The Gamble in the Grove


The Arkansas Razorbacks were somehow able to outscore the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday night in a wild 53-52 win. The Hogs relied on grit, determination, and luck to escape Mississippi with the victory. There’s no accounting for luck in sports. You either have it or you don’t. Luck was in Tuscaloosa when the Rebels beat the Crimson Tide. It was with Doug Flutie, and every other hail mary touchdown throw throughout history. And on Saturday night, it was in Oxford with Hunter Henry, when he lateraled the ball backwards on 4th and 25.

That is something that Arkansas hasn’t got to say in…well…I don’t know how long. The Hogs have been the most unlucky team in the SEC west ever since Petrino got fired. If something could go wrong, it went wrong. Now, with 2 overtime wins this season, and some lucky bounces finally going the Hogs way, maybe the Razorbacks fortune has changed for the better.

The “Heave in Hemingway” or the “Henry Heave” or whatever we decide to call that amazing play will be remembered forever by Hog fans, and probably by Rebel fans as well. It was a crazy moment that only college football can deliver. What sticks out to me, though, that defines this team and Bret Bielema is the decision to go for 2 not once, but twice, on the road against the statistical SEC west leader.

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“The Gamble in the Grove” was a great call. It’s the kind of situation that now, looking back, it made perfect sense. But in the moment, with the lights and the pressure, it was a much harder decision to make. The Razorbacks are no strangers to overtime in 2015. A loss to A&M and a win over Auburn all happened in extra time. When you look at the situation from a logical perspective, going for the 2 point conversion was definitely the right call. The Ole Miss defense, much like the Arkansas defense, was poopy all night long. Not only that, but they were gassed after 7 straight plays by the Arkansas offense. It was an opportunistic situation, and the Razorbacks were able to take advantage of it.

There’s more to it than the logic, though. There’s nothing logical about how this game will be remembered. It was a miracle that the Hogs even had the opportunity to score a touchdown. After the 4th and 25 lateral conversion miracle play…how could Bret Bielema NOT go for the win? When Lady Luck shines down upon you, that is the moment do something risky. It paid off for the Hogs in a big way.

When this game is analyzed and rewatched, when the time comes for Arkansas to go for 2, everyone will agree that it was the obvious call to make. Hindsight is awesome like that. But if you go back through the twitter feed of fans, though, a lot of people disagreed. I understand why. It was a huge risk to go for 2, and if you don’t convert, then you lose. Just kick the PAT and go for another overtime. Play it safe.

In a season where gambling in big moments hasn’t paid off for the Hogs, Bielema didn’t even hesitate to go for 2. The fake field goal at Tennessee, the fake punt at Alabama, the failed 4th down conversions earlier in the season…all those moments could justify kicking the PAT. And yet, when the chips were down for Bret Bielema and the Razorbacks, they didn’t fold before the turn. They let it ride all the way to river. And they came up aces.

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The Gamble in the Grove would have been yet another instance where Bret Bielema’s hubris cost him big time. It could have been another moment where the Hogs didn’t deliver in the clutch. Imagine the headlines and posts from across the country if the Rebels had made the stop. That HAD to be rattling around in Bret Bielema’s head. And yet, despite everything, he went for 2. Brandon Allen delivered, and Bret Bielema made the right call. Don’t let hindsight and a victory hide the fact that this Razorbacks team and coaching staff made an incredibly gutsy call on Saturday night. And if you want to win the SEC, then you better have the guts to do it.

The Arkansas Razorbacks have guts.