McCollum’s Column: The balloon bursts for Arkansas fans

That missed 20-yard, chip shot field goal attempt that bonged sharply off a goalpost against TCU reflects Arkansas fans’ emotion in microcosm right now.

 

Ouch. How? Why? What’s next?

The balloon burst. The excitement for an 8-4, 9-3 or better season exited with a whoosh. Now, folks are talking about 4-8, 5-7, 6-6. They are speculating about the next coach.

That’s as premature as 8-4 or 9-3. But right now, with the loss to TCU, Razorback fans, which have fed off optimistic talk from a lot of closed practices and puffed-up recruiting profiles, have been dealt a major psychological blow. Speculation was that the TCU game would be pivotal for the psyche. Many Razorback fans have now been educated that nothing is as good as it seems.

Maybe not as bad as it seems, but it could get worse.

In the face of expensive stadium renovations that theoretically either soften or enhance emotional blows with luxury, rising expenses just for a family to attend a game and the reality that the magic of the Little Rock experience nearing an end, there is a frustrated and increasingly volatile fan base.

Washington State and former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach was even asked Monday about a rumor that he was headed to Fayetteville after someone had begun an online petition to make it a reality.

And the seat of athletic director Jeff Long, who gave coach Bret Bielema a new contract and a lucrative buyout after a 7-6 second season, is getting warm.

Folks want to clean house. That’s the fickle nature of fans. Everyone has a theory, a solution and a candidate and there are many different ways nowadays to fan the flames beneath a hot seat.

The reality is nothing is going to happen regarding Bielema’s job this season. He and the Hogs have plenty of time to right the ship. Making a sudden change is not practical and would not really accomplish anything in the big picture.

But the issue is the ship has sprung plenty of leaks.

The Hogs are losing in the manner that Bielema promised he would win — power, physical football that would wear down a team in the second half. Particularly in the last three games, the Hogs have been the gassed team.

Decision-making and play-calling by both coaches and players, especially on the goal line, is suspect. Arkansas is one of the worst of fourth -down teams in the country.

The bottom line is the Razorbacks do little very well right now. The offensive line doesn’t seem to be any better. The ability of seemingly a good stable of running backs behind that offensive line is a question mark. The receivers seem average.

The defensive three-man front is not holding up from a surging offensive line, one of the keys in a 3-4 alignment.

The kicking game is undependable and often downright awful.

The secondary is improved but there are questions how much it can hold up against the spread without pressure of front.

The opponents’ speed is overcoming power. The reality is that TCU dominated the game and could have won more than 28-7. They kept leaving the door open for Arkansas and the Hogs couldn’t go through.

It’s a suspect football team right now with a highly disgruntled fan base.

The upside may be it has two weeks to prepare for Texas A&M, another struggling football team with an even more disgruntled fan base. The Aggies, in the face of Aggie wrath after a monumental meltdown against UCLA and a surprising tough game against Nicholls, have this week against Louisiana-Lafayette to either make their fans madder or more encouraged or at least, cautiously optimistic..

Meanwhile, Arkansas fans have an additional week to stew, vent, rant, speculate and pontificate on talk shows and social media.

Whatever, the cauldron will be bubbling next week in Dallas. And the rage of one fan base might overflow. Some folks will be burning.

 

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