According to a vocal segment of the Arkansas fan base, the Razorback football program is broken and won’t be getting fixed this season.
But for the Arkansas coaches and players, many of whom suffered through a three-game losing streak last season before finishing with five wins in its last six games, that is not the case.
The Razorbacks (3-2, 1-2) are hoping to rebound from back-to-back losses to Texas A&M and new No. 1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0) ahead of trips to No. 23 Mississippi State (4-1, 1-1) on Saturday and No. 16 BYU (4-1) on Oct. 15.
Arkansas has dropped from No. 8 to unranked in the Associated Press poll with the two losses and have fallen to No. 25 in the USA Today coaches poll.
“We’ve got to regroup,” Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said. “Last year we lost three in a row and turned out to win four of the last five or five of the last six, whatever it might be. We have to find a way to turn it around.
“I know we played two really good teams the last two weeks, but we’ve got to play better regardless of what the score is. We have to play more consistent, tackle better, convert on third downs and things of that nature on offense.”
Senior linebacker Bumper Pool, who had 10 stops Saturday to move within 13 tackles from breaking Tony Bua’s school career record mark of 408, agreed with his coach.
“This is a resilient group,” Pool said. “We’ll have a good game plan going into it. We’ve just got to stick together. A lot of games left. Everyone in that locker room is hurting, but we’re not broke. We want to continue to get better, continue to work on the things that we didn’t do well today.
“So we’ll bounce back and get back to work.”
Arkansas started 3-0 last season and jumped into the Associated Press Top 10 before falling at Georgia (37-0), at Ole Miss (52-51) and to visiting Auburn (28-23).
The Razorbacks also started 3-9 this campaign before losing the last two Saturdays.
“Every time you lose, you learn something from it,” Pool said. “I think that over the years, especially this past year, we’ve done a really good job of taking that next step after a loss. So this group is a resilient bunch. No matter how bad it hurts right now, we’re going to get back in there and we’re going to go to work, because that’s all we know. That’s the only thing that got us to this point.”
Arkansas senior offensive linemen Dalton Wagner noted that there is no other option, but to get right before the road trips to Starkville, Miss., and Provo, Utah.
“We have no choice but to bounce back,” Wagner said. “Talked about a little bit last week, but it’s the SEC. You’re playing a top 25 team every week you’re going out, and I think our ability. You learn the most from your losses. That’s according to Coach Pitt’s message.
“We learned a lot from A&M, and we learned a lot from today. And when we get to the film on Monday, we’ll watch it probably two hours, put it to bed and then start another hour’s worth on Mississippi State. But they’re good football team and the team’s ready to get this taste out of our mouth.”
Wagner was pleased with the way his team rallied from a 28-0 second quarter deficit to a 28-23 one late in the third.
But Alabama ripped off three long runs to put the game away in the fourth quarter.
“You know, obviously some plays got away from us in the fourth quarter,” Wagner said. “We weren’t as productive. But the effort and the fight and the strain on this team that A) has been put in by this coaching staff and B) has been found within ourselves is amazing.”
Wagner understands the fans are upset about the two losses, but made it clear the players are hurting.
“…These things, these losses, they hurt,” Wagner said. “They hurt like hell. But you know, you’re gonna bounce back from it. The sun’s gonna come up tomorrow. We’re gonna fix what we can fix, and the rest of the 10 games, or however many games we have left on our schedule, the rest of the games on our schedule, they’re all very winnable games.
“We have to go out, patch the holes we have right now, get ready to go and just attack the week.”
Photo by John D. James