The margin wasn’t as great as in the past to games, but the outcome was the same for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The Auburn Tigers defeated the Hogs, 35-17, at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. It was the Razorbacks’ sixth consecutive loss this season. Arkansas has now lost nine consecutive Southeastern Conference games, including four in 2012.
The script was as familiar as a B-movie sequel. The details and specifics have varied from game to game, but the basic plot is pretty much the same. The Razorbacks face a setback and then begin to unravel on both sides of the ball.
In some cases, the Razorbacks have been physically outmatched as against Alabama and South Carolina, but in all cases the Hogs have been complicit in their downfall. Turnovers, mental mistakes and lapses, shoddy execution and at times a lack of effort have made it easier than is should have been to beat the Razorbacks.
Often it seems like the Hogs are snakebit or at least the living embodiment of the old Hee Haw sketch in which a gaggle of hillbillies pass the jug while singing, “Gloom, despair and agony on me. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”
The Razorbacks did move the ball on Auburn. In fact, the Tigers gained just 20 more yards than the Hogs, 366 to 346. However, the Razorbacks’ consistently inconsistent play stymied themselves as much as Auburn’s defense.
It seems the Razorbacks flinch or possibly lock up at the most inopportune times. That of course is the mark of a young and inexperienced football team, but nine games deep in the season, that explanation becomes hard to swallow. Is it inexperience or is it acceptance? Losing can become a habit, just like winning.
The Razorbacks’ season boils down to three games over the next four weeks. The Razorbacks need to make the most off that time. The Hogs need to start the players that give the best chance to win, but if there is a way to allow freshmen, who aren’t redshirting, and sophomores a chance to gain some experience the next few weeks, it should be done.
Some of that is, no doubt, already happening. Freshman Brooks Ellis started at middle linebacker against the Tigers, and no doubt he made some mistakes, but hopefully they will be ones he will learn from and won’t make next season.
These past two seasons aren’t the only time the Razorbacks have struggled through tough times, but generally the Arkansas football program has found its way back to being competitive.
Stability is what the Razorbacks need more than anything, and head coach Bret Bielema’s track record at Wisconsin says he can provide that at Arkansas. How quickly, it’s just too hard to say. Next season’s schedule looks as difficult if not more so than this season’s. But that’s life in the SEC.
Bielema will need time to construct a competitive team. While few were expecting an outstanding season this year, it’s only become apparent during the last month how depleted the Razorbacks’ cupboard was.
Unfortunately recruiting top-line SEC talent isn’t as easy as going to the grocery store.