FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson couldn’t help the Razorbacks on the field during their 52-0 loss to top-ranked Alabama on Saturday, watching his team suffer through one of the worst losses in school history.
With about a minute left, though, the senior told a member of Arkansas’ media relations staff he was going to participate in something Saturday. Arkansas’ leader had to get something off his chest in the aftermath the embarrassment.
“It wasn’t very pretty to watch,” Wilson said, during a fiery statement in the interview room. “It wasn’t pretty for me to sit on the sideline and watch as a player. It sucks I can’t be out there to do anything about it.
“Do I feel that we, at times, gave up out there? Yeah. Absolutely. As a leader it sucks to see people not do their jobs and things go wrong. …”
Arkansas’ plans for a dream season have reached this point in just three weeks.
The starting quarterback, who was sidelined because he was still experiencing symptoms from the head injury sustained in last week’s Louisiana-Monroe loss, sat behind a table in the Arkansas interview room and provided a scathing review of what he was watching. The harsh reality? Wilson didn’t sound off in his assessment.
Arkansas was outplayed in every facet of Saturday’s game, offering little resistance to an Alabama program that continues to roll under coach Nick Saban.
The Razorbacks committed five turnovers that led to five Alabama touchdowns, struggled to stop another offense in the second half, and managed a woeful 137 yards under the quarterback tandem of Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell.
“I really don’t know what to say,” Arkansas coach John L. Smith said. “I didn’t know what to say to our team as well. It’s kind of hard to say anything at this point.
“But again that’s about as bad as I can remember as a football team.”
It all culminated in a game that will be remembered for its litany of lows.
There were almost too many to count after it was all over. The lowlights:
• Arkansas — which has prided itself on its offensive firepower and has plenty of talent back this season — was shut out for the first time since a 28-0 loss to LSU in 1995. It ended a streak of 202 consecutive games.
• The 52-point margin proved to be Arkansas’ fourth-largest shutout loss in school history, equaling a loss to Texas in 1916. The 52-point loss also was Arkansas’ largest since 2005, when Southern California beat the Razorbacks 70-17.
• Arkansas was shut out in Fayetteville for the first time since 1966, when Baylor beat the Razorbacks 7-0.
• Alabama enjoyed its biggest win in the series – by far. The previous margin was 35 points in a 49-14 win in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Smith said he doesn’t want players pointing the finger after it was over.
Defensive tackle Alfred Davis said avoiding it right now is “as hard as it gets.”
“No one likes losing,” Davis said. “Especially when you work all spring and summer and go through fall camp and season comes around and expectations are high and you go out and lose two of your first three football games.
“It’s something we have to deal with. We’ll be fine.”
It wasn’t the case Saturday, when Arkansas struggled without Wilson on the field once again. The Razorbacks now have been outscored 79-10 since the quarterback was knocked out last week, managing to accomplish anything on offense.
Smith said Arkansas knew early in the week Wilson probably wouldn’t play, but tried to keep Alabama guessing up to the opening kickoff. Wilson wore his uniform, participated in pregame warmups and took part in the coin toss with the rest of Arkansas’ captains. Then Wilson grabbed a cap and watched the nightmare unfold.
Smith took the blame for the first big mistake, saying he decided to use long snapper Will Coleman instead of regular starter Alan D’Appollonio because of punt coverage reasons against the Crimson Tide. Coleman proceeded to launch one of his first snap attempts over the head of punter Dylan Breeding, which resulted in Alabama running back Eddie Lacy’s 6-yard touchdown run to give Alabama a 7-0 lead.
“I do not blame that young man,” Smith said. “I blame myself for putting him in that position. So that should never have been done. So if you’re going to blame anybody, blame me. That’s where it started and it went downhill from there.”
It did unravel. Zach Hocker banged a 41-yard field goal attempt off the goal posts on Arkansas’ next possession and Alabama bumped the lead to 10-0 on kicker Cade Foster’s 51-yarder. Arkansas’ first turnover — an interception on a poor read from Allen — led to Amari Cooper’s 20-yard pass from quarterback AJ McCarron.
Then came, perhaps, the most crushing blow. Alabama bumped it to 24-0 thanks to another interception late in the first half. This time, Allen threw a short pass that slipped through receiver Cobi Hamilton’s hands and was returned to the Arkansas 3.
Lacy added his second touchdown run to make it 24-0.
“I think everyone should have a tremendous amount of understanding for Arkansas’ circumstances,” Saban said about the Razorbacks. “Tyler Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and the whole program is built around this guy.”
But there weren’t many excuses for the second half. Arkansas fumbled three times, including two by running back Knile Davis. Alabama scored after each one.
Alabama finished with 438 yards, piling up 225 on the ground against a defense still reeling from allowing 550 yards in the ULM loss. The Razorbacks, meanwhile, needed a late surge to eclipse the 100-yard mark for good Saturday.
It all led to Wilson’s furious assessment after it was over. Davis said Wilson addressed the team in the locker room and couldn’t disagree with his thoughts.
“That’s how he felt,” Davis said. “It did towards the end feel like that. I feel like we fought, we fought we fought. It got out of hand and some guys did lighten up.”
Said Mitchell: “I don’t think it was quitting. Sometimes, you know, you can look up there at the scoreboard and some guys know the game is over. I think everybody fought to the end, fought to the last whistle.”
Smith maintained his stance afterward that Arkansas must stay unified and go back to work with another test coming against Rutgers (3-0) on Saturday. He’s hoping his quarterback, who is “so vital to the team”, is with them. Wilson remains day-to-day.
Wilson insisted he was going to do everything possible to get back on the field in hopes of digging Arkansas out of the mess they’ve fallen into to start the season.
“There’s been a lot of people jump off the bandwagon and it’s my responsibility as a leader to keep everybody in this organization, in this team, in that locker room together,” Wilson said. “And I’m going to make sure of it going forward.
“We’ve got a big game against Rutgers next week. I’m going to do everything in my power to be a part of it and be the starting quarterback and run out there on the field and get a win. You’ve got to start with one. … I give you my word I’m going to do the best in my ability and the best in my power to make that happen.”