Usually bad seasons seem to linger like that funny smell you get when you haven’t paid enough attention to the leftovers in the refrigerator, but for me this college football season has whisked by.
The Arkansas Razorbacks have just two more playing dates on the schedule before the footballs are put up until spring practice. As poor of a year as it has been for the Hogs, I personally still look forward to every game, whether at home or on the road.
As much as I hate the idea of the Razorbacks losing, the idea of not following the ins and outs of each ballgame is unconscionable to me.
Next up for the Razorbacks
Opponent: at Mississippi State
When: 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 17
Where: Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville
Nov. 23 – at Missouri
I’ll grant that my attention does begin to wander when a game gets out of hand, but whether at the stadium, watching on TV, or in the past listening on the radio, I’m there until the bitter end.
Sometimes I wish I was better at just letting the game go once it’s over, but I guess a part of the fun as a fan is reliving the game by commiserating with fellow Razorback fans, looking for a silver lining, bemoaning various aspects of the game, or seeking some bit of levity about our hard-luck Hogs.
The Razorbacks are 2-8 on the season with just two opportunities left to not make history this season. The Hog play Mississippi State at 11 a.m. Saturday on ESPN and close out the year at Missouri at 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 23 when they meet the Tigers on CBS.
If the Razorbacks lose both games, the 2018-19 Razorbacks will be the first team in school history to lose 10 games in a season. It will also be the second time the Razorbacks have gone winless in the SEC since 2013.
In the grand scheme of this, such a note might not be that big of a deal.
Yeah, if it happens it will be mentioned quite a bit next summer when reporters, analysts, columnist, and commentators are proving next season. It will certainly be used by opponents in recruiting, but for most the memory will fade as the years go by.
The players won’t forget it, though. It will live with them like a bad tattoo forever or perhaps like a brand that will never go away.
I’m not sure if that type of information would motivate these Razorbacks, who have struggled to get out of their way the entire season. Part of the issue is a lack of depth, talent, and experience in first-year head coach Chad Morris’ program.
There is talent on the team, it is just making a difficult adjustment. Had Morris’ offensive philosophy been closer to what previous coach Bret Bielema’s was, this squad might be sitting on two or three more wins based on familiarity with the offense.
We likely would have seen more production in the passing game with Cole Kelley throwing from the pocket to receivers who were more in sync with their quarterback.
I’m guessing the struggles that led to the unexplainable losses to Colorado State (3-7) and North Texas (7-3) would have been less and that the Razorbacks would have won those games. Maybe in a different system, the Hogs would have picked up a win over Ole Miss or Vanderbilt or both. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered at all.
It doesn’t really matter. A coach has to be who he is and coach to his philosophy. Hopefully the growing pains experienced this season will pay off down the line.
The truth of the matter is that Morris has been a carpenter attempting to ply his trade with the tools of a plumber or an electrician. Sure, there is some crossover in the materials, but none of the workers can get the proper results without the proper tools. The same rule applies for a football coach.
When Morris was hired last December, my first thought is that he better go out and recruit a quarterback because there wasn’t one on campus that could effectively run his offense. I thought there was enough receiving talent to get by on, but after watching 10 games, we all know that was a wrong assumption.
Honestly, the Razorbacks need upgraded talent across the board. The good news is that it appears Morris and his staff are putting together a fine recruiting class, perhaps the best since national recruiting ratings began being published in the early 2000s. That type of recruiting effort year after year is what it is going to take to turn the program around.
It’s good to see Morris and his staff can recruit at a high level without the push from a good season. The recruiting efforts should only improve when the program begins to win again.
Christmas will come on Dec. 19 when those recruits can make their commitments official by signing on the dotted line. No commitment is safe until a player signs, and Arkansas will have to defend their commitments from programs who will attempt even harder to poach players once the regular season is over.
One player who possibly could alleviate Arkansas’ quarterback issues is Clemson graduate transfer Kelly Bryant who has said he will announce his college choice on Dec. 4. Bryant developed a relationship with Morris when Morris worked as Dabo Swinney’s offensive coordinator at Clemson. That seems to be in Arkansas’ favor, but schools like Auburn, Mississippi State and a half dozen others in the mix might give Bryant a better shot at actually competing for conference or even national hardware next year than Arkansas.
How much would pulling off a win over Mississippi State or Missouri help the Hogs in recruiting?
No one knows for sure, but winning never hurts.
I loved the quote from legendary former Razorback basketball coach Nolan Richardson while speaking to the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club on Wednesday that appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
“Don’t get carried away and fall in love with the fact that you came close,” Richardson said, referring to the Razorbacks’ 73-71 overtime loss to Texas in their season opener. “I mean, coming close doesn’t get you the award. You can feel like you played your best, and you can get better, and you had a chance to win that game even more than losing it in overtime. But as far as being happy? Ain’t nobody supposed to be happy when you lose.”
Richardson hit the nail on the head. Certainly, it would be unfair to dismiss the progress the Razorback football team has made from a really poor start this season, but what the Hogs’ need more than a pat on the back is a victory in one or both of these final two games. Anything less is simply failure.
Hoop Hogs host Indiana
It’s very early in the year for Mike Anderson’s inexperienced Razorback basketball team, but Richardson’s statement was aimed squarely at them.
The Razorbacks (1-1) had a victory in their hands against the Longhorns, but let it slip away.
The Hogs must respond better when they play host to Indiana at 2:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPN.
Hoosiers (3-0) come into Walton Arena hot after blasting No. 24 Marquette, 96-73, Wednesday night in Bloomington, Ind.
This is the type of game that could push the Razorbacks over the top in March when NCAA Tournament invitations are extended, if Arkansas can win. A Razorback victory would also be an early feather in the cap of the SEC. The better the NCAA Selection Committee regards the SEC based on these intersectional games, the greater the possibility for the league to receive more bids.
It may sound premature to talk about the NCAA Tournament in November, but every game counts.