me to pin down, but he obviously has great vision. He kind of shuffles his way through traffic, but at the same time he's not afraid of contact. He has the potential to do a lot of damage running off-tackle. Hatcher made a great catch for his first touchdown as a Razorback on a ball that was not Tyler Wilson's best. Earlier in the season it might have been one that our young receivers couldn't haul in. Growth.
Finally, McKay is a beast on the edge. The quick out that gives him a chance to shed one tackle and make a big play is going to be a nice arrow in our quiver for the next three years. It's been one of Cobi Hamilton's staples during his career, and it looks like McKay has been paying attention to his teammate this season. That was one play that was seemingly there all day against South Carolina, and it was strange that Paul Petrino didn't go to it more frequently. Again, it makes me wonder if something is going on with Wilson's arm.
Next week the Razorbacks will be hosted by a Mississippi State team coming off of three consecutive bad losses to highly ranked teams, and the Bulldogs will most certainly be ready to beat up on a team that has little to play for. It looks to play out as another chapter of an SEC season that is pretty redundant at this point. Another game. Another morning kickoff. Another offense looking forward to a shot of confidence.
Another week of me looking forward to a shot of anything.
Trent Wooldridge will be that guy with enough bourbon. He loves the S-E-C chant and honks because he hates Texas. He puts honey on his pizza, demands aisle seats, and sees quitting golf as more of a hobby than actually playing golf. Follow @twooldridge and track his quest to transform his two-year-old into a southpaw ace in the bigs.