Favorite

Reasons for optimism for Hogs 

God-awful weather notwithstanding, last week wasn't so bad in Razorbackland.

For one thing, Bret Bielema's football staff cobbled one of those recruiting classes that seemed utterly modest until you squinted a little. What may not have been ranked among the country's elite hauls was still eminently warranting praise because, to be blunt, it addressed some dire needs and did so in the kind of context that normally makes closing on prospects a nightmare. A program coming off its worst season in the modern era, on the heels of a hellish 2012 with a short-term goon at the helm, doesn't commonly amass an incoming class meriting commendation.

Recruiting rankings are nebulous beyond description as a general rule, but at the risk of giving them credence at all, consider that programs with seven combined wins and a 13-game SEC losing skid aren't all that likely to thrive on the first Wednesday in February. For Arkansas to secure the signatures of the likes of interior monsters like Bijhon Jackson, Frank Ragnow and Brian Wallace keeps with Bielema's philosophy, but swaying guys like JoJo Robinson and Kendrick Edwards here from the state of Florida proves again that this staff will forge into challenging territory to locate playmakers.

There is, of course, the expectation that Jim Chaney will be under the edict to make the quarterback job open again this spring after Brandon Allen was perpetually underwhelming last fall. Again, critique the staff freely for some minor missteps last year, but 3-9 teams aren't just lacking in one area. Allen wasn't sharp, but he wasn't given much in the way of perimeter assistance, either. Brandon Mitchell could have accepted another conversion back to receiver but left for NC State, Mekale McKay bolted to Louisville and Demitrius Wilson tore up a knee — maybe the influx of fresh targets will give the rising junior a degree of confidence next year that he wasn't afforded in 2013, or maybe he will truly fall behind Rafe Peavey or his own brother in competition. Regardless of the outcome, there's abundant cause to believe that the most important position on the field won't again be the weakest for the Hogs this fall.

If this batch of football signees didn't get you a little feverish about fall, at least the basketball team finally showed it isn't quitting this spring. Bobby Portis gets all the credit for willing the squad to a narrow, ragged home win over an Alabama team that continues to be mysteriously awful under onetime coaching prodigy Anthony Grant. The 35-point outburst by the Little Rock Hall product was machinelike on a night when the rest of the team was a creaky mess of bricks and flatlined effort. It went in the books as a freshman record, topping Scotty Thurman's two 34-point games from 1992-93, but what it may have also done is spurred a sagging team to get its collective arse in gear. Portis fought the battle against Bama nearly alone — and I don't just mean that his 8 for 40-shooting teammates gagged out there, but also that the mid-week crowd was pitiful, too — and was at the height of his brilliance doing it. He took a total of 23 combined shots from the floor and the line, and nailed 20.

The immediate and direct evidence of that effect was on display Saturday at Vanderbilt. Against a thin Commodores team, the Hogs pushed tempo early and weathered Vandy's usual barrage of long-range missiles. Kevin Stallings has astonishingly made this a competitive team in spite of having only seven scholarship players, and they rebuffed every single surge that Arkansas made in both halves ... except the last one.

The Hogs trailed by multiple, whisper-thin margins in the waning minutes, having squandered yet another late lead, and then it once again became Rashad Madden's moment. And the junior guard found three such moments: He answered one Vandy surge with a tying three, then hit another jumper in response to Kyle Fuller's go-ahead shot for the Commodores. Finally, with about five seconds left and the Hogs down 75-74, Madden pierced the lane, elevated, and realized immediately that any bid for a shot was going to be nullified.

So he swung it out to a waiting Michael Qualls, who continued his pogo-stick season with another spring upward, elevating for a pretty 22-footer from the wing that put Arkansas in front with 2.6 seconds left. Vanderbilt got a great final look for gunner Rod Odom, but it glanced away, and there it was: a Razorback road win. It all happened so quickly and unexpectedly that it seemed fraudulent, like maybe the officials were about to hatch a cruel joke at the end about the scoring being incorrect or that someone in the Hogs' bizarro blue-grey jerseys got an obscure dead-ball technical foul for excess elation at a modern miracle.

Thus ended a few heartening, and hardly believable, days for the cardinal and white. Stick around for a few more days, because the mood can shift just like the climate.

Favorite

Speaking of...

  • 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/
  • 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/
  • After Auburn

    October 27, 2016
    I'm not one for hyperbole, but the mere mention of "56-3" changes things. /more/
  • Lessons learned

    October 20, 2016
    Picture Bret Bielema pole-vaulting for a minute. Then, once the laughter subsides, hear me out with this absurd analogy. /more/
  • UA faculty member apologizes for cursing football coach

    October 11, 2016
    The University of Arkansas faculty member who was arrested after cursing Hog football coach Bret Bielema following the Razorbacks' loss has apologized for his actions. /more/
  • On to Alabama

    October 6, 2016
    With War Memorial Stadium's mystique and alleged efficacy dying by the year, it was at least comforting to watch Arkansas finally devour a purported cupcake there. Bret Bielema boosted his Little Rock record to 2-3, with those two wins coming against Football Championship Subdivision schools, after the Hogs pummeled Alcorn State 52-10 on Saturday. /more/
  • Hogs blew it

    September 29, 2016
    Arkansas needed to beat Texas A&M. That's it. Sometimes perfunctory is poetry. /more/
  • 2-0

    September 15, 2016
    If you tuned in to ESPN Saturday night or settled into your seats at Fort Worth's compact but energetic Amon Carter Stadium, you undoubtedly felt like the impending Arkansas-TCU tilt was going to be compelling, if for no other reason because it pitted a burgeoning Big 12 power against a rising SEC program, with both having that Southwest Conference badging that went dormant a quarter-century ago. /more/
  • Soft secondary

    September 8, 2016
    Two schools of thought may well emerge after Arkansas nipped a spirited Louisiana Tech team, 21-20, in the 2016 opener Saturday. /more/
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • Belk bowling, b-ball

    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.
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • Woeful

    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.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Williams shines

    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?
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Little Rock will next week host a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems led by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • Belk bowling, b-ball

    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.
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • Woeful

    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.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Williams shines

    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?
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »

December

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

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation