|Updated: 10/02/2012 1:08 pm
||Published: 10/02/2012 11:21 am
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - John L. Smith had no problem saying the words "national championship" less than two months ago.
Mired in a four-game losing streak, the interim Arkansas coach struck a far different tone Monday as the Razorbacks prepared to face Auburn.
"We've got one goal, and that's to get a win," Smith said. "And at this point, that's the only thing we should be thinking about. You know all this other stuff, the hype and all that stuff, and all this and all that are all gone, so let's worry about go getting a win."
Smith's revamped goal is no certainty at this point, not for an Arkansas team whose free fall from elite to Southeastern Conference bottom feeder has been as shocking as it's been sudden.
The days of championship talk and Heisman Trophy hopefuls seem so long ago for the Razorbacks, who have lost four in a row for the first time since 2004. Even more telling is how bad Arkansas has looked during its skid, a point that was hammered home during a 58-10 loss last week to Texas A&M.
The 48-point loss was the third worst in the Razorbacks' 21-season history in the SEC. It's a category that Arkansas has become all-too familiar with in recent weeks, given that the school's worst loss in the conference - a 52-0 drubbing at the hands of No. 1 Alabama - came just two weeks prior.
The loss to the Aggies, in which the Razorbacks allowed 716 yards of total offense, caused an injury-riddled defense to sink even nearer to the bottom of the 120-team FBC statistics. The Razorbacks have now allowed an average of 510.2 yards of offense per game, 116th in the nation.
Despite the weekly struggles, senior defensive tackle Alfred Davis insisted he believes Arkansas can turn around its season.
"Some people probably would expect us to have our head down and be upset and mad that we're losing and stuff like that," Davis said. "But still, yesterday, we came out and we ran as a team last night, and everybody was in great spirits. Nobody had their head down or was pouting or complaining."
For all of its problems this season, Arkansas has led in the first half during three of its four losses. The Razorbacks, who have now been outscored by a total of 104-37 in the second half of games this season, led Texas A&M 10-7 after the first quarter before being outscored 51-0 the rest of the game.
It's a trend that has become more noticeable as the losses have mounted, one Arkansas hopes to change this week against the equally disappointing Tigers (1-3, 0-2).
"We're not taking them lightly," Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen said. "There's a reason they were picked to be in national championship contention at the beginning of the year, so we' know we've got our hands full, and we've got to establish the run and then that should open up the passing game for us."
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson had his coming-out party in a loss to the Tigers two seasons ago when he entered the game in place of an injured Ryan Mallett and threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns.
Wilson's temperament has been closely watched during the Razorbacks' fall from their preseason No. 8 ranking. The senior earned first-team All-SEC honors last season under former coach Bobby Petrino, and he assumed a primary leadership position during the chaotic spring that eventually resulted in Petrino's firing.
Wilson bypassed the NFL draft after last season, doing so in favor of Heisman Trophy and championship hopes. Even without Petrino's offensive prowess, Wilson has done his part so far this season, averaging 338.8 yards passing per game despite missing a game and a half with a concussion and calling out teammates for quitting during the Alabama loss.
Wilson said Monday that Arkansas hasn't resigned itself to a losing fate this season, regardless of how disappointing the first five games have been.
"I feel like every week is an opportunity," Wilson said. "Now, resignation of some of the goals we set previously? Maybe.
"But our goal, right now, and it has been since we started, is to go out and play each game every single week to the best of our ability. And we have an opportunity from this point on to do that."
AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Auburn, Ala., contributed to this report.