Favorite

Hogs take the judicious path 

Auburn -- not so much.

Another businesslike, 38-14 drubbing. Another game where the victor exposed the vanquished as one-dimensional. Another demonstration of Arkansas's place in the SEC pecking order.

Mere 14 days earlier, it was Alabama giving the Razorbacks a discourteous reminder of which program holds supreme jurisdiction when these alleged power struggles are being waged. The beating was methodical and metered, not unrepentantly violent. After a spirit-killing interception late in the first half, the Razorbacks still only trailed the Tide 17-7 at halftime, and had possession coming out of the locker room. The scene grew progressively bleaker from there.

Before 74,000-plus at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday, the Hogs purged that woeful September yin in favor of October yang, replicating Bama's model and flipping the scoreboard their way. They did so against an Auburn team that isn't quite the same without Cecil Newton's personified collection plate at the helm. The Tigers scarcely resemble defending national champions in ways beyond the mere dearth of a Heisman Trophy winner, though. This team lacks an identity and will accordingly settle into that intermediate strata of the conference with which Arkansas fans are frustratingly well acquainted.

What Razorback fans hopefully recognize now is that this upward climb is more satisfying than some rickety, one-legged speed-skate that may or may not be imperiled by investigations or sanctions. Auburn won a national title, sure. Arkansas fans yearn for that and feel it is an attainable goal. The question is whether we take the autobahn and all its attendant risks, or if we are willing to travel a more judicious path. An examination of the three most recent football seasons gives a rather stark answer.

In 2009, both Arkansas and Auburn finished 8-5 and 3-5 in the SEC in what could fairly be characterized as rebuilding campaigns. The Razorbacks surged to the end by winning five of their last six, with the loss being in overtime at Baton Rouge. Arkansas bounced Auburn from the ranks of the unbeaten in October with a commanding 44-23 home win, and Auburn proceeded to stumble to four losses in its next six games.

Auburn then welcomed Cam Newton last season and promptly ran the table, but Arkansas also took meaningful steps forward by winning 10 games and claiming a spot in the Sugar Bowl. The Tigers' march to the championship was controversy-addled due to the well-known allegations concerning Newton being openly prostituted to Mississippi State by his father (and per most sources, the investigation is anything but concluded). The Razorbacks' closest brush with scandal was ancillary: Ohio State's narrow Sugar Bowl win was vacated after tat-gate.

Now it's 2011 and after another comfortable victory over the Tigers, Bobby Petrino is 3-1 against the school that once surreptitiously wooed him. All three wins have come against Auburn teams that were ranked in the Top 25 at the time. This version of the Tigers is out of sorts, scrambling for competent quarterbacking, its defense backsliding further from the Tuberville days when it ranged from respectable to formidable. The Tigers' current head coach, mawkish and smug to a degree that even Steve Spurrier would find distasteful, keeps stoking the NCAA's fire in the interim, seemingly more devoted to defending his crown through posturing than actual coaching.

Meanwhile in this corner of the universe, Tyler Wilson is calmly completing 18 straight passes and playing error-free football. Joe Adams is darting out of the backfield for the second-longest run in university history. Greg Childs is making important catches in traffic. Jerry Franklin and Alonzo Highsmith are breaking into the backfield to snuff out runs. Tramain Thomas is stepping into throwing lanes. And again, Bobby Petrino is sporting that wry grin.

Saturday's victory represented Arkansas at its confident, polished best, and revealed an opponent that alternately crests and troughs from week to week. Auburn started fast, as Texas A&M did, but wound up punting on six of its second-half possessions and chucking three interceptions. If passes from Barrett Trotter or Kiehl Frazier were on target — and that was rare — then the receivers or backs frequently mishandled them. The yardage that Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb gained was largely inconsequential from the first quarter forward. The Hogs dominated the Tigers in much the same way they were manhandled in Tuscaloosa, giving a balanced effort on offense and on the other side, responding well to Willy Robinson's exhortations to finish tackles.

So forgive me if I enjoy this consistency. We do not have the brass ring yet, but this formula may mean that we don't have to tithe in excess for it.

Favorite

Speaking of Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn University

  • Tourney time

    March 16, 2017
    Selection Sunday hasn't been a meaningful day very often in recent years for Arkansas. Over the span of a decade, the Hogs knew they were safely within the expanded 68-team field only three times. /more/
  • Hogs going dancing

    March 9, 2017
    Even in a week where a modest winning streak went by the wayside at Gainesville, Arkansas authored one more earnest surge toward an NCAA Tournament berth that not long ago seemed beyond its grasp. /more/
  • Momentum

    February 23, 2017
    Sure, I'd like to think that Pearls About Swine, that modest batch of haphazard prose, had something to do with motivating Arkansas's beleaguered basketball program to rise from a seemingly inestimable late-season swoon to re-emerge in the NCAA Tournament discussion. /more/
  • Critical stretch

    January 19, 2017
    The minute you take a shine to an Arkansas Razorback team is almost assuredly the same minute you have your sanity tested. /more/
  • Solidly second tier

    January 12, 2017
    It only makes sense that in this numbing era of Razorback slip-and-falls, the Hogs could really put vaunted Kentucky to the test at Rupp Arena for a good 30 minutes of action ... and end up losing by 26 points. /more/
  • Changes needed

    January 5, 2017
    Those who have read this column with some degree of regularity know that I've held fast to the belief that Bret Bielema can and will revive the Arkansas football program. /more/
  • Belk bowling, b-ball

    December 8, 2016
    Before Pearls breaks its brief silent treatment about Razorback basketball's latest bid to shake off listless irrelevance, we'll spend a word or two on the Belk Bowl, where the football team draws a Dec. 29 matchup with Virginia Tech in Charlotte. /more/
  • Woeful

    December 1, 2016
    On Thanksgiving night, Bret Bielema could settle into his bed knowing that after a rather miserable 2013 inauguration, he had slipped comfortably into his job and the results were bearing some small but edible fruits for this ravenous fan base. He was only 25-24, but 18-10 with two bowl wins over his last 28 contests, a smattering of takedowns of ranked teams, and a stabilized roster that showed off the staff's endeavors to enlist and develop a caliber of player that would lead to better days ahead in a rugged conference. /more/
  • Williams shines

    November 24, 2016
    Alternating wins and losses has been the pattern behavior of Arkansas's 2016 season as it draws to its terminus. So after the Hogs gave their most listless and disappointing home effort in a good while against LSU, why wouldn't they just explode all over the cowbell-clanging din in Starkville the next time out? /more/
  • Deflated

    November 17, 2016
    Foolish consistency, per Emerson, is the hobgoblin of little minds. What commentary he would've offered about the Arkansas Razorbacks' 10 weeks of wild inconsistency is for debate, but he might've been more profane than pithy if he had to sit through this madness. /more/
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • Foul play

    This beautiful little ride couldn't have just ended conventionally. That's not the Razorback way.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • Tourney time

    Selection Sunday hasn't been a meaningful day very often in recent years for Arkansas. Over the span of a decade, the Hogs knew they were safely within the expanded 68-team field only three times.
    • Mar 16, 2017
  • Hogs going dancing

    Even in a week where a modest winning streak went by the wayside at Gainesville, Arkansas authored one more earnest surge toward an NCAA Tournament berth that not long ago seemed beyond its grasp.
    • Mar 9, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • Foul play

    This beautiful little ride couldn't have just ended conventionally. That's not the Razorback way.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • Tourney time

    Selection Sunday hasn't been a meaningful day very often in recent years for Arkansas. Over the span of a decade, the Hogs knew they were safely within the expanded 68-team field only three times.
    • Mar 16, 2017
  • Hogs going dancing

    Even in a week where a modest winning streak went by the wayside at Gainesville, Arkansas authored one more earnest surge toward an NCAA Tournament berth that not long ago seemed beyond its grasp.
    • Mar 9, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Arkansas is the perfect place to try out this new health trend. Read all about the what, why, where and how here.

Event Calendar

« »

March

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • The Savage truth

    Talking Feynman and failure with science champion Adam Savage.
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation