Even if we admit that Alabama flapped into Bud Walton a lame duck, having lost head coach Mark Gottfried a few days before, the rousing win felt good, not least of all because we seemed to be firing on all cylinders. Rotnei Clarke, after hovering around the perimeter like dead weight for the last four games, exploded like the second coming of Pat Bradley. Never mind that he got more open looks than usual and that absent coaching from the opposition is exactly the kind of thing that sets a shooter like him loose: He earned most of those points by scuttling around the floor nonstop.
Perhaps the two Razorbacks who were heaped with the most praise following the win were Stefan Welsh and Courtney Fortson. They embodied unselfish play during the game, quietly distributing the ball and playing hard-nosed defense. You can tell the importance of this kind of team-centered effort from those two players by noting how much emphasis Pelphrey put on it in the post-game interviews. You'd have thought they'd scored more than a combined 16 points, but coaches have a different measure of leadership.
I'm generally not one to harp on the existence of such a thing as a “quality loss,” but if this team played every game the way they played the last thirty or so minutes against LSU, we'd be pretty damn salty. Four players scored in double digits, Fortson had nine assists for the second game running, our transition game was on pace, and our execution seemed to finally resemble the chalkboard. We staged a spectacular comeback and fell just short. Maybe next game we'll start playing at tip-off.
There's no time like right now for everything to fall into place. With their away game against the Hogs last night, Tennessee was supposed to be heading into an “easy stretch.” We might have caught them sleeping. I can't begin to guess.
If we managed a home win, maybe our road woes can be isolated from our general woes and adequately addressed against Mississippi State. At Starkville, we'll be plenty motivated to take one away against the Bulldogs. They started our slide after all. We owe them a heart breaker. They're unlikely to be shooting like they were in Bud Walton: if not because we'll lock down the perimeter, then because their three-point shooting in that first game was freaking unreal. Time for Clarke to start throwing daggers, Fortson to break ankles, Sanchez to crash boards, Washington to pull down rims. I'm tiring of this whole “desperation” line we've been dropping over the last few weeks in a feeble attempt to get our asses into gear. Besides, vengeance works just as well.
As of this writing, Petrino and his staff appear to have assembled another fine class, high in the ranks of any recruiting site. However, they'll always be able to throw together offensive playmakers. Petrino's attack inflates everybody's numbers, and recruits who have their eyes on the NFL prize are only looking for the ball. Even in an average season, they're going to get a nice highlight reel. Ronnie Wingo's no fool.
Defensive recruits, on the other hand, are harder sells. Bravo to the staff for landing some top prospects in five-star corner Darius Winston (ranked in the top twenty-five nationally!) and the beastly four-star safety Anthony Leon, as well as quality JUCO transfers and promising three-star speedsters. Unfortunately, short crossing patterns and tough runs up the middle are going to continue being an issue for another year. Our linebacking corps and down lineman probably needed the most immediate help, and we didn't have the same kind of luck there. We can't fill the gaps until we fill those gaps.