Conventional wisdom dictates that SEC games are won on the ground. With the top backfield in the country racking up 639 yards total rushing over the last couple weeks, Arkansas's 0-2 conference record just doesn't compute. Something's gumming up the figures.
A defense that allowed 80 points over two games might be a good place to start sniffing around. Reggie Herring's D gave us approximately three-quarters of decent play against quality opponents. The rest has been positively abysmal. They were off to a good start last week against Kentucky, but fell apart once a third-string tailback started cramming the ball down their throats. And they coughed up way too many yards to mental mistakes. Kevin Woods atoned for the costly errors of the week before with 14 tackles, but only as the last man between the Wildcats and the end zone. That's not playing free safety. That's more like goalie.
But if the best defense is a good offense, nothing in the numbers explains the loss. Our monster of a ground game wolfed down more empty calories than a fat man at a Chinese buffet, hampered by a leaden air attack weighed down by what my former junior high coach might deem “piss poor” execution. Casey Dick couldn't conjure even the harmless mediocrity of week three and instead had about as much chance of hitting the numbers as your average lottery ticket. Balls bounced off back shoulders and grazed outstretched fingertips all night long. Even the completions hung receivers out to dry, and London Crawford has the bruised ribs to prove it.
Of course, play-calling that refuses to color outside the lines, or at least from sideline to sideline, does the young men no favors. We're suffering from a lack of imagination that renders our every move transparent to the opposing defense. You can't run DMac between the tackles every down. Not only is it inconsistently effective, it breaks down our greatest threat — and it reeks of desperation. More and more, he must feel like he's banging his head against a brick wall. But not just a brick wall, a brick wall that gets stronger the more often you run into it.
We have two games to rescue this season. If a change is going to come under center, Nutt and Lee should move now. Use North Texas and Chattanooga to build up Casey's confidence, preferably by throwing the ball on more than one first down. Let RoJo run the option. Burn Dick the younger's redshirt. Do something. But if the first two weeks of conference play have taught us anything, it's that we're going have to field 11 men to get it done.
The secondary will definitely get a chance to swat at some balls against North Texas, whose quarterback went 38/61 through the air in a loss to Florida Atlantic last weekend (incidentally, FA is playing Kentucky on Saturday). The line should be able to shut down the run and allow them to concentrate on whatever coverage Herring dreams up to replace the still-flailing scheme.
But that's only enough to win the next two games.
If week three's loss could be chocked up to game day decision-making, last weekend's loss to Kentucky was symptomatic of an imminent collapse. Houston Nutt survived the horrors of the off-season only to wake up into a nightmare. The problems on both sides of the ball are cumulative and endemic. We lack the discipline to follow through in the fourth quarter. Each loss can be traced to a crucial mistake made by a different player. Seems like every week another player finds himself behind bars.
Any loss of respect for the head coach translates into discipline problems, and we aren't dealing with the Springdale hangover anymore. Problems like these, off the field and on the field, are connected at the root. Nutt should invest in some Miracle-Gro, or someone's going to pull that sucker out of the ground.