Posted: 3:57 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013
About midway through the third quarter Satuday, Arkansas' Keon Hatcher broke loose on a reverse. He dipped and ducked, weaving, darting and sprinting his way through the South Carolina secondary.
The end result?
First and 10, South Carolina.
On a play that symbolized the game (and maybe the breadth of 100-plus years of Razorback football), Hatcher had the ball stripped loose just before going down, the Gamecocks recovered, and the rout continued.
Midway through the fourth quarter (for those of you who had stopped watching), the same thing happened to Alex Collins -- only he lost the ball going for the end zone and ended up giving up a touchback. A 29-yard run down to the 1, and South Carolina got the ball back 1st and 10 on their own 20.
This game just couldn't end soon enough.
Eventually, it did. 52-7. On Homecoming. The Hogs' fourth straight loss, and maybe the most disheartening yet.
Arkansas took possession to open the game and drove 64 almost-effortless yards in seven plays for a touchdown. For the rest of the half, the Hogs totaled 31 yards on five possessions, one first down, one interception which led directly to a touchdown and one ill-conceived fake punt that set up another.
By halftime, it was 24-7 and Razorback Stadium was beginning to empty out.
At this point, fans are looking for somebody to blame. Actually the hunt began during the fourth-quarter collapse at Rutgers and has intensified in the last two weeks. Brandon Allen is a prime target. The playcalling is another favorite, along with botched coverage in the secondary.
Look, we knew when the schedule was released these losses were coming, but when you're losing so listlessly, so hopelessly, why settle for one scapegoat? There's plenty of blame to go around.
Let's start at the top:
This team has some pretty apparent confidence problems, and it's Bret Bielema's job to get that fixed. Each of the last two weeks, the Hogs have all but folded at the first hint of adversity. I really thought that was a John L. problem. Apparently it's part of the culture now. Good luck with that, Bert.
The decision to fake the punt at the end of the first half was also highly questionable. Instead of forcing South Carolina to drive 80 yards in about two minutes, Sam Irwin-Hill's wounded duck set the Gamecocks up just 48 yards from paydirt.
There's no getting around it, Brandon Allen is playing very poorly. His arm strength is OK, but his accuracy is inconsistent at best. You have to wonder if he's ever gotten over the shoulder injury, but then again his decision-making has nothing to do with a sprained shoulder, and its been just flat bad. We should also point out, however, that he's gotten very little help from his wide receivers.
Make no mistake, though. Allen is the best we've got, and until he gets his act together, Arkansas won't win much.
Questioning playcalling is the ultimate display of hindsight's perfect vision. That said, you have to wonder why the Hogs drove the length of the field with only one completed pass, and then Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams combined for just two carries over the next three series.
There's no doubt offensive coordinator Jim Chaney can draw up a script -- the Hogs have scored on their opening drive in six of seven games this year. His ability to adjust on the fly has been less impressive, but it also seems like he's calling the game with one arm (specifically Brandon Allen's right arm) tied behind his back.
The Hogs have very real issues at linebacker and safety. For every glimmer of hope, there is encroaching darkness. For every broken up pass, there are three (or four or five) blown coverages. For every linebacker filling a gap, there are two fruitlessly chasing a speeding running back who has already reached the corner and is picking up steam .
It's bad, and it's spanned multiple coaching staffs and defensive coordinators. Watching the Hogs on defense, you get the feeling any team with a good offense could come out and name their score and there's little Arkansas could do about it.
Or maybe not.
Maybe it's not as bad as all that. Maybe this is the overreaction of a fan who just watched South Carolina's third-string quarterback bowl over our defense for the Gamecocks' seventh touchdown of the day.
Maybe Arkansas is at its darkest because dawn is on the way.
And then you look at the schedule:
Saturday, Oct. 19 AT ALABAMA
Hey, what do you guys think about Mike Anderson's bunch this year?
Brent Holloway is an escaped journalist, but will consider returning to the industry for hundreds of thousands of dollars and a position that doesn't require Waffle Hours hours. Be miserable with him for three hours every Saturday on Twitter, @thebholloway.