Not the season you expected? Me neither
Isn’t all of this getting a little ridiculous Hog fans? Have we not suffered enough? Of course not, because we are Razorbacks’ fans. We’re used to this stuff, right? I know I’m not surprised. Well, maybe I expected a better start to the season after finishing as the No. 5 team in the nation last year losing to the two best teams in the country, and started this season ranked No. 10, and with John L. Smith aside, Arkansas was no doubt overrated.
Yes, I was there to witness the Sept. 8 debacle to Louisiana-Monroe (30-point underdogs). The Razorbacks were up 28-7 at the half, Tyler Wilson went out with a concussion, and the Warhawks came back to tie it with seconds remaining in regulation, on a fourth-and-10. The Warhawks’ success on fourth down, many fourth-and-long, was enough to make a coach, well maybe not John L., go crazy. As soon as ULM scored the game-tying TD, I knew the Hogs lost.
The Razorbacks kicked a field goal to take a three-point lead in overtime, and you saw it, quarterback Kolton Browning, who Arkansas couldn’t stop all night, needed just 1 yard on fourth down for the first, but the Razorbacks went ahead and gave him 16 yards, the TD and the win.
I was lucky enough to walk in to a very somber press conference where it really did feel like “dead man walking” when Smith walked to the press table. It was a sad sight to see Smith do damage control for the Hogs’ worst loss since the Citadel in 1992. Smith actually said, “Those guys (ULM) come in here and beat us, there’s no reason why we can’t beat Alabama.”
I lost respect for Smith as a coach at that very moment. I could think of a few reasons why we wouldn’t beat Alabama. Reason No. 1 was Alabama didn’t have John L. Smith as the head coach. Reason No. 2 was Alabama was a legitimate No. 1 team in the nation. There were more reasons, but those two pretty much summed it up and Bama didn’t disappoint, trouncing the Hogs 52-0. The Razorbacks started OK in the game as it was within reach in the first quarter, but it got ugly quick.
It was announced before the season started that Smith was in financial trouble and would possibly have to declare bankruptcy over real estate deals that went sour. It was said that his debt would not be a distraction, but that was until it came out recently how much he was actually in debt for. Minus his assets, Smith is in the hole for over $25 million. How can being in debt for $25 million not be a distraction?
And then the whole “Smile” escapade that Smith came into a press conference the Monday after the Alabama loss. Smith said he had “never felt so much negativism coming at me in a long, long time. So I said, ‘Hey, put a smile on your face.’” Smith went on to defend his “Smile” statement, but it was too late. He must have forgotten that college football is no smiling matter unless your team is winning. Besides, there was nothing to smile about. Smith had just ended Arkansas’ season with the ULM loss and didn’t make things better after getting killed by the Crimson Tide.
And then there was the whole Alabama/Arkansas mixup when he was selling the Hogs to the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Monday. “Don’t give up on us,” Smith said. “It’s our program. It’s a state of Alabama program,” Smith said. “It’s not one individual’s program.”
Yes, I am coming down hard on Smith, but I am a firm believer in the coach is the responsible party for wins and losses. You can argue all day long that the players play the game, but the coach directs the players. Sure players have bad games and it will affect the outcome of a game, but ultimately it falls on the coach or if you want to get down to it, who hires the coach.
Maybe it’s too bad that Frank Broyles isn’t the athletic director anymore because maybe Smith would have been gone already. But, apparently Jeff Long is willing to see this season through. The Hogs fell to 1-3 on the year, already surpassing last year’s loss total in just four games. With the 35-26 loss to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights this past Saturday in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks are staring at the Texas A&M Aggies in College Station, Texas, Saturday morning, and then face Auburn, which edged the Warhawks two weeks ago, at Jordan-Hare Stadium the week after.
I’ve heard people say “Bring Bobby Back.” That’s asinine. No one wants that cheater back. Yes, Long was right to fire Petrino, but he is also the one that hired him. The Auburn game will be the mid-point of the season. I would venture to say that Smith’s stay with the Razorbacks will depend on if the Hogs are .500 at that time (3-3, 2-1 SEC). If Smith stays on with anything worse than that record after Oct. 6, then Arkansas may have more problems than just a bad football coach.