Things I’d rather do than see the Arkansas Razorbacks trounce an inferior North Texas squad in what might as well be called an exhibition game:
A. Catch up on DVRed episodes of Ken Burns’ “The War.”
B. Pull for Jermain Taylor in what might turn out to be the defining bout of his career.
C. Watch the real games on television.
D. Go squirrel hunting.
In fact, I did go squirrel hunting. After traipsing through the Ozark National Forest all day, seven disgruntled friends and I played a double elimination tournament of Bunco while listening to the “game” on the radio in a tiny town east of Harrison, weirdly dubbed Fifty Six. Strangely enough, it set me back exactly $56 plus gas to rent a cabin and spend the weekend hunting with my buddies. Conversely, the University of Arkansas shelled out $425,000 to convince the worst team in the Sun Belt to come to Fayetteville and get walloped. The high cost of low expectations strikes again.
My friends and I didn’t go to the trouble of donning black shirts, but our apathy won’t be surmounted by that dog-and-pony show on the Hill. Sunshine Schaeffer and Co. will talk up the North Texas passing game, which ranked third in the nation in the air despite going 0-3 against Sun Belt opponents, but the Mean Green was woefully outclassed in every respect (on the field at least). I’ll admit to feeling exultant when Felix Jones tore down the field again and again, when Jarrell Norton set a Razorback record for a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown, when we got an 11-yard punt return for our longest of the season, when our defense piled 3-and-out on 3-and-out, when Casey Dick completed a pass. But any attempt to take this game too seriously adds up to little more than an exercise in easy catharsis. We might feel better in the short term, but we’re bound to hate ourselves in the morning.
Even so, plenty of stuff looked good enough to warrant a mention. The offense’s use of play action was promising. Casey Dick went deep more than once. David Lee managed to logically integrate Peyton Hillis into our attack. Our offensive line gives me hope for the future. Our D-backs seemed to be finding the ball instead of spinning themselves dizzy. Freshman Damario Ambrose was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week. Tejada’s golden foot hasn’t tarnished a lick. D-Mac remains a Heisman frontrunner.
But. But but but. We have to run some crossing patterns if we’re going to compete with a top-tier defense. And just because our D-backs looked something other than fast against North Texas doesn’t mean they’re ready for the real deal; the Mean Green fielded a true freshman at QB for half the game.
Next week brings yet another cream puff, this time to War Memorial. UT-Chattanooga also keeps the ball in the air on offense, and they’re another team unlikely to push us to make adjustments or exceed the minimum expectations of a program whose budget dwarfs that of their, for lack of a better term, opponents. Regardless, the Little Rock crowd is going to be roaring. But these kind of empty victories aren’t going to keep the black shirts away, and a resurgent Auburn is on the horizon.