When Bret Bielema was hired from Wisconsin it was considered a great hire by Arkansas’ Vice Chancellor-Athletic Director Jeff Long.
However, this is Bielema’s fifth year and his record sits at 27-31 prior to the Ole Miss game Saturday. Bielema has helped the football team raise its grade-point average considerably since taking over. He has a program that consists of mostly high-character players who take the student-athlete role to heart.
However as with any program it eventually comes down to winning games. At this time, Bielema is 10-26 in SEC games since he took over in 2013. Bielema was asked during Wednesday’s SEC Teleconference why he hasn’t had more success.
“Well, I think the part that has been missed we did have success,” Bielema said. “Obviously 3-9 the first season. Couldn’t stay in that ballpark. Won seven games the next year, made a bowl game, won it. Next year, climbed to eight wins, won a bowl game. Last year we were in position late in the year to get to nine, possibly 10 wins and experienced some second half failures.
“And really since that point, the second half has been our demise. Even this year, to be 2-5, if we’re able to play that second half a little bit better in several games we’d be talking about a whole different situation. So that’s what we’re focused on now, to get ourselves to play a 60-minute game and move forward.”
Actually the woes in the second half go back much more than just the Missouri and Virginia Tech games last season. Those are perfect examples of where the Hogs led at halftime then lost. However, Bielema is 0-18 at Arkansas when trailing at halftime.
One thing that has contributed to this year’s issues is injuries. Running back Rawleigh Williams III led the SEC in rushing in the regular season in 2016, but was forced to retire following another injury he suffered in the spring game. Cornerback Ryan Pulley was injured late in the first half of the season-opener and was lost for the year. Wide receiver Jared Cornelius exited the Texas A&M game with an Achilles injury and he too was lost for the year. Quarterback Austin Allen injured his shoulder in the South Carolina game and hasn’t played since he left that game after the third quarter. Then this past Saturday night Arkansas lost running back Chase Hayden and center Frank Ragnow for the season due to injuries.
Bielema talked about if he has ever seen this many key injuries in one season.
“I get questioned a lot about that,” Bielema said. “My wife has been with me for quite a few of them. She made the same comment right away on yesterday when I gave her the news about Frank. He just holds a special place in people’s hearts. As far as I think overall numbers, probably just he overall numbers I think to start — to premier guys.
“Usually you’re going to have a couple in the preseason. You may get one or two during the course of the year. But to have running back, wide receiver, quarterback, best offensive lineman - maybe the best offensive player on our team. You know it’s just, it’s not anything more than reality. You’ve got to step up and play and see where it goes from there.”