Favorite

Winning on road in SEC no easy task 

click to enlarge University of Arkansas Tyler Wilson image

Arkansas fans are renowned fatalists. 

You know all the lowlights by heart. Street to Peschel. The phantom pass interference against SMU. Atwater's missed pick in Miami. Stumble and Fumble. The Southern-Fried Misadventures of Reggie Fish.

In 2011, the worm seems to have turned. For a minute at least. What's happened the first two months is pretty special stuff, if you can cease bitching long enough to appreciate it.

We are winning contests that should have a surgeon general's warning emblazoned on the game program. These Razorbacks are besotted with self-destructive, maddening traits. They play lethargically early, recklessly at the end, and only sporadically well in between. And yet they are, as of this writing, a 7-1 team nestled snugly in the No. 7 spot of the BCS standings. 

The Hogs' first trip to Nashville in five years ended the same way the last one did: triumphant, but only by virtue of the Commodores' own sad history catching up to them. In 2006, Vandy's kicker, Bryant Hahnfeldt, kicked a 48-yard field goal attempt about 46 yards in the final minute — Houston Nutt famously credited the late Paul Eells' otherworldly breath for blowing the try short — and that allowed the Razorbacks to escape with a two-point win. 

This time, Carey Spear's 27-yard kick to send the game into overtime went dead right in the waning seconds and the Hogs tiptoed out of Vandy's crypt-masquerading-as-stadium as 31-28 winners. Vanderbilt rolled up 462 total yards, built a 14-point first-half lead and had the Hogs squarely against the ropes in the fourth quarter, driving for a score that would have given the Commodores a 15-point lead with about 12 minutes left.

That's when fate interceded again. A completely unforced fumble by Vandy's outstanding tailback, Zac Stacy, was snatched off the turf by Jerry Franklin, and the senior linebacker coasted to a 94-yard touchdown return that flipped the momentum permanently. Zach Hocker's third field goal of the game later gave the Hogs the lead, then Vandy's brilliant last-ditch effort at victory stalled at the Arkansas 10 before Spear's fateful shank.

It's been a charmed run through October: first-half deficits in all four games, all casually brushed aside by a team that seems to be far more adept at finishing. In this space before the season, I noted that the one nagging shortcoming of the Petrino era was an inability to close. We are presently, in ways that sometimes defy explanation, sloughing that albatross.

And while pundits might observe that we aren't knocking down titans, we're doing nothing differently from what champions do, year in and year out. Auburn narrowly dispatched Kentucky and Mississippi State a year ago. The year before, Alabama's national championship run was salvaged by Terrence Cody's meaty fingers in a two-point win over a sub par Tennessee team. The best teams are those that win across the spectrum, blowout to squeaker and all in between. 

One of the benefits of all these pre-noon kickoffs is that by the time Saturday evening rolls around, the pollsters are getting their digs in at other top-flight programs that have lost or struggled mightily. The Hogs aren't winning pretty, but once the flurry of upsets materializes (Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Clemson, etc.) the news about Arkansas having another dogfight becomes stale and largely irrelevant. We aren't losing ground, but we are content to let others do it for us.

Lost in the furor over another sketchy performance is an indisputable fact: winning on the road in the SEC is an onerous task, especially when it's Andre Ware's Early Bird Special. From this point forward, it's likely to be post meridiem start times in far friendlier confines (until LSU of course). It starts Saturday with a home date against a South Carolina team that sits just behind us in the BCS pecking order, a lone loss to Auburn blemishing its record. 

In many ways, the Gamecocks are a mirror of the Hogs, their loftiest hopes being thwarted by an early-season loss and a critical injury to their bellcow. They also appear to fancy a close game, with three of their seven wins by a field goal or less. For once, that predilection toward high tension may not work against us, as we have three recent wins by a combined 12 points.

Two full months in, nobody knows what to make of this team. It's reasonable to anticipate slippage in November, a final prelude to some nondescript December bowl sponsored by toiletries or industrial sanders. But it would also be none too surprising to see them march to Baton Rouge with a 10-1 record, brimming with swagger, and these next three weeks would seem to lay an ideal foundation for that sort of finale.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • SEC hope?

    There's precedent for the Hogs rebounding from a September misstep or two.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Bumbling Bielema

    The numbing sense of complete disillusionment in the wake of a listless 28-7 loss to Texas Christian University on Saturday in the Arkansas Razorbacks' "true" home opener gives way to disgust when you see these statistical markers of failure.
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • On to TCU

    This opener was never endangered by weather, never in doubt on the scoreboard, and never remotely interesting. But it happened, Arkansas is 1-0 (unlike Baylor, UNLV and — chortle — Texas A&M), and the Hogs lost very little against hapless Florida A&M in a 49-7 walloping that may have been a sendoff to War Memorial Stadium.
    • Sep 7, 2017
  • More »

Most Shared

  • ASU to reap $3.69 million from estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn

    Arkansas State University announced today plans for spending an expected $3.69 million gift in the final distribution of the estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn, who died in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • The inadequate legacy of Brown

    LRSD continues to abdicate its responsibility to educate poor black students.

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • SEC hope?

    There's precedent for the Hogs rebounding from a September misstep or two.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Bumbling Bielema

    The numbing sense of complete disillusionment in the wake of a listless 28-7 loss to Texas Christian University on Saturday in the Arkansas Razorbacks' "true" home opener gives way to disgust when you see these statistical markers of failure.
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • On to TCU

    This opener was never endangered by weather, never in doubt on the scoreboard, and never remotely interesting. But it happened, Arkansas is 1-0 (unlike Baylor, UNLV and — chortle — Texas A&M), and the Hogs lost very little against hapless Florida A&M in a 49-7 walloping that may have been a sendoff to War Memorial Stadium.
    • Sep 7, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

September

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

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Fear 'It'self

    • Bill Skarsgrd comes from a family of actors and they were all born and raised…

    • on September 21, 2017
 

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