Hogs' best and worst 

With the regular season now in the rear view for Arkansas, this week's Pearls is about living in the recent past. Grant me this one chance to do the canned "season in retrospect" routine, and I shall reward thee with sporadically amusing observations and possibly one more potshot at the deposed Ole Miss coach!

BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER: From year to year, so long as Bobby Petrino remains head coach, this will be an accolade flush with candidates. For this columnist, though, the selection of Jarius Wright comes without hesitation. Wright was absent from the Troy game due to injury, and the Hogs accordingly floundered in the second half of what should have been a rout. It was his record-setting effort against Texas A&M that rescued this team for good, his clutch scoring grab against Vandy that settled the Hogs by halftime and his long TD catch against South Carolina that turned that game permanently. The senior from Warren is a viable NFL talent for three reasons: blazing speed, precise routes, and a devil-may-care willingness to endanger his modest frame as a crossing receiver and run blocker.

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Harder call, to be sure, and this may draw a few barbs, but nobody was more quietly efficient than Eric Bennett. The sophomore from Oklahoma was the lone genuinely consistent element in the secondary, a reliable tackler who emerged as reliable in coverage as well as run support. His three interceptions were second on the team, two of them being decisive, mood-altering plays in unsteady wins against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. Apologies to seniors Jerry Franklin and Jake Bequette, both of whom had princely moments throughout the year, but Bennett was an unexpected anchor in a particularly maligned backfield.

BEST SPECIAL TEAMER: Joe Adams muffed a couple of punts. I'm not holding that against him, nor do thousands of YouTube commenters, all of whom are erudite and eloquent, natch.

BEST MOMENT: It would accordingly be illogical to deny Adams' instantly legendary return against Tennessee this nod, but when Broderick Green, thought to be lost for the year, came back against Texas A&M and punctuated a rousing comeback with a short TD run, it gave both the player and the team sweet redemption.

WORST MOMENT: Off the field, no question that Garrett Uekman's passing applied harsh brakes to the Hogs' November surge; on the field, Ole Miss' late recovery of an onside kick, largely enabled by the hands team standing in admiration of the fluttering oblong ball, had the conference's historically inept bottom-feeders envisioning an upset until Bennett snatched away Randall Mackey's final heave.

BEST GAME: All facets clicked in the Razorbacks' 44-17 dismantling of Mississippi State in the prelude to the ill-fated LSU contest. But for an early Tyler Wilson fumble and a throwaway score at the end, Arkansas so thoroughly embarrassed the Bulldogs that Dan Mullen called it the worst game his team has played in his three years as MSU's lead-visor-overseeing-bad-quarterbacks.

WORST GAME: It is all too tempting to cite the Ole Miss debacle here, but a win is a win, even if achieved at the expense of the coaching fraternity's version of Lewis Skolnick and the rest of the TriLambs. The worst game, rather, was the 38-14 loss to Alabama, which had all the earmarks of a common collapse, namely a rare mental lapse by Petrino when he failed to call timeout early on a fake field goal alignment and some woeful tackling on Marquis Maze's long punt return. The entire game film should have been produced by Irwin Allen.

BEST NUMBERS: Dennis Johnson averaged an astonishing 9.6 yards per touch this year and over 130 all-purpose yards per contest; Wilson's 22-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio is a close second, and combined with Ryan Mallett's final stats the prior two seasons, Arkansas starting quarterbacks have chucked 84 TDs while throwing only 25 picks since 2009.

WORST NUMBERS: The Hogs amassed only 64 yards rushing total in their two losses, and had only 49 minutes of aggregate possession time against LSU and Alabama. To tip this present balance of power in the SEC, Arkansas must exercise dominion over the clock. This will, in turn, cause helpless and frazzled wives of opposing coordinators to wax unhinged on weekly religious programs.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO: First 11-win season and year-end Top 5 ranking since 1977-78. Recruits come from far and wide to immerse themselves in the rebirth. John Daly hangs out on the sideline more. Concession stands at Reynolds Razorback Stadium begin offering beef tenderloin and lump crab cocktail. Jim Robken comes back to lead the band. Tusk will be allowed to run loose on the field and will make out with a female sideline reporter...

You know, I'm getting ahead of myself. Robken ain't coming back.


Speaking of...

  • The midday round-up

    December 3, 2012
    Tyler Wilson signs with a high-powered agent. The Ark. Legislative Black Caucus names a leader. State Repubs. name their leaders. And a former Hendrix student continues to get pub for encouraging young people to NOT go to college. /more/
  • Play Brandon Allen

    November 14, 2012
    The distinction between these Razorback footballers and those from a season ago isn't as disparate as the records (9-1 through 10 games last year, 4-6 this time) might indicate. /more/
  • Razorbacks Midseason review

    October 24, 2012
    We've nudged a bit past the true midpoint of 2012, but on the heels of an idle weekend and with a slate of still-meaningful games ahead, Pearls looks back, then looks forward in its quasi-traditional and moderately derisive midseason review. /more/
  • Bad time for a bye week for Hogs

    October 17, 2012
    Leave it to the talented, tormented Razorbacks of 2012 to play their most complete game of the entire season to date in a game that was incomplete. /more/
  • A glimmer of hope for Hogs

    October 10, 2012
    A few happy hours on the ol' Plains at Jordan-Hare Stadium doesn't really constitute a fix, but as Pearls dabbles in crude psychobabble, let's not discount what a 17-point road win in the SEC can mean. /more/
  • Tuesday night line

    October 9, 2012
    Over to you. Finishing up: * HOG QB IN WRECK, BUT UNINJURED: Razorback quarterback Tyler Wilson's vehicle was rear-ended on I-540 this morning, but he was practicing by afternoon. /more/
  • Unfair for Wilson

    October 3, 2012
    Friends and colleagues of mine continually assume that this post-apocalyptic string of Pearls is an escalating challenge from week to week. "Man, how are you going to write about THAT?!" is the general inquiry after another chapter of Razorback futility in 2012 is written. It will occasionally be delivered with any number of colorful modifiers. /more/
  • Solidly second tier

    September 19, 2012
    Nobody was delusional enough to think that a reeling Arkansas team would be able to summon any kind of miracle when the reigning titans of college football came calling last Saturday. When Tyler Wilson donned a headset instead of a helmet just before kickoff against Alabama, the die was cast. /more/
  • Worst loss ever

    September 12, 2012
    All the spillage of words this week won't change what happened, but it'll damn sure be cathartic. /more/
  • Sunday night line

    September 9, 2012
    The line is open. A few items of note: * RAZORBACK INJURY REPORT: From the UA Athletic Department: FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The following statement regarding injuries is from University of Arkansas football head coach John L. Smith: “Tevin Mitchel suffered an injury above the shoulders. /more/
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