Gulp down your sense of dread, Hog fans. Guard your spirits! It ain't all that bad. This season looks to be exactly like a roller coaster ride. Tuck away any expectations save that. Once you've done so, you're set to enjoy watching Razorback football undergo the inevitable revolution, and won't it be fun. ...
I let my enthusiasm carry me away, too. I overlooked the 22 unknowables going into Saturday's game: the handful of vets under a new system, the green freshmen thrown into the mix. A few bad hops had us reeling in the first half, and the defense stayed on its heels deep into the third quarter.
Man, but did we have some bright spots. A quick list:
One. We love Dick. (You know what I mean.) The unlikely lynchpin carried us on his back, a testament to experience and the fallow coachability of a longtime whipping boy. He played the game of his life so far, but it will pale in comparison to future performances.
Two. We've got ourselves an attack dog. Some coaches get the ball with a slight deficit and a minute and change on the clock going into halftime and just sit on the thing. Those coaches are cowards who don't trust their own teams. Other coaches show their teams that they have faith in them by charging down the field fearlessly. Even though they didn't manage a score before the whistle, that last minute first-half charge left them hungry and headstrong.
Three. Dropped balls don't kill drives. Hogs sports teams are known for being emotional. The Nutt-era was characterized by manic-depressive behavior. That's old news. On Saturday night, Greg Childs immediately followed up a gaffe with a touchdown. Carlton Salters went from causing a turnover to saving a vital series. Welcome to the now.
Four. Hog fans have their heads in the game. Clemson experienced an exodus in Atlanta on the same night that Hog fans hung in there for the whole shebang. Tommy Bowden might've gotten a contract extension out of our coaching search, but he has to live with a bunch of front-runners.
Even the bad ain't all that ugly. The offensive line is a clear head case, and our backs are every bit as responsible for not plugging holes. Missed assignments spell more homework. Most of our vets are on the line, and they're prepared to adjust and learn, but they still need game experience under the new system. You can't know a foreign land until you've seen it. Everything will start to make sense to them come conference play. Regardless of the look they gave us last week, we're lucky to have the line we do. If our cupboard's all but bare, at least we're left with some quality staples.
Suspensions are hurting us, and that's nothing but a good thing. These consequences aren't only personal. Smith et al aren't only answering to themselves for their actions. With a squad this thin, discipline has to be airtight. Nobody can enforce policy like a fellow teammate. No court carries the weight of a locker room.
As for ULM, their ass-kicking at the hands of Auburn can't tell us much. The War Eagle defense overpowered them so utterly that we can't know their strengths. They put the ball in the air quite a bit, mostly short dumps, but they don't seem to have an overpowering back anything like Donaldson. That should relieve pressure off of our midfield. Whether our secondary can effectively hold off a passing team is almost beside the point. We nearly lost last week's game simply because we couldn't stop the run and get the ball back into our own hands. Teams will try to choke the life out of us all season — win by possession and drain the clock. We have plenty of answers for points, but we can't beat time.