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There's always next year



I haven't even spoken to my friends. I ignored all the teary empty nonsense of postgame coverage. I didn't sign into Twitter for a week. One advantage of living so far away from home is that I can easily avoid the noise, if not the memory. One disadvantage is that there's no one who can interpret my mood as anything but surly. I guess that's what it was. Anyway, the game was on a loop in my head.

We've all spent at least one fitful night listing the might-have-beens, and I'm not going to make you conjure them up all over again. Instead, I'll say that the Hogs weren't beaten soundly, and then move on to mention the many reasons to be proud of our team, including those players who might put more than a fair share of blame on their own shoulders.

In the worst game of Joe Adams' career, he caught nine passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. Yes, he left some points on the field. But nobody knows how the game would have played out had he caught that first pass. It's all butterfly wings and hurricanes down there. We can, however, assume that we couldn't do without his 50 receptions this year, not to mention his habit of big-moment heroism. (His habit of jawing at the opposition? You may not like it, but acts and attitude are sometimes a package deal.)

Willy Robinson's defense followed their worst half in half a dozen games with their best half of the year. The offense didn't do them many favors in that first two quarters, and you have to credit Jim Tressel for bucking the trend with some semblance of a novel game plan. Halftime adjustments held the Buckeyes to just 3 points in the second half. The coaching seems to be there, but while we fielded many good individual players this season, the Hogs had to expend a lot of effort accounting for weaknesses. Recruiting is the only answer to those problems.

The worst thing about the lesson freshman receiver Julian Horton had to learn in New Orleans is that it may never come in handy again. Always fall on the ball, except in the cases when you should pick it up and walk into the end zone to clinch the first BCS victory in Razorback history. No biggie. I'll admit to feeling that the game was over after we retained possession. That a quick score was a foregone conclusion. Horton's miscue only gathered significance after the fact. That is, after Ryan Mallett threw the last interception of his amateur career.

Of course, Mallet's going pro. In my weakest moments, I allowed myself to believe he might let that interception haunt him into returning, but best of luck to him. It certainly helped this team to have the most talented quarterback in Razorback history under center, but I don't think it sealed any deals. No reason to turn his senior year into a needling what-if. Time to find another hero.

If you spent the BCS championship game wondering how the Razorbacks could have possibly let Michael Dyer slip through their fingers, then you obviously haven't been paying attention to this Knile Davis fellow, who rushed for 139 yards on 26 carries in the Sugar Bowl and is probably the individual Razorback most responsible for our late-season success and our future chances. He's pretty good, too.

In fact, there are a lot of players who have been waiting their turns. We'll likely see all of our senior receivers back on the field, including Greg Childs. Tyler Wilson will be eager to get some snaps, but so will Brandon Mitchell. No telling which among our youngsters will step up next year. Given Petrino's knack for uncovering the best in his players, there's sure to be one or two new names dominating the box scores. It's pretty easy to get excited again, if you try.

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