I would hazard a guess that, at various times during a particular three-hour window on Saturday night in Oxford, Miss., the Arkansas fan base present and those viewing the proceedings back home sat very, very quietly. Let’s even go so far as to call their disposition “mournful.”
And why should, or would, one who has committed so much self-harm by latching his or her emotional state to the outcome of a Razorback football game feel any differently?
The program appears absolutely lifeless, and I’ll stop short of saying “is already lifeless.” It has been consumed by a pervasive apathy that has been a byproduct of decades — not just years, mind you — of asinine personnel decisions followed by pecuniary choices that resemble a young child flailing about it in a toy store with a fistful of saved money that the kiddo cannot WAIT to irrationally spend. Reynolds Razorback Stadium has never been more expansive and impressive, and yet has had the paradoxical misfortune of never feeling so empty. If you think a “revenge game” against a tepid Colorado State program that has never looked more irrelevant is going to even fill two-thirds of the joint Saturday, you are more dangerously optimistic than Rick Schaeffer taking hits from a helium tank.
Arkansas lost to Ole Miss in Oxford, 31-17. It was as uninteresting, aggravating and by-God wasteful of time as any other loss in the last, eh, 40 years or thereabouts. I only set the line there because of my age; if someone older than I wants to take a more accurate and informed stance on how much agony the fan base has endured, I welcome it. Fill out the comment card on your table and be sure to reference “The Moment Pearls About Swine Let Go of the Rope.” Fitting that Houston Nutt, whose performance and demeanor I notably besmirch still, is the inspiration behind that designation.
The Hogs’ vaunted offense scored one largely meaningless touchdown after Nick Starkel was substituted for an erratic and indisputably less gifted quarterback, the SMU transfer Ben Hicks, who certainly was a fine quarterback at that school but is clearly unfit to take these reins. There was a defensive score by Kamren Curl on a fumble return. Somebody hit a field goal, and I think he shanked another. Ole Miss trotted out a pretty flaccid, but admittedly young, bunch of skill players, and they did a good job bottling up the Razorback juggernaut.
Two games into what portends to be another listless fall, the Hogs are a pretty ugly 1-1, and not progressing in any discernible way. Everything is running at a shockingly indifferent pace and the net result is an offense responsible for three field goals and three touchdowns across eight quarters of boring-ass, bad football.
Am I frustrated? Nah. This kind of thing has bogged down the program in one way or another for years. Those who still have commendable passion about it are unfortunately the same folks who think Bobby Petrino’s brief return to express token remorse and submit his resumé makes him worthy of an immediate return to the saddle. Never mind that his conduct genuinely endangered the state’s coffers and imparted unwarranted liability and embarrassment upon the university. The suddenly hapless Louisville program over which he presided was tanking badly on his watch. Petrino’s star flamed out in April 2012, to be candid, and he’s without work right now for a reason.
Arkansas has some salty newcomers that may end up being very, very good. Chad Morris’ recruiting thus far has been solid, and certainly over a small sample size his classes have been better than those cobbled together by Nutt, Petrino, et al. It’s nice to see a strong-armed but mobile quarterback like Starkel. It’s nice to see a young defense playing hard, even if not always well, and to watch these physical specimens at receiver do their thing too.
But is this really where any of us expected to be at this juncture? Not me. Morris at one time had me convinced that he could be a diamond in the rough. Instead, I am beginning to think we overpaid for cubic zirconium.