Favorite

Worst loss ever 

click to enlarge Arkansas versus University of Louisiana-Monroe image

All the spillage of words this week won't change what happened, but it'll damn sure be cathartic. 

Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, was, in this columnist's eyes, the worst day in Razorback football history, excluding those somber occasions that transcend sports altogether (when the Garrett Uekmans, Brandon Burlsworths and Shannon Wrights have left us prematurely). No Citadel, no Knoxville, no Big Shootout can compare, at least if you factor in all relevant context. A purported championship contender simply withered when a Sun Belt program without a winning season in 19 years in the Football Bowl Subdivision up and decided it wasn't going to be pushed around.

Arkansas gave away a game it led by 21 points in the third quarter, and at the risk of being dismissive of the opponent, the ignominy of doing so to the likes of Louisiana-Monroe cannot be understated. Todd Berry coached his Warhawks up and kept them believing for nearly four full hours, and his team undeniably earned this win with a 550-yard outburst and with a cagey quarterback, Kolton Browning, doing the kinds of things that we used to alternately curse and praise Matt Jones for. While Arkansas's offense was faltering (more on that shortly), Browning was fleeing and chucking and flipping and channeling everyone from Brett Favre to Fran Tarkenton. As hard as it may be for Hog fans to stomach, Browning's total output of 481 yards and four touchdowns may well have been the best single-game performance a player has ever had against Arkansas.

It was an excruciating happening, not only because of the timing (the old "tuneup" before Alabama) and the intrinsic damage wrought. Never have any of us borne witness to a spectacle like that which unfolded at War Memorial Stadium: significant and gruesome injuries on the field, an incomprehensible string of wasted offensive drives followed by ULM steadily pushing the ball upfield, coaches looking completely dumbfounded and arguably even detached. By the time Browning reversed field on fourth-and-1 in overtime and scampered toward paydirt and victory from 16 yards out, the Hogs were gassed and outclassed, completely bereft of any kind of leadership to forestall the implosion. 

The aftermath of this Citadel for our times — ironic that the prior week against Jack Crowe's Jacksonville State squad was spent reliving the 20-year anniversary of that horror, only to replicate it the next week — is bleak. Tyler Wilson got beat up, sometimes illegally and without ULM being justly flagged, and finally headed to the locker room, depriving the Hogs of a field general who had amassed almost 200 yards passing in the first half alone. Brandon Allen started off hot, then ended the game with a streak of 12 straight incompletions as his atrocious excuse for protection played matador over the final 20 minutes of action or so. With Wilson's well-being to be a hot subtopic all week, Allen may earn his first career start behind that same sieve of a line, against the nation's preeminent defense, which will salivate at the opportunity to imprint his physique into the Reynolds Razorback Stadium turf.

Paul Petrino, targeted for months by fans as the most suitable long-term successor to his brother, may well have coached himself completely out of the crosshairs for a head coaching gig. Anywhere. Allen was a jittery mess in the pocket once ULM began to pin its ears back, and so what did Petrino do? He asked Allen to drop back repeatedly to face the same rush that had already skulled Wilson. All the while, Knile Davis stood idly as a purported safety valve. Davis was often accused by the TV crew of being "tentative" but it was a misapprehension on their part — the junior tailback simply wasn't asked, at any point, to salt the victory away. If you didn't know better, you would swear that the second half was a giant point-shaving exercise, designed to preserve as much clock as possible for ULM to gird itself for the rally.

And what to say of this defense? By a most violent pruning, the bloom has been torn from the Paul Haynes rose. Whatever jolt he was supposed to provide in lieu of Willy Robinson has been conspicuously absent as the Hogs' line is getting worked over, the linebackers are getting drawn out of position and the secondary is still looking as amateurish as it has most of the last decade. Most galling of all, Haynes sat perched in the coaches' box upstairs, giving no semblance of authority at a moment where a few facemasks could've stood yanking. 

Meanwhile, John L. Smith, for whom I mounted a fairly vigorous defense upon his hiring, pulled off one hell of a Joe Hazelwood impression, letting the Valdez run aground and smirking as if he had all the authority of the stadium concessionaires. For as much as I defended Jeff Long's decision to employ Smith as a stopgap, there's no question that the "players' coach" vibe that the current athletes gave off can be dangerous. Smith doesn't deserve to be canned for the ULM debacle, but only because his dismissal would serve as a de facto white flag on a season that is not even 20 percent finished. (I won't even broach the subject of Smith's postgame snub of Berry, which he loosely and poorly explained in a Monday media session.)

The players could have certainly performed better, but they were left hung out to dry by a staff that either didn't afford ULM due respect or worse yet, lulled them into thinking that all eggs needed to go squarely in the Alabama basket. Let's not be delusional — the first half alone was proof that Arkansas simply cannot measure up to the Tide, yet again, and the second half was nothing more than an insulting reinforcement of the fact. Even a healthy, upbeat Razorback team was going to be up to its collective necks against Saban's monolith.

It's fruitless and frustrating to revisit what happened in the spring now, and to discern just how much of an impact "The Motorcycle Diaries Redux" had or will have on the program and its beleaguered athletic director. Bikes, bankruptcies and boorish behavior — none of it is relevant now, and Bobby ain't coming back regardless of how many Facebook fans plead for it. The here and now is of consequence, and there's still a team trotting out there every Saturday this fall that has to acquit itself against the longest of odds. Recovery starts this weekend, even if it proves to be one more nasty scar on the season, and the innocent bystanders in this absurd production are still committed to putting their best foot forward and delivering an entire fan base from despair.

Let's hope that these young men are able to hold serve on that commitment, regardless of what the ultimate win-loss record may be. The program they represent has been thrust toward the crossroads. A game, gritty effort against the best team in the country would be of immeasurable value.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

  • Liberty Bowl preview

    December 24, 2015
    No pressure, Hogs. /more/
  • Hogs trending up, down

    December 10, 2015
    Given that Arkansas is an indisputably intriguing team — who loses to Toledo at home and then wrecks Ole Miss' charmed season seven weeks later? — the Hogs' cemented bowl destination may come as something of a letdown. The Liberty Bowl does pay well, it provides the Razorbacks a Jan. 2 afternoon kickoff in a familiar and proximately fine location, and it affords the team a better than sporting chance at finishing with eight wins. /more/
  • Can't let up against Missouri

    November 26, 2015
    After maddening loss against Mississippi State. /more/
  • A beatdown in Baton Rouge

    November 19, 2015
    Lest you doubt that Razorbacks are ill-tempered beasts with short memories, witness and rejoice in the carnage of Nov. 14, 2015. /more/
  • All is right in Razorbackland

    November 12, 2015
    Picture the Sean Bean meme here emblazoned with this text: "One Does Not Simply Defeat the Rebels by the Conventional." It applied full bore as nightfall descended on Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. /more/
  • Last shot for the Hogs

    November 4, 2015
    The slow climb back to squaring up the Arkansas Razorbacks' season record began, in earnest, way back on Sept. 26, as the last Brandon Allen overtime pass against Texas A&M went helplessly awry. /more/
  • Clutch

    October 29, 2015
    It's difficult to categorize the kind of catharsis that Arkansas rightly earned Saturday in its four-overtime, 54-46 win over Auburn, but that's what we'll endeavor to do here. /more/
  • Arkansas play calling lacks creativity

    October 15, 2015
    The only reason the second half of Arkansas's annual, futile tussle with Alabama was so disheartening was because the first half had afforded our beloved little underdogs so many favorable oddities. /more/
  • Hogs eek out road win

    October 8, 2015
    There was certainly a surreal quality to Bret Bielema's long-awaited first true Southeastern Conference road win as Arkansas's head coach. And, no, it wasn't just the fact that his maligned charges actually got that win at a place that had bedeviled the program completely since its inaugural year in the SEC. /more/
  • Vols come at right time for Hogs

    October 1, 2015
    Let's dispense with the torturous weekly reliving of hell this week, OK? I for one don't think the garish details of another fourth-quarter collapse make for delicious column material. It was gut-wrenching, nasty, horrifying, predictable, etc. /more/
  • More »

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

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 »

People who saved…

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 Viewed

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