It was Tulsa. It was too close. We tried to give the game away. Whatever. It was a win. Beggars can't be choosers, and make no mistake, this is a begging season. Let's discuss some football.
First things first, a tip of the cap is certainly in order to Cobi Hamilton for breaking the single season record for receptions yesterday. With three games left in the season. That's remarkable, and the final number that Cobi posts following the LSU game will likely stand a very long time. On a highly touted team full of returning starters, Hamilton is the ONE player, singularly, that has repeatedly matched and then exceeded the high expectations placed upon him. He does it week in and week out. At times throughout his career, going all the way back to his freshman season, Hamilton has made plays that have caused me to turn to whoever was sitting next to me and remark that he might be the best player on the team. Yesterday was another one of those days. Next season I'm really going to miss watching him in a Razorback uniform.
Yesterday provided even more evidence that there is something going on with Tyler Wilson that is prohibiting him from being the same quarterback we're used to watching when he's on the field. Yes, his footwork isn't what it always has been, and yes, he's making more unsound decisions than his reputation allows for, but it just seems to me that there must be something else at work, also. He is missing passes that are gimmes for him. And missing them badly. Fifteen yard throws bouncing off the turf. Short crossing passes thrown significantly behind receivers. And seemingly every vertical pass he attempts is underthrown and underthrown badly. Of course Wilson is tough as nails as has played hurt all season long, but he's never had any real issues with his arm. Hopefully poor mechanics are to blame and Tyler can get them straightened out, but it just seems to me that it might be more than that.
If Wilson's arm IS fine, I have to wonder why Paul Petrino stubbornly refused to stretch field during the first three quarters of the football game. The flea-flicker was really the only shot I can recall us taking prior to the long pass to Cobi Hamilton that jumpstarted the Razorbacks final scoring drive. Dennis Johnson had another great game, but it seems he could have done much more damage if Arkansas could have loosened the Golden Hurricane defense up with some longer passes. They were there for the taking the entire game.
I have enjoyed watching Morgan Linton grow into a serviceable fullback since he was thrown into duty against Louisiana-Monroe, so I was surprised to see somebody else in the backfield with Dennis Johnson and Jonathan Williams for most of the day. In crunch time, however, Linton was in the game and the Hogs were able to run behind him effectively. Hard to understand why we refused to utilize him earlier.
Defensively, it felt great to finally get that Bequette-type play to get the defense off the field when it mattered most. That more than anything else is what has cost this team the wins that should have been. Yesterday the Hogs were great on third down and opportunistic at the end. Kudos. Chris Smith, Trey Flowers, and Terrell Wiliams all had solid games. Williams has shown a ton of improvement over the course of the season.
With that said, however, it's a wonder teams don't line up and throw receiver screens all the way down the field on every drive. I'm honestly not sure when we would adjust to stop it. A team could run nothing but screens and draws and pretty much march down the field unimpeded on every drive, I feel. It's maddening.
Special teams play from both teams may have made the difference in the game, although the Hogs were far from perfect. A blocked PAT is great, but how do you miss a 23-yard field goal? A 69-yard punt downed inside the five is tremendous, but a kickoff return to the five yardline should never happen. Fortunately Tulsa managed to be that much worse than even the Hogs.
It's a shame things have gone the way they have for the Razorbacks this season, if for no other reason than it has denied fans and players alike enough opportunities to bask in the afterglow of a victory. As Paul Petrino said earlier this week, it feels good when you win and it feels like crap when you lose. Regardless of the caliber of your opponent and regardless of the margin of victory or the manner in which it was attained, there are few things better than a full slate of terrific college football games to enjoy after your team has already taken care of business. That's the true beauty of the 11:21 a.m. game. Maybe the Hogs can seize the opportunity to enjoy another one of these great Saturdays next week.
Or maybe not.