Favorite

A turn in the right direction for football Razorbacks 

With a yearlong winning drought now a bygone thing, Arkansas had to take a quick "next step" back toward respectability. Nicholls State was pure scheduling fodder and morale building.

Texas Tech wasn't any sort of juggernaut, either, but the Red Raiders won a bowl game to cap off an eight-win '13, and slung it all over creation in Kliff Kingsbury's first year as sideline Casanova or head coach or whatever title the dashing chap holds in Lubbock. There was no question that recent history made this an unusually pivotal contest for a Razorback program desperate to regain footing.

Clad in an all-white ensemble that clearly but understandably befuddled once-venerable play-by-play guy Mike Patrick — he called the team "Wisconsin" multiple times during the ABC broadcast — the Hogs did, truly for the first time, look like one of Bret Bielema's downhill monsters from Madison. They eschewed the pass almost completely in a debilitating second-half throttling of the Raiders, and when it ended 49-28 in the visitors' favor, the Hogs' general was the one who exited with the cool swagger that Kingsbury normally displays. Bielema smiled broadly at the end, and why not? This was a belated but decisive triumph of philosophy, and it occurred on the road against a power conference opponent that was itching to show it could beat the proverbial and literal brakes off an SEC squad with its brand of speedy dissection.

Bielema fancies this as "normal American football" and when your quarterback operates in a heady fashion and the running plays show appropriate wrinkles of ingenuity, it all adds up to massive yardage output. More importantly it equates to ball control, the removal of the air from the pigskin, to the near-unthinkable tune of a 2-to-1 time of possession advantage. But for an episode of bad tackling and two rather intolerable giveaways, Arkansas pummeled Tech even more demonstratively than the score might lead you to infer.

Was it all a turning point, though, or did Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams simply have career days at the expense of a truly terrible defense? Hard to figure. The cynic posits that piling up 122 points against Nicholls and T-Tech hardly shows what Arkansas could do against any upper-tier league combatant. The Hogs still have noteworthy passing warts: receivers that underwhelm on one side, defensive backs that don't get quite physical enough at the line on the other. That said, there are signs that those deficiencies are getting proper redress, too.

So two weeks removed from that second-half whitewashing at Auburn, the Hogs suddenly have the makings of a moderate to severe pain in the rest of the SEC's ass. And thankfully, there is yet another reasonably challenging out-of-conference game this weekend against mid-major darling Northern Illinois. These Huskies are a sharp 3-0 and the proud owners of the free world's least celebrated but arguably most amazing run of dominance abroad, a 17-game road winning streak that dates back to 2012 and now includes consecutive hard-won battles against Northwestern and UNLV. Rod Carey helms one of the country's quiet bastions of consistency and stability now, and there's been no obvious regression yet with Heisman finalist Jordan Lynch gone.

Fayetteville is not Evanston, Ill., or Sin City, however, and Arkansas has mojo it hasn't had since the Harley went off-road. There was no audacious postgame scene in Lubbock because this relatively young group was so uncannily self-assured. That's maybe the most uplifting part of it all, that even with almost no success to draw from, the Hogs are exuding a strangely businesslike vibe in a matter of days. The second half of the Auburn game felt so sadly familiar, and yet now there's a pervading sense that it was a first-game aberration.

But the Hogs cannot afford to get all entitled suddenly, as the Huskies are precisely the kind of opposition that preys on that. They've reeled off four straight 10-win seasons under three different head coaches, went to an Orange Bowl two seasons ago and played generally a competitive schedule from year to year. Some would contend that MAC football is superior to the Big Ten product at this point, and there's certainly cause to believe that this Huskies team is a harder out than Tech was. They operate a varied offense and are masters of disrupting a team's offensive rhythm, and Carey is off to a 15-3 start as head coach as a result.

If pressed, Bielema would have probably said that a 3-1 start for his team through the first one-third of the season would be close to ideal. It's within reach and it can feel especially good to the Fayetteville fans if they get to see a win over a truly high-caliber team for the first time in three years.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

  • Five big questions for Arkansas football

    July 20, 2017
    Among them: Can Austin Allen get a better handle on the job and rein in his emotions? /more/
  • Summer hopes

    June 22, 2017
    Bret Bielema is not, regardless of your possible venom toward him or the catastrophic way the 2016 season wrapped, going anywhere. /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/
  • 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/
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • Five big questions for Arkansas football

    Among them: Can Austin Allen get a better handle on the job and rein in his emotions?
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • Basketball prospects

    While it is a little difficult to prognosticate on anything pertaining to college basketball anymore, short of the blue bloods getting bluer every recruiting season, what has happened to Arkansas since it finished off an accomplished 2016-17 campaign is probably as subtly bewildering as any offseason machinations you'll see.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • Summer hopes

    Bret Bielema is not, regardless of your possible venom toward him or the catastrophic way the 2016 season wrapped, going anywhere.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated itsĀ 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • Five big questions for Arkansas football

    Among them: Can Austin Allen get a better handle on the job and rein in his emotions?
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • Basketball prospects

    While it is a little difficult to prognosticate on anything pertaining to college basketball anymore, short of the blue bloods getting bluer every recruiting season, what has happened to Arkansas since it finished off an accomplished 2016-17 campaign is probably as subtly bewildering as any offseason machinations you'll see.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • Summer hopes

    Bret Bielema is not, regardless of your possible venom toward him or the catastrophic way the 2016 season wrapped, going anywhere.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

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 Recent Comments

  • Re: On "Beyond Scared Straight"

    • I need to find a scared straight program for my 14 yr old daughter here…

    • on July 20, 2017
 

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