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:
Razorbacks must point finger at themselves
Arkansas' Rashad Madden, left, and Moses Kingsley (33) block the shot of Texas A&M's Shawn Smith during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in College Station, Texas, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Bryan College Station Eagle, Stuart Villanueva)
Texas A&M did not beat the Arkansas Razorbacks on Wednesday night.
The Razorbacks beat themselves.
Nothing against the Aggies, who were not as talented or as athletic but wanted it more and proved it by playing harder and more physical than the Hogs, who seemed to have no focus, little determination and even less confidence.
There are some pointing a finger at Coach Mike Anderson, and no doubt he’s paid the big bucks to win, but he didn’t miss a layup or turn over the ball at a critical time.
He didn’t dribble too much looking for the pass inside that very well could have been made by first passing the ball to the other side of the court. He didn’t lack aggressiveness on defense, his bread and butter.
All of that is on the players, who let a very winnable game become a blowout loss.
Fans had a right to be disappointed, and the team and coaching staff probably are, too. But, like Anderson, the fans didn’t miss layups, throw the ball away or lack aggressiveness on defense.
As bad as that performance was, this team is capable of winning Saturday against Florida and Tuesday against Kentucky. They are much better at home, but if they are going to find a way into the NCAA Tournament, they need to play smarter, and that starts with strong, unselfish leadership on the floor.
The good news is that apathy has not set in.
Many fans are concerned that the program still isn’t winning big games, but it has been an uphill battle since Nolan Richardson was fired and sued the UA for discrimination.
Stan Heath and John Pelphrey were great guys, but they were not the answer and combined for a 56-88 conference record in nine years.
The Razorbacks were a mainstay in the NCAA Tournament for most of Eddie Sutton and Richardson’s careers but have made only three appearances in the past 11 seasons and have a 1-3 record. The victory over Indiana came a few days after Kelvin Sampson was fired.
This is not a lost season, but one that got off to a bad start on the road.
Bobby Petrino has said many times he has learned from his mistakes. That he is a different man.
Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich, one of the most respected ADs in the country, said after it was announced that Petrino was returning that he believed he was not hiring the old Petrino.
“Bobby and I have a lot of history,” Jurich said. “A lot of it was great. A lot of it was not great.”
In other words, Jurich knows he is hiring a winner and he believes Petrino will invest more time and energy in the personal lives of the players than he did at Louisville or Arkansas. He also believes Petrino will respect his bosses.
This could be a win-win for Petrino and the Cardinals. Petrino has a proven formula for winning, and after a year of being called a Western Kentucky Hilltopper he should have learned even more about humility.
Petrino has admitted that he embarrassed his wife and children, and himself, with some off-the-field behavior at Arkansas.
He deserved another chance.
He also should have come at a bargain price for Jurich,who put a $10 million buyout in the 10-year contract.
It was not a surprise Johnny Manziel decided to forgo his senior year and throw his name in the NFL draft, and despite his size he will be a first-round draft pick because of his athleticism and competitive spirit.
He made lots of headlines as Texas A&M’s quarterback, some not so good, but he was incredible to watch on the field.
Texas A&M and football fans across the country will miss him.
Sports, Pages 19 on 01/10/2014