By derek jenkins
Senior forward Charles Thomas stood up and testified to the value of experience, leadership and heart in the second half of the Baylor game last Saturday night. The Hogs had trailed by as much as nine points previously, stumbling to another crippling road loss. Their reputation as a spotty road team has haunted them this season, engendering an almost superstitious fear of red jerseys among their hungry fan base. Like everything else in the game of basketball, it took a matter of minutes to shake that monkey from their back.
Despite his undeniable influence on the court, Thomas has struggled to find his place in Pelphrey's (still very much under construction) offensive scheme. Sonny Weems and Michael Washington have that coveted forward slot wrapped up due to their better shooting. But he's a real threat off the bench: a fearless leader, stringier and faster and more aggressive than ever.
During the second half, with Beverly continuing to knock down threes, Weems draining short-rangers, Townes finally using his size, and the Manimal disrupting things all to hell from the bench, the Hogs looked like the team we've always imagined. Our D stopped the three, and then on offense took high-percentage shots and made their free throws. But perhaps most importantly, Pelphrey asserted himself by defying fan pressure and easing off the full court press to slow down the game, making 40 minutes of Hell resemble something closer to 40 minutes of Pel.
I might think he's a windbag, but that didn't make it any easier to watch a deflated Reggie Herring take credit for the devastating loss in the Cotton Bowl. His stunned contrition probably didn't make it any easier for all the fans who took off for Dallas on Dec. 31 and got up bright and early (and hungover) on New Year's Day to watch our favorite team get manhandled by our oft-forgotten neighbor up north. This certainly didn't look like the team that upset the national champions in November. Still, you can't say the man didn't step up and take responsibility for the loss.
On the other hand, Interim Offensive Coordinator David Lee, the only person on the staff who it's fair to say simply gave up, took the opportunity to get in another dig at the folks who “ran [him] out of town.”
Well, Mr. Lee: Since you can't find a way to keep the Missouri linebackers busy enough to free up the best backfield tandem in Arkansas history for one last hurrah, then good riddance. Happy trails. No more soup for you.
No matter who wins the Democratic nomination, what will be most refreshing about that decision will be imagining what I sincerely hope will be the forthcoming administration. Maybe most folks don't care who's the secretary of interior, but they almost certainly care about the purity of their drinking water. Whoever the Democratic nominee chooses to replace Dirk Kempthorne, things are liable to get a lot clearer with new blood in the office.
Similarly, anyone who might be wondering what our team will look like on defense next year might take a look at Darren McFadden's numbers on the ground against Mississippi State this past season. Holding the man to 88 yards is no mean feat, despite McFadden's concomitant success through the air (both as a receiver and a passer). Incoming DC Ellis Johnson looks to be formidable.