While most Arkansas Razorback fans are living in denial that John L. Smith was ever the head coach for the Hogs, even if only as an interim for 10 months, he has left a lasting impression on the storied football program.
The Hogs were 21-5 over the last two seasons under former coach Bobby Petrino with a No. 5 end of season ranking in 2011 then were turned upside down by John L. Smith and his antics during the 2012 college football season.
The following is list of the Not-So Top Ten Moments of John L. Smith in 2012 as interim head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks:
No. 10 Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy has to be hard enough as it is for anyone. Having a public position as the Arkansas Razorback head coach then letting the world know you are $25 million in debt makes life even worse. Crashing a preseason Top 10 team into the ground only makes matters worse.
On Sept. 6 JLS filed for bankruptcy citing $25 million in losses from land deals gone wrong. Arkansas fans could only shake their head and feel somewhat sorry for the guy. A couple of weeks later, the week after the Hogs lost 58-10 to Texas A&M, that number jumped dramatically to $40.7 million.
By this time Arkansas was in the middle of a four-game losing streak and fans no longer had sympathy for their interim head coach. Few were surprised that a personal matter for John L. Smith went so badly as a reflection of how poorly he was handling his job as head coach for the Razorbacks.
No. 9 “Get you piss hot”
What was once quirky and borderline amusing in retrospect is downright ridiculous. At the time whatever works to get a team fired up… I guess is okay.
A quoted comment from John L. Smith during fall camp stating he wants his players to “get their piss hot” on the field raised some eyebrows but nothing much came of his musing until he kept opening his mouth, day after day, week after week.
One can only assume the Arkansas Athletic Department was not amused nor enjoyed their job trying to keep a public relations muzzle on Smith and his comments throughout his 10-month long contract.
His half-time ramblings during an interview for the Alabama game did not help much either: “You slap ‘em and say, ‘C’mon baby, keep your head up.'”
No. 8 Being cute with injury update status
Razorback fans, alumni, boosters, and donors were not amused with John L. Smith’s cutesy injury updates. When things went bad for the Razorbacks football team via the injury bug no one was amused with the lack of communication from JLS regarding senior quarterback Tyler Wilson’s status.
Wilson missed the second half of the Louisiana-Monroe game with an “above the neck injury.” Fans and media alike were unsure what that meant but inferred this meant a concussion. The how and why that could not be relayed properly to anyone is still confusing, especially with so much anticipation riding on the then upcoming Alabama game.
Smith still could have kept Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide guessing who would be under center right up until game time, and John L. Smith did, without playing games for those that support the program.
No. 7 Smith refers to Arkansas as Alabama
After a 1-3 start John L. Smith was in the middle of an impassioned spill to Razorback fans at the Little Rock Touchdown Club when he referred to the state of Arkansas as the state of Alabama; attendees were not amused.
“We need to get a win to get that confidence back. “Don’t give up on us. It’s our program, it’s a state of Alabama program,” Smith said.
Hindsight is 20/20 for most, during his Touchdown Club pep talk he was begging for fans to still believe they have a shot at making a bowl game.
No. 6 “Smile”
“Let’s go. You guys look like it’s… pick it up a little bit, Okay? Get your chin up. Smile! Smile! Okay? Dang, you guys all right? If not, I’m not talking!”
The comments speak for themselves and spoke volumes of the mass blunder that was John L. Smith as head coach for the Razorbacks in 2012.
Unfortunately all Razorback fans that are friends or coworkers with a die-hard fan of any other college football team in the nation got ribbed without mercy after this post-Alabama week press conference spread liked a wildfire by national media… thanks John L!
No. 5 Loss to unranked Louisiana-Monroe at home
After being up 21-7 at half and stretching that lead to 28-7 the Arkansas Razorback season came crashing down.
Allen started the second half under center after Tyler Wilson was knocked out of the game on the team’s last possession before halftime. Allen was able to engineer a nine-play drive starting on Arkansas’ 34 yard line on the Hogs’ opening series of the second half. After Allen’s initial series the Razorbacks went four-and-out on five straight series before Allen threw an interception on his sixth and final series of the second half before overtime.
Allen ended the game 6-21 for 85 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Smith was so involved in the game he never told offensive coordinator Paul Petrino to stop throwing the ball and go-to the running game in the second half.
Smith, like Petrino, was waiting for a miracle to take place in the form of a quick strike 80-yard touchdown to preserve a win that never came. Meanwhile the defense was left on the field the entire second half.
The final score after one overtime period was 34-31. The win was the first for the Warhawks over a ranked team since joining Division-I football in 1994.
No. 4 Shutout at home by Alabama 52-0
The Razorbacks entered the Alabama game one week after a devastating loss to UL-Monroe by a score of 34-31. Arkansas fans were hopeful before the season started that the Hogs would beat Bama for the first time since 2006…
The Arkansas offense managed 171 net total yards of offense, 85 rushing and 86 passing. On the other side of the ball the Arkansas defense was shredded for 441 total yards by the Alabama offense, 230 rushing and 211 passing.
Not aiding in Arkansas’ efforts on the field was four fumbles, two lost (one on fourth down), and two interceptions thrown by redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Allen.
The loss for the Hogs was the first at Reynolds Razorback Stadium since Alabama last traveled to Fayetteville in 2010, 24-20.
The 52 point drumming proved to be the Hogs worst loss in seven years (coming at the hands of USC), first shutout in Fayetteville in over 46 years (1966) and the worst SEC loss ever for the Arkansas program.
No. 3 Knile Davis
After being a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate and a preseason All-SEC first-team running back, Knile Davis was John L. Smith-enized.
Davis finished his season as the 26th top rusher in the SEC… in the SEC not in the country. Davis rushed for a total of 377 yards with two touchdowns, never topping the 100-yard rushing mark in 2012, or the 90-yard rushing mark, or the 80-yard rushing mark. He did manage a season-high 70 yards against Jacksonville State in the Hogs season opener.
Davis’ first two games would net 132 of his total 377 yards. In other words, 35 percent of his total production in 2012 came against Jacksonville State (70 yards) and UL-Monroe (62 yards). All of his rushing touchdowns came in the first two games as well.
Another cruel way to look at Davis’ season under the watchful eye of Smith is he was 56.5 yards shy of hitting (188.5) half his production in 2012 after playing two teams that were supposed to be cupcake teams before the main entrée of Alabama.
No. 2 The Defense
In all fairness to defensive coordinator Paul Haynes, the Arkansas defense did show signs of improvement over the course of the season, especially along the defensive front.
The Hogs also took heavy injury losses throughout the season. Linebacker/defensive end Tank Wright, backup linebacker Kiero Small, starting cornerback Tevin Mitchell, and starting linebacker Alonzo Highsmith among others all missed extensive time due to injuries… and it showed not only in the win-loss columns but also statistically.
Arkansas Defensive Statistics for 2012
Total Defense: No. 72 allowing 409.92 yards per game
First Down Defense: No. 70 allowing 21.42 first downs per game
Third Down Defense: No. 50 allowing 38.86 conversion percentage per attempt
Scoring Defense: No. 81 allowing 30.42 points per game
Turnovers Gained: No. 113 forcing 12 total turnovers in 12 games
The one bright spot was the Hogs rushing defense:
No. 20 allowing 124.08 rushing yards per game
This good news comes with the bad, opposing teams did not have to run the ball to beat the Hogs they could just throw the ball instead:
Passing Defense: No. 113 allowing 285.83 passing yards per game
The Hogs lost both games in Little Rock on last second plays and failed to secure early 10-point leads posted against Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers, and Ole Miss.
N0. 2 Accountability
There never seemed to be a point throughout the season when John L. Smith took accountability for the Hogs’ losses or his poor performance as the leader of the football program.
The troubling trend was first noticed in fall camp when Smith told the media that junior running back Knile Davis overrode his decision to not let him have contact before the season began.
Davis eventually took part in full contact drills and partial scrimmages during camp without any injuries, luckily. Again, the troubling part is JLS passed the blame onto Davis that the decision was made to let him take contact.
Smith did not come forward stating he and Davis made a decision together, instead he said Davis overrode his decision. He let the media and fans know this was Davis’ decision before the practice took place incase Davis was injured no one would blame JLS… makes one wonder how many other decisions of his were overran throughout the year and by who?
During a press conference after a loss Smith went as far as to say pointing fingers is for losers then said the team’s loss was the fault of the defense… classy guy.
This may seem minor but Smith also removed the redshirt off wide receiver D’Arthur Cowan at the end of the season seemingly for no good reason. Hopefully the experience Cowan picked up made it worth while for the Razorback program to essentially waste one full year of a promising player’s career over a game or two that he was not truly needed.
No. 1 Overall Record of 4-8, 2-6
After a preseason ranking of No. 10 in the AP Top 25 Poll and with two preseason Heisman Trophy candidates on offense few Razorback fans expected the wheels to come off this bad in the worst of worst case scenarios entering the season.
Well the wheels were blown off far and wide and Michigan State fans along with SEC rivals were laughing all along the way. The Hogs missed a bowl game for the first time since 2008 and lost five games at home after not losing one game in the state of Arkansas the year before.
A four game losing streak to UL-Monroe, Alabama, Rutgers, and Texas A&M saw the Hogs give up a total of 179 points, an average of 44.75 points per game.
After a two-game winning streak over Auburn and Kentucky the Hogs were still mathematically alive for a bowl game facing Ole Miss in Little Rock. The 30-27 loss did come with some protest over a called back touchdown but more importantly the season was lost once the game was over.
The once mighty Hogs struggled to beat Tulsa in Fayetteville 19-15 then found ways to finish the season on a three-game losing streak with defeats to South Carolina, Mississippi State, and LSU.
After weeks of poorly timed fourth down decisions, JLS somehow chooses not to go for it on fourth down in the red zone against LSU instead settling for a field goal. Any Arkansas fans with a little bit of compassion for John L. lost all they could take at that point… see ya JLS, we hope you’re smiling on the way out.