Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE
Breaking down the Surrender in Starkville. Opinion and analysis of the penultimate game of the 2012 season.
Sweet Lord o' Mercy, this runaway train is finally running out of track.
The plan for Saturday was to watch Arkansas play Mississippi State, and then visit some friends who happen to be Tennessee fans and cheer on the Volunteers against Vanderbilt. History would dictate that this would be a pleasant experience, with Arkansas and Tennessee both earning a victory, while empirical evidence from this season would indicate that it indeed might not be so pleasant after all. Even with that said, however, I was completely unprepared for watching almost the same pathetic events play out twice in one day.
It was almost surreal watching Tennessee come out and compete, grab a second quarter lead, head to halftime trailing but certainly not out of the game, and then completely self-destruct in the third quarter, leading to a fourth quarter where most invested parties chose to search on Twitter for news of Jon Gruden being named head coach on Sunday.
...almost EXACTLY the way the Arkansas game played out!
I'm here to discuss the Razorbacks, however, and pisspoor as it was, there was at least some sort of a contest held yesterday inside Davis Wade Stadium. Let's get to it.
Success early. Arkansas found the endzone on its first two drives. The Razorbacks moved the ball with an effective mix of runs and passes. Tyler Wilson found Cobi Hamilton five times, including a 30-yard strike that gave Hamilton his first touchdown of the season in SEC play. Wilson had only one incompletion over the first two series as the Hogs took a 14-7 lead.
And then... Punt. Punt. Punt. Interception. Punt. Turnover on Downs. Fumble. Fumble. Interception. Punt. End of game.
Paul Petrino had no idea what to do after his scripted plays had run out. The third drive featured Knile Davis running four times during a six play drive. Tyler Wilson was, I believe, 11-12 at this point with two touchdown passes. Suddenly the great mix of crosses, flat passes, and strikes up the field were replaced with ill-advised passes to the boundaries, stubborn rushes straight into a waiting defense, and mental breakdown after mental breakdown, resulting in seven penalties in the second quarter alone.
And at that point it was pretty much all over but the crying. I don't even remember much about the second half. Just bits and pieces, fragments of a play here or there. Tyler Wilson throwing off his back foot. Throwing side-armed. Tucking and running for a first down and voluntarily going down a yard before the line-to-reach. Fumbles. Interceptions. John L. putting the microphone on his headset up, and then pulling it down. Then back up. Aaaand down. More fumbles. My two-year old son pisses his pants. I think about joining him. Seems like the theme for the day.
What I did NOT see was Brandon Allen. This is inexcusable. I have been a big supporter of Paul Petrino's talents. I have defended his worth even during this craptastic season, but I am absolutely fed up with his behavior regarding the future of this program. Tyler Wilson has done everything asked of him and beyond this season, and has taken on the responsibility of being a leader when it seems nobody else, including the coaching staff, has been willing to step up. That doesn't give him the right to dictate his playing time. It doesn't give him the right to go out on his terms. There are players on this team that are going to be playing next year, when Wilson and Smith and Petrino are all gone. Getting them experience in meaningful situations is the ONLY POSITIVE that can be taken from this season, and everyone involved is just pissing that opportunity away. I said it last week when Wilson played every snap, and I'm saying it again after Allen got to play 30 freaking seconds. That's bush league bullshit. Major bullshit, and I hope it follows Petrino wherever he goes.
At least Paul Haynes seems to somewhat get it. Or maybe (probably?) he doesn't and he just doesn't have an option due to depth. Regardless, he gets credit for getting his young guys into the mix and getting them experience that will pay off next season and the seasons after. Youngsters made most of the tackles against the Bulldogs yesterday, and while it was ugly, it's still serving the purpose of getting that learning curve out of the way. Otha Peters and Rohan Gaines were the top two tacklers yesterday. Yes, it was ugly, but those guys are getting better. Maybe incrementally, but better nonetheless.
Of course, when you give up 45 points, the negatives far outweigh the positives. But why belabor the fact that our defense is awful? It's the same stuff every week. The same problems. The same lack of adjustments. The only thing I really had an issue with yesterday was the obvious lack of effort and focus displayed in the second half. A.J. Turner getting beat on the same exact play he was beaten on earlier in the game. Chris Smith seemingly forgetting how to defend the option, despite the great discipline he displayed defending it earlier in the same game. The Razorbacks defense just closed up shop when it had had enough, as we've seen all year.
So. One more week of this debacle. Next week LSU comes to town on the day after Thanksgiving, and though I keep telling myself to stay home, I'll be there. I'll be there to cheer on Tyler Wilson and Cobi Hamilton and Dennis Johnson and all of the other seniors for what they have given me over the past four seasons. Even though this season has been historically bad, I will still remember all of those players with fondness. They deserve to be heralded for their past accomplishments. They deserve the accolades. And then we all deserve to close the books on this season and never, EVER speak of it again.
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.