In 1996, a 3-5 Arkansas team made a trip to Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee was a good team with high expectations for the season. The Volunteers lost early to nemesis Florida and the luster was off the rest of the season. They would not play for the SEC championship or for the national title. What did they have to prove? The Volunteers played sluggishly in the first half, and miracle of miracles, Arkansas was tied with the mighty Vols 14-14. Could Arkansas pull its second upset in Knoxville on its third trip to Neyland Stadium? The second half left no doubt about that: Tennessee outscored Arkansas 41-0 in those 30 minutes, and the HOGS went home with a 55-14 loss. Arkansas finished the '96 season 4-7.
||Tusk recalls good
times of 2010 & 2011.
I really do not know where to begin. Most of the first half at Mississippi State was hopeful. A 14-7 lead and a big defensive stand where the Bulldogs make 4 yards in three plays give you hope! Then what we fear most, THE TURNOVER, the one that seems to change the game happens. Arkansas goes from starting near midfield with a chance to grab a 14-point lead to losing all momentum. The defense makes a huge stand, and MSU only gets a field goal. The Razorbacks lead 14-10 and should have gotten the momentum back. They did not. Another failure on third down and 1 yard killed the drive, and for all intents and purposes, the game was over.
Offensively the HOGS added a wrinkle to help protect Tyler Wilson. They moved the tight end on many occasions to the side with three wide outs. This made him an ineligible receiver but he was there to block. That makes the opposite tackle an eligible receiver. Arkansas never took advantage of that when they needed desperately to make a first down and to give the MSU defensive coordinator something else to think about.
Once again, Arkansas could not run when it lined up in a running formation. The best Razorback running play all year is the lead draw out of the I formation. Johnson and Williams did combine for 104 yards on 19 carries (5.47 average), which is usually a winning stat, but anytime the Hogs lined up showing run on third and short, they failed. MSU dared Arkansas to run the ball. For much of the game the Bulldogs lined up in a 3-1-7 defense. They covered the receivers man to man and had safeties over the top. Wilson was not given the opportunity to get big chunks of yardage. While he completed 23 of 29, it was for only 225 yards. MSU decided (and rightly so) to make Arkansas go the long, hard way and be perfect: no big plays and a long field.
Arkansas' average starting point was the Arkansas 18 in the first half and the Arkansas 20 in the second. After opening with an 11-play drive and a 10-play drive, the Arkansas drive chart was 0, 5, 3, 4, 4, 3, 7, 1, 2, 5, and 2. The drives ended with three fumbles, two interceptions, five punts and one on downs. Arkansas could not adjust to the MSU defense, and definitely could not take advantage of running against a three-man front.
Defensively, it was the same problems we have seen all year. The Arkansas secondary does not play well in zone and cannot match up in man. Twice MSU running back LaDarius Perkins circled out of the backfield and beat linebacker A.J. Turner for touchdowns. Arkansas could not get pressure on Tyler Russell consistently, and Russell made the defense pay, not with accuracy but with 14 yards a reception and four touchdowns.
Even more frustrating than that were MSU's three little option plays. One the first, the HOGS attacked Russell and he pitched for an 8-yard gain. It was frustrating because Russell is not going to beat you running the football. Slow play the option, let him pitch and make the tackle behind the line of scrimmage. The next time MSU ran the play (all three to the offensive left side), the Razorbacks did slow play the QB. He pitched right on cue and the defense swarmed the ‘back for a big loss. So the play gets shelved until the fourth quarter. Russell comes left and the defensive end jumps him. He pitches to Nick Griffin who takes off on a 60-yard TD to finish the MSU scoring.
The Arkansas secondary plays so far off receivers they have no chance to break on a pass, knock it down or intercept it. Quarterbacks are regularly throwing from the near hash to the far sideline, and the Razorbacks cannot get there to make a play. It has been the most disappointing thing I have seen this year.
UP NEXT: LSU
We are down to the last game for some great seniors. It reminds me so much of Quinn Grovey's senior year. The All-SWC quarterback in 1989 did everything he could to help his team in 1990, but the defense offered no help. So it is with Tyler Wilson. While this is not the ending he imagined, I can tell him this: years from now he will be remembered for the 11-2 season and the Cotton Bowl win, not the 2012 season. Quinn Grovey is remembered for the two Cotton Bowl years of '88 and '89 and not the 1990 season. Players play, but coaches have to coach. That will be my most haunting memory of this year, the coaching. The fans only have to endure four more quarters. I really thought this staff would pull it together in the wake of Bobby Petrino's dismissal. What came to light was that these were good men who needed the pushing and oversight of a taskmaster to be there best. Someone who would demand the best results possible and push EVERYONE to reach those goals. Maybe the ULM game showed them they were part timers and deflated them. I am labeling this the end of the Petrino era even without him at the helm because his absence was that noticeable.
Friday, November 23rd will be a special day for me. I get to spend time with family in a setting I really like, a college football weekend full of tailgating and watching football. I will watch games Thursday as the turkey is being served and Saturday as we eat leftovers. On Friday though, I will be in the Gardens, tailgating and then I will make my way up the hill and one more time, Call Those HOGS! I know it has been a tough year and the holiday makes it hard, but if ever a group of seniors deserved one last show of support, it is this group. Remember two years ago? Ten wins and the Sugar Bowl. Eleven wins and a Cotton Bowl victory last year. Great seasons and great kids. To the seniors of 2012, THANK YOU!
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