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MIKE MASTERSON: Our Razorbacks

Woe, pig sooie

The Bret Bielema record after almost five years and 61 games at Arkansas: 29 wins and 32 losses, last place SEC West. And now we learn a Razorback quarterback has been arrested on a DUI charge. Oy vey!

When Razorback head coach and overall nice guy Bielema arrived from Wisconsin five years ago, he packed an impressive win-loss record and was full of bravado, claiming he came to win the SEC and not to play Alabama but to beat Alabama. How often do the words we utter return with razor-sharp teeth to nip our backsides? Well, I'd say Bielema's backside has to be a tad more than nipped today.

His encouraging words were just what the Razorback Nation longed to hear after suffering the loss of winning coach Bobby Petrino and the disastrous 4-8 season under his fill-in replacement, John L. Smith.

Hog fans loved the attitude of this new coach arriving from an impressive winning record and the promise of restored respect and admiration he so openly touted. In short, they believed that he knew what he was doing when it came to building a team that root hogged till time expired and usually came out on top. After all, he'd done it.

Razorback Athletic Director Jeff Long, the athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh between 2003-2007 before replacing Frank Broyles, became the man who fired Petrino for personal indiscretions, then recruited Bielema away from Athletic Director Barry Alvarez and the Badgers at Wisconsin.

Long reassured fans and supporters at the time that Bielema, with a coaching record at Wisconsin of 68-24 (and Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2006) was his ideal choice. We chose to trust Long's assessment also based on Bielema's winning track record, including three consecutive trips to the Rose Bowl, although his teams lost them all.

So now here we are in Bielema's fifth mediocre season boasting an overall losing record at 29-32. That's hardly winning the toughest conference in America. With each loss, the good-natured coach (unquestionably liked by most everyone) continually assures us we are within a snout's breath of being a very good football team. But five years of being "so close" has created a yawning credibility gap since we clearly are not.

Perhaps we were on the right path until those final two games last year where the Razorbacks squandered big first-half leads to lose to a hapless Missouri team, then to Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl. I believe those second-half meltdowns are when the lug nuts began loosening.

Bielema also is quoted repeatedly saying he, the staff and team continue to make adjustments and practice hard while ignoring any outside world comments based in the fans' frustrations and anger with obvious defensive and offensive shortcomings. I assume you and I are the outsiders who purchase tickets and cheer from the stadium seats (we sure have lots of those to sell now), the ones who witness the results of these alleged incremental improvements.

There have been plenty of ongoing comments across the state following consecutive one-point escapes first against Ole Miss (thanks to the gift of a late turnover) then against a much-lesser Coastal Carolina team that Arkansas State lambasted earlier this season 51-17. Thank the football God, Pigskin, that Carolina oddly chose to punt rather than go four feet for a likely game-winning first down in the closing minutes.

Former All-SEC Razorback Safety Ken Hamlin certainly has standing to comment on the team he loves. He's quoted in Tom Murphy's recent story saying he found the toughness and emotion necessary for victory in the SEC West falling short today at Arkansas, especially on defense. "I just don't see the passion. I don't see the accountability from the guys that I once saw. Just the toughness. I don't know if we don't have the guys, or the guys need to have a little bit more put into them to where they understand the seriousness of the game."

Sounds to me he's talking about recruiting and coaching accountability.

"He's [Bielema] got to win," Hamlin understated. "... He's done a good job of really pulling some things together. It just hasn't happened. I don't know if it's the guys we're getting in or what they're doing once we get them in. But I think right now, the guys that are playing, if they can't get the job done, they need to get off the field."

On defense: "... the same big plays are happening. A lot of the issues we were having the previous year are happening this year." Those include troubling lack of consistency and opponents' successes in the third quarter.

With two tough SEC games remaining, even should our 4-6 Hogs manage to earn six wins and another lower-tier bowl game, I'll not be surprised to see Bielema and perhaps Long bidding farewell to Fayetteville. The outside pressure on the Board of Trustees to act undoubtedly is enormous. Should that happen (see ex-Tennessee coach Butch Jones and his 34-27 record), I wonder where the laid-back "Being Bret Bielema" might wind up after his Razorback record.

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Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

Editorial on 11/14/2017

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