I have to admit that I'm not quite as devastated as I was last week. Alabama has the best defense in the country. Our offense won't see a more talented eleven this year. You've heard this from everybody, and it's not just an excuse. It's the truth. But teams like Alabama can beat you at more than the game. Losses like this stick with you like ghosts. And if we're going to turn this season around, even if only by next season, we have to wipe away the cold sweat.
Bobby Petrino took a lot of flack for admitting that he didn't convince his guys that they could win. Clearly, at this level, that is a part of the game and an element of the coach's job. Motivation was his predecessor's forte, and many people loved him for it. Only we hired a man who specializes in assembling teams that should be feared rather than teams who must overcome their own fear. We've all seen the makings of a fearsome squad in our Razorbacks, but we're not there just yet. Until then, until this team matures into that monster on the horizon, this coaching staff has to do what it can with what it has, and that includes helping these players bounce back from such a decisive loss and believe that they can win again.
It also includes coaching good technique. The improvements in our defensive play last week reflect on Willy Robinson's ability to craft a quality scheme in response to Alabama's attack. The Tide's running backs are much, much better than they looked last week. However, our continued struggles on defense, our tendency to give up back-breaking plays, reflect not only our youth but also our lack of mechanics. Two missed tackles is a good running back. Four missed tackles is a trend.
I'd also note without further comment that a team doesn't have to be all that good when we spot them 98 yards in penalties, only two yards better than the week prior. Add to that however many we gave up in piss-poor special teams play.
Undefeated Texas A&M will be more forgiving. They haven't beat anybody special and gave up 521 yards to Utah State in their only remotely competitive game so far. Quarterback Jerrod Johnson has looked Joe Cox-like against the scant competition. He threw six touchdowns against an Alabama team last week, only this one came out of Birmingham. He and his favorite target, Uzoma “Easy” Nwachukwu, are likely going to connect for some big plays, but our improvement against the running game will take away a dimension of the scrambler's M.O.
And it won't hurt that our offense will have something to prove. You know it's eating away at them. A mere 254 yards last week? They'll be looking to double it in that big dome and on those gigantic monitors. Ryan Mallett grew up a Cowboys fan, and he'll feel right at home during this road game. The inaugural Southwest Classic is likely to set some records that will last.