Bielema hopes to teach Arkansas mental toughness
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP)
Bret Bielema wishes he had a way to teach Arkansas how to overcome difficult moments.
Unfortunately for the Razorbacks coach, he has yet to devise a solution to keep the struggling program from doing just that during games.
The latest example of Arkansas' struggles in maintaining momentum came during last week's 52-7 loss to South Carolina, a game in which the Razorbacks led 7-0 early before the Gamecocks scored the final 52 points.
It was the fourth straight loss for Arkansas (3-4, 0-3 Southeastern Conference), matching Bielema's longest losing streak of his career.
It's a mark the former Wisconsin coach will likely top on Saturday when the Razorbacks travel to No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0), especially if they are unable to reverse a recent trend of struggling after poor plays.
For a program that went 21-5 during the 2010-11 seasons, Arkansas has shown its first-year coach that the scars from last season's 4-8 collapse are still around in Fayetteville.
''It's kind of blown me away that there's such a focal point or a blow up of a bad situation,'' Bielema said.
''I mean, it's the same team that's done some pretty positive things. The goings getting a little bit tough, and our guys revert back to that, and it's just something you have to get out of your system.''
Against South Carolina, Arkansas' problems started with a first-quarter interception thrown by quarterback Brandon Allen.
The Razorbacks opened the game with a seven-play, 64-yard drive, with Allen making a quality throw to receiver Javontee Herndon for 20 yards on third down.
The drive was capped by Alex Collins' 6-yard touchdown run, and Arkansas then held the Gamecocks to a field goal on their opening drive.
On the next Razorbacks drive, Allen threw an interception to South Carolina's Victor Hampton - with Mike Davis scoring one play later to put the Gamecocks up 10-7.
After that, the Arkansas offense - particularly the passing game - came to a grinding halt.
The Razorbacks finished the first half with four straight three-and-outs, including a failed fake punt in the final minutes of the half that led to a South Carolina touchdown.
Allen, a week after he was battered in a loss at Florida, suffered the most against the Gamecocks after the interception.
The sophomore completed just three more passes for the game, finishing 4 of 12 for 30 yards.
''There's only one guy that threw the pick, there's only one guy that the receiver jumped in front of,'' Bielema said. ''How it affects the other nine guys so negatively is beyond me.''
Overall, Arkansas was outgained 537-248 in total yardage by South Carolina in its second straight game to lead early before falling behind.
It did the same a week earlier against the Gators, as well as in the opening game of its losing streak - a 28-24 loss to Rutgers in which the Razorbacks led 24-7 in the second half.
Bielema has been through difficult stretches before, losing four in a row and five out of six while at Wisconsin in 2008.
That team, however, rebounded to win its final three regular season games and reach a bowl - keeping Bielema's mark of seven seasons as a head coach without a losing record alive and well.
It's a mark that figures to be tested over this season's second half with a schedule that includes the Crimson Tide, Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU - particularly if Arkansas doesn't learn how to bounce back.
''When adversity strikes, you don't try and fight it alone,'' Bielema said. ''You fight it together, and I think that's the part that we've got to rally around. Everybody's got to step up a little bit better, starting with me as a head coach and all our assistants. That's the No. 1 thing plaguing our program right now.''