Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Tired of coach talk? Get ready for more
NWA Media/JASON IVESTER -- Arkansas head coach John L. Smith leaves the field following the Razorbacks' 45-14 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss.
STARKVILLE, Miss. Gone, finally, is the false hope of qualifying for a lower-tiered bowl.
This season is a disaster of disappointment, and that’s regardless of what happens Friday. Not even a miraculous victory over LSU will change the fact that this might be the most upside-down season in Arkansas Razorbacks history.
Maybe it is time to throw Pete Carroll’s name into the head-coaching hat.
He turned Southern Cal into a vacated national champion, but he had a winning formula. Carroll should excite the fans and help erase the memory of Saturday and this season.
In August, the Hogs had a swagger, and their nation was talking about the BCS championship in May.
In November, they are looking like a four-victory team that was swept by both SEC foes from Mississippi, the first time since 2008 when the Hogs lost to Ole Miss 23-21 and to Mississippi State 31-28. Saturday’s 45-14 defeat is 21 points worse than Arkansas’ 17-7 loss to Mississippi State in 1994, which had been Arkansas’ most severe loss to the Bulldogs since joining the SEC.
This year, Ole Miss won as time ran out but Mississippi State managed to dominate a team that was just as big, just as quick and just as talented.
Arkansas came out like it wanted to win. Expected to win.
On its first drive, it went 76 yards on 11 plays with Tyler Wilson completing 6 of 6 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown to Cobi Hamilton.
Their next drive was 65 yards on 10 plays. On third and-goal from the MSU 7, Wilson stopped Dennis Johnson on the way to the line of scrimmage, said something, then pointed where he wanted him lined up.
Seconds later, he hit Johnson across the middle at the 3 and the senior tailback took it into the end zone for a 14-7 lead.
From there, it went downhill faster than a 300-pound snowboarder.
Lack of discipline showed up big time in the second quarter. The Razorbacks were called for seven penalties and went into halftime trailing 17-14.
The Hogs opened the second half by showing a lack of focus, giving up three turnovers and two more touchdowns.
Mississippi State was not finished scoring, and Arkansas’ interim staff was not done displaying bullheadedness, allowing Wilson to continue to play in the fourth quarter, trailing 45-14, when he took a shot and came up limping visibly.
All it takes for NFL stock to plummet is a serious injury.
Redshirt freshman Brandon Allen played the last 35 seconds, but when the Bulldogs scored 38 unanswered points, Wilson’s safety and well-being should have been first and foremost on the minds of every coach on the interim staff. It was obvious Mississippi State was making adjustments and Arkansas wasn’t.
State spit and sputtered at times, but in the second half became a machine.
It was definitely over for Arkansas when late in the third quarter, on third-and-8, Wilson had to scramble and was dropped for no gain. On fourth down, he was forced to run again because no receivers were open again and the pocket was collapsing, and he came up a yard short.
The momentum Mississippi State had been gaining became a tidal wave as the Bulldogs sent their seniors out, with just Ole Miss remaining in the Egg Bowl, with a 45-14 victory over an often-injured Razorbacks team that seems to have never gotten on the same page.
Arkansas’ only quality victory this season was 19-15 over Tulsa, a Division I team with a winning record, and the Hogs’ five turnovers Saturday give them 29 for the season, the third-most in the nation.
Beating LSU won’t make much difference now.
The only thing that salvages this season is who Jeff Long hires to fix the myriad problems.
Hire the right guy and most of the fans will feel they endured this season for a brighter future. Hire the wrong guy and the wheels come completely off a program that was No. 8 in the nation in September, just before reality showed up.
Sports, Pages 25 on 11/18/2012