John L. Smith left the Arkansas fan base with exactly the same feeling this week that he did last week with a public speaking mistake at the Little Rock Touchdown Club.
Smith made his mistake as he was pleading with fans to "stick together" despite a 1-3 start as the bulk of the SEC season unfolds. The Hogs travel to Texas A&M this week. The Arkansas coach told the LR TD Club membership that one of the reasons fans should stick together is because the state of "Alabama" owns the program.
There were immediate groans as the mistake hit home with the crowd. David Bazzel, sitting at the head table, helped Smith realize his mistake and the coach was obviously surprised.
Last week at a media opportunity after the Alabama loss, Smith asked reporters to "smile" before he began his remarks. That angered some fans who didn't think there was much to smile about after a 52-0 loss.
Smith covered several injury situations when the met with the media before his talk to the club.
Tight end Chris Gragg is "day to day" with a deep leg bruise sustained in the loss to Rutgers. He said the bruise is all the way to the bone, but the coach did not rule out Gragg for the A&M game.
Cornerback Tevin Mitchel, out the last two weeks with a concussion and gall bladder surgery, did cardio work with trainers on the bike and treadmill on Sunday night. Mitchel won't play this week, but said he is "optimistic" for his return at some point this season.
Kiero Small is out for the season, Smith said. The senior fullback could come back next season since he has not used a redshirt.
Smith told the media before the TD club meeting that Dennis Johnson impressed him both during the game with his running form, but also with his leadership. He said he encouraged teammates on the sidelines and with his play on two aspects of special teams.
"Dennis impressed me very much," Smith said. "I like Dennis, what he was doing in the game and on the sidelines. Yes, I like Dennis and you are going to see him more."
Smith trumped all of that when he went to the microphone for the TD club meeting. He said, "Don't give up on us. It's our program, it's a state of Alabama program. It's not one individual's program."
Told of his mistake, Smith responded: "I did? Where would that come from? I've never even heard of Alabama."
Smith knows fans hurt. He said so does the team.
"As fans, you deserve better," he said. "You're invested more. Our players deserve better. We all are working our tail off to make sure that it is better. Understand that. We're in as much pain as everybody is out there."