Solidly second tier 

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.

Actually, that's not fair.

It was cast on Jan. 4, 2007. Nick Saban officially became the head coach at Alabama that day, spurning the Miami Dolphins after two middling years because he relished the challenge that wilted others: becoming Bear's true successor. Since that time, he has done everything in his power to cripple other programs, Arkansas principally. The impetus for a 52-point pasting of a once-proud team, what with its slew of proven returning assets and fleeting hopes of authoring a power shakeup after the past couple of seasons, begins and ends in the trenches. Alabama builds from the nucleus outward: linemen on both sides must be massive, agile and versatile. How many times has an All-American like Barrett Jones been shuffled around from one position to another and continued to play at the highest level? When a guy like Marcel Dareus leaves for the professional ranks and a massive rookie contract, another anchor like Jesse Williams is just casually dropped onto the chessboard. You can smirk and mutter about cheating and what-not, but until such conspiracies are legitimized, the fact is that Saban is the hardest-working coach in the country for 365 days a year. In 2008 and 2012, I feel certain he didn't take Leap Day off, either.

Arkansas has no physical toughness like this, and thanks to moribund, groan-worthy "leadership" from a bunch of coaches who will be fortunate to sling Amway products in six months, the Hogs are even less resilient from an emotional standpoint. For about 10-12 minutes of game time Saturday, with the crowd in that nervous posture with one fist in the air and the other hand squarely wrapped around the car keys, Arkansas played inspired and empowered. It did so not because of John L. Smith's magical butt-cuppings, as he demonstrated to Tracy Wolfson before crow-hopping his way to the locker room, but because it simply had no choice. Large kids though they may be, the Razorbacks have enough maturity to know that they can't simply trudge out before 70,000-plus and just play grabass for a couple of hours.

Then again, they also cannot send deep snaps flailing or let catchable passes deflect away or clang field goals off the uprights. Arkansas could not get out of its own way, as has become commonplace in clashes with the Tide. Once again, Alabama forced some errors on the Razorbacks' part, but simply allowed others to happen. All the while, AJ McCarron played error-free football, throwing simple but crisp passes, reading blitzes (to be fair, Arkansas's blitzes could be spotted by passengers in a Learjet overhead) and eluding whatever token pressure the Hogs attempted to bring. His stable of running backs was on point, seeing and exploiting running lanes and securing the slippery football nicely on a day where Arkansas fumbled a whopping eight times.

If what happened against Louisiana-Monroe left Hog fans staggered, then the achingly stark afternoon in Fayetteville was the knockout blow. The gulf between Alabama and Arkansas is gaping now, and you can assign the blame for that to Bobby Petrino, but not for the reasons you think. It wasn't a careening Harley Davidson that contributed to the problem.

The fact is that for all Petrino's wondrous play-calling ability, for his innate and clearly non-genetic vision for how to break down a defense, he could only reach modest heights on the recruiting trail and it ultimately left his team stalled at the second tier. His best team at Arkansas was the 2010 squad that reached the Sugar Bowl, and that team still could not close the deal in a home game against Alabama that for three quarters went about as well as it could. The Hogs systematically blew the doors off lesser squads the past three seasons but once faced with muscle, the fight went awry and often sharply. On certain, isolated occasions, the Hogs did display the ability to grind their way to victory, but let's not forget how often commentators fawned over our quick-strike ability. If you can score in a matter of seconds, it may make for beautiful homemade highlight reels on YouTube, but in yet another golden age for Alabama, it simply doesn't win titles.

And thanks to eight horrible days in September, the 2012 Hogs can take that vision off the board yet again. Tyler Wilson gave an impassioned, Tebow Lite postgame address that suggested he wasn't going to let demoralized teammates and inept coaches ruin his final autumn in Fayetteville. The cold reality of the program's stature should not keep him and other deserving players from putting together a commendable enough season to build a lucrative pro career upon.


Speaking of John L. Smith, Tyler Wilson

  • Former Hog coach John Smith under scrutiny for contract in bankruptcy court

    February 13, 2013
    USA Today reports: Former Arkansas football coach John L. Smith has been accused of using his employment contracts with the Razorbacks to defraud several of his creditors, according to two complaints filed this week in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. /more/
  • A new era for Razorbacks

    February 6, 2013
    You do not have to be steeped in wizardry or any kind of advanced science to understand that Arkansas football is being purified from the roots up. /more/
  • Jeff Long: 2012 Arkansan of the year

    January 16, 2013
    It's difficult to fathom an occasion where any other agent of Razorback culture was so frequently cussed or discussed. /more/
  • Other Arkies of the Year

    January 16, 2013
    They also stood out. /more/
  • The craziest year in Razorback history

    December 26, 2012
    In prior editions of Pearls, I have freely disclosed being a bit of a "newbie", a child of the 1980s who nonetheless has devoted generous portions of his life to studying the overall history of Arkansas Razorback athletics. Therefore, at the risk of offending those whose memories may be longer than my own, I still think I'm qualified to say that 2012 was the most oddball, bass-ackwards mess of a year for that institution since the leather helmet/peach basket era. /more/
  • 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/
  • More »


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • Don't despair about baseball

    Arkansas's baseball freefall is not something atypical for a Dave Van Horn team. Being 21-15, 4-11 at the midway point of the conference season would seem so distressing, if you bought into the belief that records mattered all that much.
    • Apr 21, 2016
  • What a finish

    We are deviating from Razorback-related matters for this week out of selfish imperative.
    • Apr 7, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Ole Miss gave Arkansas blueprint to beat Alabama

    Even as Arkansas sojourned over the weekend, the free world of SEC football spun almost wildly off its axis and triggered future storylines for the Hogs as they embark on the remainder of a schedule that was already seen as grueling.
    • Oct 9, 2014
  • Close ones hurt more

    As much as anything else, retrospective dissection is the gospel of college football fandom; and in SEC country, if you aren't combining spirits and profanity to motivate your second-guessing in the aftermath of a tight one, by God, buddy, you're doing it wrong.
    • Oct 16, 2014
  • Blame Mike Anderson

    Arkansas basketball is by all rights worthy of being a ranked team and an NCAA Tournament lock, maybe even a second-weekend type of feel-good story, but it continues to flounder right after it soars.
    • Jan 22, 2015

Most Shared

  • Finalists named in UALR chancellor search

    The University of Arkansas System has announced the three finalists in the search for a successor to Joel Anderson as chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
  • 2016 Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team

    Meet the 20 best and brightest high school students in the state.
  • The top 20: Segregation of the affluent

    Thomas Edsall writes about the segregation — by education, geography and other markers — of the people in the top fifth of the income scale in the U.S. He quotes from a recent academic research paper:
  • 2016 All-Star nominees

    Here are the students nominated to be Academic All-Stars. They are listed by their hometowns, as indicated by mailing addresses.
  • Low tactics every day: Walmart education

    State Education Commissioner Johnny Key fired Baker Kurrus as Little Rock superintendent last week because he ventured off the reservation when he presented data to the state Board of Education on the damaging impact of charter schools on the district, which the state now runs. Kurrus was questioning proposed expansions of two charter schools already draining easier-to-educate children from the LRSD.

Latest in

  • Don't despair about baseball

    Arkansas's baseball freefall is not something atypical for a Dave Van Horn team. Being 21-15, 4-11 at the midway point of the conference season would seem so distressing, if you bought into the belief that records mattered all that much.
    • Apr 21, 2016
  • What a finish

    We are deviating from Razorback-related matters for this week out of selfish imperative.
    • Apr 7, 2016
  • Spring duties

    Spring break brings with it a need for cleanup and restarts and whatnot. Therefore, prescriptions are set forth herewith for Arkansas athletics in general.
    • Mar 24, 2016
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »


  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

Most Viewed

  • Songwriter among songwriters

    Keith Sykes plays South on Main.
  • 'Green Room' thrills

    It's hardcore.
  • Paul McCartney plays Verizon

    Also, 'Incognito' in Conway, Arts and the Park in Hot Springs, "Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning" at the Arkansas Arts Center, Patti Lupone at the Fort Smith Convention Center, the Turkish Food Festival, Sunday Court Square Music Festival in Mountain View, St. Luke's Festival of the Senses at St. Luke's Episcopal and the 46th Annual World Famous Armadillo Festival in Hamburg.

Most Recent Comments


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