Arkansas wins on paper, not scoreboard

By: Wally Hall
Published: Sunday, October 28, 2012

— A loyal and faithful crowd watched as Bryson Rose’s 31-yard field goal split the uprights, giving Ole Miss a 30-27 victory and making the Arkansas Razorbacks a long shot for a bowl game this season.

It was an exciting game, one the Razorbacks tied with 2:09 to play when Dennis Johnson had runs of 21, 20 and 5 yards, the last for the touchdown that allowed the Hogs to give their hearty nation hopes of overtime.

To be perfectly candid, an exciting game was not what the fans wanted or deserved.

The fans have been diligent through the trials and tribulations of a season that is starting to wear very thin. They need to see stops at critical times and scores on every opportunity.

Saturday, the Razorbacks squandered a couple of scoring opportunities and at times looked like they had been off for two months instead of two weeks.

Special teams play was anything but special.

Did anyone even consider putting two guys back to receive punts with a wind that was stiff and swirling?

Averaging 3.0 yards per punt return is not a winning number.

It seemed to take forever for someone to realize that Tyler Wilson was throwing off his back foot and that it was giving him problems on the out patterns, especially in the first half. There’s no need to mention Wilson’s decisionmaking that could have led to five interceptions instead of two.

Someone is supposed to be coaching him up during a game.

Before going any further, pack up the anthracite-colored uniforms. Sell them on eBay, donate them to Arkansas State or mail them back to Nike — the Razorbacks just lost to Ole Miss in a game that was winnable.

Arkansas had two turnovers; Ole Miss scored 10 points off them.

Ole Miss had two turnovers; the Razorbacks failed to capitalize.

Those are not winning numbers.

Allowing Ole Miss to successfully run the same screen pass on four consecutive plays was not a winning number.

When you have 464 offensive yards and give up 355, that is supposed to be a winning number for the offense and the defense.

With the game on the line and you have Ole Miss with a third-and-9 at its 38, you are supposed to make that a winning number.

Instead, Bo Wallace passed for 14 yards and a first down, and the Rebels never had another third down as they drove to the Arkansas 14 for the game-winning field goal.

Yes, it definitely hurt to leave Brandon Mitchell in Fayetteville and losing tight end Chris Gragg, who caught a 42-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter before reinjuring his left leg.

It was not the officiating. There were an equal number of missed calls for both teams.

It was not Ole Miss’ hurryup, no-huddle offense.

It was not so much the Razorbacks’ lack of execution as what appeared to be a lack of preparation at critical times.

Arkansas knew — John L. Smith talked about it for two weeks — that Ole Miss loves the option read, and yet the Razorbacks had little success stopping it on the corners until the second half.

By then Ole Miss led 21-17, and while the Razorbacks defense held the Rebels to three field goals in the second half, it was too little too late.

After the game, Smith again talked about not pointing fingers, but the truth is that right now the finger of blame has to be pointed at him. Yes, he’s a great guy, but Saturday every number but one says it was a winnable game for the Hogs.

When Johnson rushes for 161 yards and Wilson passes for 297, those are winnable numbers.

Cobi Hamilton had 146 yards on 12 catches. Those are winning numbers.

In the f inal analysis, there is only one statistic that matters and that is the numbers on the scoreboard, which should have been a victory for Arkansas but was a loss because the Hogs didn’t seem prepared for Ole Miss on critical downs.

Sports, Pages 25 on 10/28/2012