It's hard for your rational mind to regain a hold after a weekend like that. The Hogs lose to a dismal LSU offense in overtime after securing the lead with just over a minute left on the clock. Les Miles seems as surprised as anybody when he manages not to screw up the game-tying drive. Alex Tejada shanks a makeable field goal after surprising us all by not choking any sooner. (I actually left the room before the ball was snapped, so dreadful were my misgivings at the moment.) Then our Hog basketball team piles on the misery with a third straight humiliating non-conference loss.
I thought about running solid black columns in this space as a kind of symbolic gesture. Or maybe solid red ones to symbolize the blood oozing from my slit wrists. The editors thought that might be a little histrionic.
(Try just moaning aloud for a bit. Ever done that? Sit in a dark room and moan. You'll feel better after a while. I did.)
Everybody knows the problem. Everybody thinks they know how to fix it. But I'm not sure that identifying the problem and identifying the solution are similar endeavors. Any bozo can point to our porous defense as a big reason the number four offense in the country can't outscore its competition. That doesn't mean we want just any bozo to replace Willy Robinson.
Unless there's an exceedingly obvious upgrade dangling himself within Petrino's reach, I'm not certain dismissing your defensive coordinator — in his second year and with many of his initial recruits just now grasping for maturity — is a productive measure. Maybe if the recently ousted Al Groh wants to come in on a short-term contract, but I can't name another sure thing out there on the market.
Most of our problems have been in the secondary, at positions that famously have the steepest learning curves in NCAA football. (That's why Nick Saban is the best defensive “mind” in the country; he knows how to coach a secondary.) Guess who coaches our secondary? Speed seems to be an issue, and that's easy enough to fix, but I think improper positioning might be the crucial part of our problem. That's something that only experience and/or exceptional coaching can solve. Despite playing defensive back in college, Robinson hasn't seemed very exceptional at tightening the loose bolts in our pass coverage. Maybe the alternative will come into play next season.
Granted, our offense played as poorly as it ever has in the first half, and we had plenty of opportunities to keep the game out of reach of LSU's awful attack, but our offense will be ready to compete for a championship next year. Considering how many of our weapons might be tempted to take off before their senior seasons, it might be our best shot for a couple years. Our weaknesses on the other side of the ball need to be addressed in a way that doesn't involve too much upheaval but at the same time stiffens our performance up to the point that we don't give up quite as many records to the opposition.
Speaking of upheaval, John Pelphrey's Razorbacks have cornered the market. They lost to his old team last weekend, which would have been acceptable if John Calipari coached South Alabama. He does not, and three consecutive non-conference losses can't be chalked up to a mere bench shortage. Be glad we've been able to focus on football, because there's not much to cheer about in that other favored program. Pel's never doled out more warranted suspensions, but, honestly, things should not have to get this out of hand.
We'll get the problem children back by the time we see any SEC competition, but the conference is up this year, and none of those guys feel like difference-makers to me. Surely Rotnei Clarke, Mike Washington and Marshawn Powell will resent them just a bit by the time Pel finally yanks their heads out of their behinds. In the meantime, maybe those three will find a way to get along without them, but who's going to be around to see it?