Arkansas looks to regroup following Alabama loss
Bobby Petrino built Arkansas into one of the top programs in the
country in four seasons, playing in a BCS bowl game and finishing
as high as No. 5 in the rankings during that time.
In three games this season, the Razorbacks (1-2, 0-1
Southeastern Conference) appear to have all but collapsed without
their former coach, and with an injured Tyler Wilson on the
The latest crushing blow came in the form of a 52-0 drubbing at
the hands of No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, a game in which Arkansas
was shut out in Razorback Stadium for the first time in 46 seasons.
It might not have been as shocking as an overtime loss to
Louisiana-Monroe a week earlier, but it was every bit as
emotionally crippling – and then some.
Players walked slowly off the field afterward, coaches embraced
in the team’s football complex and Wilson – who missed the game
while still suffering from a head injury suffered the week before –
called an impromptu news conference where he stressed that he’ll do
everything he can to keep the team together, and play, in next
week’s game with Rutgers.
”And most importantly, get a win,” Wilson said. ”You have to
start with one before you can get the rest of them. I give you my
word; I am going to do the best I can to make that happen.”
While Arkansas was left to regroup, the Crimson Tide (3-0, 1-0)
walked away with its second straight shutout and 21st straight win
to open conference play. Alabama also reclaimed the sense of
dominance it had in a season-opening win over Michigan, a sense
that wavered ever-so slightly in a 35-0 over Western Kentucky last
The Crimson Tide allowed six sacks of quarterback AJ McCarron in
that win, none against the Razorbacks. McCarron was 11 of 16
passing for 189 yards and a touchdown before exiting the blowout in
the third quarter, and Alabama outgained Arkansas 438-137 in total
The convincing win even led to a compliment or two from
demanding Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban. Alabama hosts Florida
Atlantic next week before beginning a stretch of six straight SEC
games as it pursues its third national championship in four
”What we’ve really been fighting with this group about ever
since the Michigan game is allowing ourselves to accept average and
getting them to demand more of themselves,” Saban said. ”I think
we started to gain a little bit (Saturday).
”… This group is still learning how to motivate themselves
every week and demand to be the best that they can be. We’re going
to continue to work on that, and hopefully we’ll continue to
Meanwhile, whatever Wilson’s availability is moving forward for
Arkansas, his absence has left the Razorbacks in turmoil in their
first season under coach John L. Smith. The former Michigan State
and Louisville coach was brought back to Arkansas in April to
replace the fired Petrino, a move that was universally embraced by
the players – who declared time and again their affection and
loyalty for Smith.
Smith admitted that it was ”kind of hard to say anything at
this point” to the Razorbacks following Saturday’s loss. He was
hired to a 10-month contract in April, and his interim status makes
it unlikely Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long would consider
other options while continuing his search for Petrino’s long-term
Smith knew he was taking on a unique challenge following
Petrino’s unexpected firing for hiring his mistress to a position
in the athletic department and initially trying to cover up her
presence during an April 1 motorcycle accident. The thought,
however, was that that Razorbacks were primed for a run at an SEC
championship – with or without Petrino.
All of the assistant coaches remained in place, including
Petrino’s brother, offensive coordinator Paul Petrino. More
importantly, Arkansas had a pair of Heisman Trophy hopefuls in
Wilson and running back Knile Davis, both who turned down the NFL
after last season with expectations of climbing past the only two
teams the Razorbacks couldn’t beat last season – national champion
Alabama and runner-up LSU.
Wilson, last season’s first-team All-SEC quarterback, hasn’t
played since the first half of the loss to Louisiana-Monore, and
Davis has struggled through three games to regain the form that
helped him lead SEC running backs in rushing yards in 2010 –
averaging just 3.5 yards per carry.
Smith’s job now is to keep a once-hopeful Arkansas team from
fracturing under the weight of the mounting losses.
”I have total confidence in these guys and that the seniors are
going to pull us together and the rest of the team is going to pull
together,” Smith said. ”I don’t think they’re going to splinter
and everybody start pointing fingers and going their own way.
”It’s easy to quit. It’s easy to criticize somebody else.
That’s the coward’s way out, and these men are not cowards. They’re
not going to do that.”