Razorbacks' woes put them in quicksand


Photographs by Ben Goff

Arkansas offensive line coach Kurt Anderson, left, and head coach Bret Bielema talk with players prior to a game against TCU on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The late Yogi Berra, baseball Hall of Famer and surefire member of anybody's Malaprop Wisdom Hall of Fame, famously said "Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical."

Arkansas Razorbacks football coach Bret Bielema perhaps has muttered since Saturday that the notion may also apply to football.

It seems the closer his Razorbacks get to the end zone, the harder time they have scoring.

And the more things slip in the second half, the more the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, defense fails to bail out the offense and vice-versa.

It's like quicksand -- the harder the Hogs fight to escape their rut, the deeper they sink.

The 2016 season ended with the Razorbacks losing 28-24 and 35-24 after holding halftime leads of 24-7 and 24-0 in their SEC finale against Missouri and the Belk Bowl game to Virginia Tech. They couldn't capitalize in the red zone, and their struggling offense and struggling defense could not bail out each other in the second halves.

More of the same, plus flaws in the kicking game on Saturday, contributed to a 28-7 loss to the TCU Horned Frogs at a sold-out D.W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

After quarterback Austin Allen's 49-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Nance in the first quarter, the Razorbacks missed two chip-shot field goal attempts. They settled for field goal tries after having a second-and-four at the TCU 5-yard line in the first quarter and third-and-goal at the 3 in the third quarter.

And the defense, which kept the Hogs within one score in a 14-7 game, surrendered a pair of late touchdowns. Although TCU converted 10 of its 14 third-down attempts, the Arkansas defense prevented points on most drives. However, in the final 2:18 of the game, the Horned Frogs found paydirt twice, with the second coming after Arkansas fumbled the kickoff return following the first.

Rehashing the same things is among the tasks awaiting Bielema today when he meets with media before his team resumes practicing during this bye week.

Arkansas will take the field at 11 a.m. Sept. 23 against Texas A&m at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for their ESPN-televised SEC opener.

"Offensively, we have to figure out what we can do better," Bielema said. "Because what we did, didn't work. We get a bye week and we'll take a self-inventory."

In the offseason, Arkansas switched its base 4-3 defense into a 3-4, which so far has cured the ills of big plays that vexed the team last season.

"Defensively we played our tails off for three and a half quarters, and then everybody gets their daubers down and feeling sorry for themselves," Bielema said.

Like Berra said, apparently "It's 90 percent mental and the other half is physical."

Sports on 09/13/2017

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