Welp. That loss was gut-wrenching. That one really hurt and, mostly, was downright frustrating. It begs the question, what do we make of the Arkansas Razorbacks season overall? Obviously it isn’t over yet, there’s one more game at home against Missouri (that should be a win) and a bowl game. The Hogs have the chance to finish 8-5 if all goes well, which isn’t bad–but is it good enough?
Brandon Allen should be in the all of the headlines. He was 30-43 for 406 yards, seven touchdowns, zero interceptions with a QBR of 96.4 (out of 100). In case you skimmed over that stat without thinking about it, he had SEVEN touchdowns. That is an Arkansas single record and ties an SEC single game record (only six players have done that). Allen also breaks the record for most touchdowns in Arkansas history, passing that oversleeping bum Ryan Mallet. Allen was absolutely clinical, yet that isn’t the story. The story is how bad the Hogs defense looks. At times they look more like a high school team– inexperienced and lost. Enough to make you pull your hair out.
The 1-3 start was about as bad as the season could have started. Both sides of the ball were trying to figure out just who they were and who could play; it was a disaster. Since the bye week, the Arkansas Razorbacks offense has figured it out thanks in large part to Allen (what now Allen haters?), but the defense is still not there. Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw have both been big, but what does it say when the second leading tackler is a true freshman? While Greenlaw is a great talent, unfortunately he’s all they have. Losses to Toledo and Texas Tech were embarrassing, and several people were calling for Bret Bielema’s head on a stake. This was a team that was once ranked 18th in the AP poll. Fans and experts alike picked the Hogs to win the SEC West. It was incredibly disappointing to see them at 2-4 going into the bye week. Then the team turned things around, and shut everyone up. They showed the country why they were once a ranked team by rattling off four wins. Four huge wins: starting at home against Auburn and Gus Malzahn, an incredible away game against Ole Miss, and a defiant beating at LSU. But fans were soon brought back to reality against Mississippi State.
Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
So what’s to make of this year? Can we label it a success if the Arkansas Razorbacks finish 8-5 with a bowl win? Some experts and fans felt before the year that 8-5 would be good, respectable even, but they also thought we would beat Toledo and Tech and lose to Ole Miss and LSU. I, myself, thought that after the four wins Arkansas had finally figured out how to win and keep things rolling, despite the defensive woes. I was wrong. Thank goodness for Allen and the offense, or that game would have downright unwatchable. The Razorbacks greatly under-performed to start the year, but have more than exceeded expectations for the second half (so far).
Maybe people thought too much of the Hogs in their third year. Maybe the injuries and dismissals have been the more defining than people want to give credit. Maybe they just can’t handle being the favorite in a game. All I know is that this team is more confusing and frustrating than any team I have ever followed. I can’t accept Bielema’s reasoning for settling for the field goal. I can understand it, but I don’t accept it. With as on fire as Allen was, it’s hard for me to believe that they were that afraid of an interception to not give him at least one shot before a field goal attempt. It’s hard to label the season a success or failure. They’re 4-3 in the SEC, and three of those wins were on the road! But they are also 2-2 in non-conference play. All four of those games were in the state of Arkansas. The offense is the best since Bobby Petrino left, yet the defense is as bad as the John L. Smith era.
Even if the Hogs win out and secure another bowl victory, I’m not so sure the bad taste in my mouth will go away any time soon. I’ll be a happy fan, but also upset that it could have been different. It could (maybe even should have) have been better. This season has had to have been tough for Allen too. He has been beaten over the head by so-called Razorback fans for years. Someone lit his truck on fire, now he’s everything everyone wanted. He’s throwing with accuracy and confidence. For goodness sake, he just had SEVEN touchdowns in a game, and for what? A one-point loss (thanks again, defense). And what do Hog fans expect next year? Almost the entire defense will be returning, but the offense will take major blows in graduations and NFL leapers.
Teams still don’t want to play Arkansas; they’re 5th in the SEC power rankings. They have shown they can handle their own with the big dogs. What does it all mean? They’ve improved each year in the win column, and still no one knows exactly how good they really are or could be. Razorback fans just better pray they don’t get a bowl match-up against a spread team with a good quarterback. So far 2015 hasn’t been a complete failure, but it also hasn’t been a resounding success. You could say it’s just been another season at Arkansas.