What’s left to say at this point?
I’m drawn back to a piece Danny West wrote from Fayetteville in the wake of the University of Arkansas’ loss to Louisiana-Monroe.
The points he made at that time rang even more true after the Razorbacks were humiliated by Alabama.
To wit: “So how did this happen? Simple. Arkansas wasn’t prepared, and it wasn’t prepared because Bobby Petrino wasn’t the one directing practice all week, the week before and the four weeks before that.
“I remember one day during two-a-days when John L. had the marching band come down to the intramural fields to greet the players with the fight song as they ran off the bus. Cute. But cute doesn’t win.
“I remember another time, at media day, when media members didn’t receive a card with a list of our interviews, or even a chair to sit in while interviewing the players inside the Broyles Center. Those were small things that we had always received.
“Trey (Biddy) told me then, ‘I just have a bad feeling that the small things, the attention to detail, has left now that Bobby’s no longer in charge. Everyone’s just a little too nice around here right now.’
“Another time at practice, one of the assistant coaches had to wait for the ball boy to run and get a bag of footballs before practice could resume. Think those things would have happened under Bobby Petrino? Not a chance, and I’d pray for the poor soul who was responsible if they did happen. The man had everything under control at all times. No distractions, 100 percent focus on every small detail.”
Yes, the little things matter.
The man I considered my football guru, the late Buddy Benson, always said, “There’s a fine line between a winner and a loser.”
Obviously, the little things aren’t being taken care of in Fayetteville.
Of course, Petrino had to go. In my mind, that’s not even open to debate. As I noted last week on the Southern Fried blog, we should have understood coming in that this is a season to survive, not a season to savor.
Too many of us bought into the preseason hype. Even a Petrino-led team would have been challenged by the lack of talent on the Razorback defense.
The out-of-state correspondent I quoted last week — who has followed the Hogs since birth — checked in again this week.
“Disgust with the current coaching staff should be tempered somewhat by pity for the players,” he wrote. “Tyler Wilson was right. Many did seem to quit against Bama. But it’s almost forgivable, given the bill of goods sold these kids. They came to play for a whole other program and were then subjected not to a more typical, comes-with-the-territory coaching change — an adios for a better job — but a shock to the system.
“Imagine: The man they respected/feared/trusted, the coach any young player would naturally want to please in that father-son way of coach-player, the man who was The Man embarrassed the hell out of himself and them.
“Most kids that age hunger for adult leadership and a sense of authority even as they think they want to revolt against it. When the authority disappears, they are lost. These players had to witness the public humiliation of their authority figure. How do you get past that quickly?
“Talk of an SEC title? Whispers of a national championship run? A Top 10 ranking? That’s a lot of pressure for a crew suddenly steering without a rudder. Throw in a head coach who is the polar opposite of the offensive genius and disciplinarian they came to play for, and who was surely found out within weeks of his hire as an empty headset, and combine that with a staff loyal mainly to future employment . . .”
His conclusion? It’s a sad time to be a Razorback player.
“I feel sorry for them,” he writes. “Their heads are spinning already from a crazy offseason, just months removed from all that. Now they find themselves being bludgeoned by Alabama on national television without their best player/coach on the field and with knowledge that little help will arrive from the sidelines. Having played on teams that were poorly coached, I can attest to that feeling of being lost at sea and on your own out there. It ain’t fun.”
No, it isn’t.
So where does the Arkansas program go from here?
Our correspondent writes: “The state’s inferiority complex — let’s be honest, we have one — will now manifest itself in outrage and anger, demand for something being done yesterday. Like firing the lot of them on The Hill, starting with Jeff Long and ending with the water boy. But all that would accomplish is scaring off potential head coaches. Who would want to work for an athletic director who is so easily bullied by the fans?
“The best thing Long can do long term is nothing in the short term. He has made his stand for principle. Like it or not, you have to admire him for it. The alternative would have been so much easier and, by now, excused and accepted by a majority of the fan base and a sports culture that understands that victories rule all.
“This won’t be easy, but Long has to suffer through this. It’s his Passion. In the meantime, he could busy himself with ignoring what’s happening on the field and concentrate on securing the money to afford a head coach, the man who can and would clean up this mess and turn it around quickly. Because, as bad as things look now, the right head coach can make a difference. That we know.”
We were 6-1 on the picks last week, making us 22-3 on the season.
Let’s move on to the picks for Week 4:
Arkansas 24, Rutgers 23 — I’m not sure why I’m doing this. I guess I think, as I write this, that Tyler Wilson will play. Without Wilson’s leadership on the field, Arkansas will be lucky to make it to a bowl game. There’s some athletic talent on this Razorback team, but I wonder how much heart there is after watching key players quit on the field during last week’s second half.
Arkansas State 42, Alcorn State 10 — After trips to Oregon and Nebraska, the Red Wolves get a well-deserved break when Alcorn State comes calling from the SWAC. The Arkansas State defense is still showing its youth. Remember, it returned just three starters from last year. Bo Pellini wasn’t on the sideline during the second half of last week’s game with the Huskers, but it didn’t matter as Nebraska coasted to victory. The Red Wolves finished the game with 286 yards of offense, but just 89 yards of that came in the second half of the 42-13 loss. Alcorn State is 1-2 following a 24-6 loss to UAPB.
Alabama State 21, UAPB 19 — The Golden Lions go to Montgomery, Ala., for a Thursday night game that a national television audience will be able to watch on ESPNU. The Golden Lions moved to 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the SWAC with their win over Alcorn State. Ben Anderson ran for a touchdown and passed for another in that game. Alabama State lost its opener, 38-28, to Bethune-Cookman in a game played at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando but has since come back with victories of 29-7 over Mississippi Valley State and 19-18 over Grambling. We’ll go with the home team in a tight game.
UCA 31, Sam Houston State 28 — The Bears picked on an NAIA school, Bacone College out of Oklahoma, in Conway last week. UCA is 2-1 after that 70-3 victory. Things get much tougher this week as Southland Conference play begins before a home crowd in Conway and a regional television audience. Sam Houston State is 1-1, opening the season at home with a 54-7 win over Incarnate Word out of San Antonio and following that victory with a 48-23 loss to Baylor in Waco.
Henderson 49, Southeastern Oklahoma 29 — The 3-0 Reddies, now ranked No. 24 nationally in NCAA Division II, are on a roll. The Reddies, who are off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 1981, went on the road last Saturday and destroyed Arkansas Tech, 73-34. Henderson led 56-27 at halftime — the most points ever scored by a Henderson team in a half. The Reddies returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and never slowed down, finishing the night with 581 yards of offense. Southeastern Oklahoma is 1-1 after a 31-24 loss to Southern Arkansas in Durant. The Reddies win big yet again.
Ouachita 37, Arkansas Tech 27 — Ouachita moved up to No. 13 nationally despite an open date. The Tigers have outscored their first two opponents by a combined count of 86-3 with wins of 55-3 over Northwestern Oklahoma and 31-0 over Stillman College. Now begins a stretch of eight consecutive Saturdays of conference contests as Ouachita attempts to repeat as Great American Conference champion.
Southwestern Oklahoma 14, Southern Arkansas 13 — The Muleriders are off to a 2-0 start following victories over Texas College and Southeastern Oklahoma. Southwestern started the season with a 49-14 loss to an FCS foe, Stephen F. Austin, but came back in its conference opener to upset East Central Oklahoma, 13-10. This should be a close game in Magnolia.
Harding 59, Southern Nazarene 15 — Ouachita and Henderson are nationally ranked. Harding should be. The Bisons began the season by shocking North Alabama on the road, 31-10, and followed that up with a 52-7 victory over UAM in Monticello. Southern Nazarene has lost 63-21 to Henderson, 37-15 to East Central and 17-7 to a school out of Kansas known as Friends. The Bisons cruise to an easy victory.
East Central 30, UAM 20 — The Boll Weevils were thoroughly outclassed against Harding. East Central, picked to finish second in the GAC, will be seeking to make amends for its loss to Southwestern Oklahoma.