Like It Is:

Things just didn't change overnight for Hogs

By: Wally Hall
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema talks with athletic director Jeff Long during Arkansas' game against No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016.
Photo by Jason Ivester
Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema talks with athletic director Jeff Long during Arkansas' game against No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016.

It wouldn't matter if it was Alabama, Ohio State or Texas. Uh, never mind, this column could be about the once-powerful Longhorns, but it is not. It is about the University of Arkansas.

When a program goes from 10-3 and the BCS Sugar Bowl in 2010 and then goes 11-2 and plays in the Cotton Bowl in 2011 to scratching out appearances in second-tiered bowls like the Texas, Liberty and Belk bowls and losing games that appeared won there are questions.

There are no easy answers, but there is absolutely no doubt the Razorbacks have not been as good since Bobby Petrino.

In fact, Petrino was 12-4 in SEC play his last two seasons. Since then, in six seasons, the Razorbacks are 13-35 in league play. That's a difference of winning 75 percent in the country's best football conference and winning 27 percent.

Petrino was/is a great coach, especially on offense. That doesn't mean Petrino should not have been fired, just that the next two hires were not what they needed to be. Kansas, are you paying attention?

Last year, Barry Alvarez, the Wisconsin athletic director who hired and supervised Bret Bielema as the Badgers head coach, spoke to the Little Rock Touchdown Club and left no doubt he was a hands-on AD. There has long been the rumor that he still has his fingerprints on everything from recruiting to the game plan.

He said that if he had made a geographic move he would have changed his offense. In other words, Wisconsin produces more big offensive linemen and less speed, and in the SEC you need both. Bielema didn't seem to understand smash-mouth football was created in the SEC, and every coach has a drawer full of defenses to stop it.

Bielema, who is a good guy and always won the press conference, did try to recruit some speed his last two years, but it was too late by then.

His recruiting was about average for the Hogs, ranking nationally in the 20s and 10th in the SEC.

Looking at the last four recruiting classes -- not including this season's freshmen -- the Hogs signed one 5-star player, McTelvin Agim, and a total of 20 4-star players.

Of the 4-star players, seven are not on this roster. A couple were junior college players with just two years of eligibility and others were injured, transferred or were asked to leave.

A total of 23 have left the program the last four years which explains why the Razorbacks have only five fifth-year seniors.

All four of those recruiting classes were for a different offense and defense, a defense that was switched to a disasterous 3-4 last season.

This scratches the surface of why the program is where it is, but there is still that amazing statistic of losing 14 games since 2012 when opponents came from behind.

Obviously, the Razorbacks weren't in good enough physcial shape to finish, and perhaps that led to a mindset that it would take a psychologist to unwind, but one thing is certain, in the loss to Colorado State the elevation came in to play in the fourth quarter.

This comes from someone who got altitude sickness while there. Someone who's oxygen level dropped to 76, and 75-100 is normal.

Going into the fourth quarter the Razorbacks led 27-17 on the scoreboard. They had 421 yards of offense, and the defense had allowed a total of 234 yards, but playing at an elevation of 5,000 feet above sea level the Hogs gained 16 yards in the final 15 minutes, while the Rams totaled 195 and 17 points for the win.

It almost happened to Hawaii in their opener at Fort Collins and did happen to the Razorbacks.

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