State of the Hogs: Alabama

On a day of upsets and SEC East definition, nothing has changed in the SEC West or the top of the national polls. Alabama is still Alabama. And Arkansas is brutally similar to last year.

There were some strikingly different results in the SEC on Saturday. Upsets were everywhere, but there was never a hint of anything but more of the same for Arkansas against No. 1 Alabama.

After losing to the Crimson Tide by identical 52-0 scores in back-to-back seasons, about the only good news for the Razorbacks is the gauntlet is over. They made it to the bye week with another blowout loss, this time in front of 101,821 Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

One year ago the most famous quote by the head coach was that he had no answers. This time, there didn't seem to be many questions. The way-too-simple question that kept coming from some members of the media really didn't need to be asked.



That one: Is it a good time for a bye? It's kind of like asking if there was a difference between Alabama and Arkansas.

First-year head coach Bret Bielema has seen his team self destruct in five straight losses. Afterwards in Tuscaloosa, he was upset at the simple things that he said add up to the lopsided losses of the last few weeks leading to a 3-5 record.

Bielema talked about "moving forward" with players that do what is asked as far as assignments and the details. Then he revealed some of the missed assignments.

Special teams regular Alex Voelzke, a backup tight end, didn't make the trip after showing up five minutes late for a meeting on Friday. The coach said assignments had to be shuffled in three places on field goal protection, resulting in a blocked field goal.

The coach pointed to a wrong route by the primary receiver, D'Arthur Cowan, as another example of getting the details wrong. Cowan heard the play wrong in the huddle on the fourth-down play late in the game on an incomplete pass in the end zone.

"We are going for it, not going to kick a field goal there," Bielema said. "He ran the complete wrong route, and he was the point of attack and we can't have that. The call is either Smash or Kansas. They don't remotely sound alike."

Bielema said he would look at all things during the bye week, including "what we ask our players to do" on offense, defense and special teams.

"We can't have one missed tackle lead to a touchdown," he said. "That happened twice.

"We will move forward with the guys who execute what we ask. We can't have repeated drop passes. We can't have ball security problems. The fumble coming out at halftime, that wasn't something they did.

"We have to work on tackling and ball security. Those are very important."

Is there a hangover from last year's 4-8 season?

"Without a doubt," Bielema said, "it's a product of what they have seen. Until the culture changes, it's going to be the same. But it might take one play to change it. Until that happens, it's going to be more of this."

This, he earlier referred to as "muck." And the muck is "not having 11 guys leave the huddle with the same play. There's a lot of things that have to be corrected between the ears."

Defensive end Chris Smith called it "tough because we had guys in the right spots and we can't beat ourselves. He's right, it's little things. If you can't do things right in class, be on time, then there's no way it's going to be right on the field."

Bielema said the Hogs "obviously" made the Tide look extremely good. He said some things will have to be changed in recruiting to make up the difference, but he also said offseason work would give them double the gains made last year to get a "thicker" team.

Smith said it's not on the coaches.

"Coach is frustrated," Smith said. "We are making way too many mistakes. He wants all the little things right.

"Coach Bielema and his staff are great coaches. Put it all on us, players. They make the calls and we aren't executing them. It's on us.

"I could not ask for better coaches. It's going to change here. I'm glad I am here with them and at some point it's going to get better for them.

"What you see from Alabama is our goal, no mistakes. They make none and when there is a mistake, they are good enough to cover it up. We beat ourselves and when we made mistakes, it's a touchdown."

Safety Alan Turner knew he was one of those with missed tackles.

"It's not coaching, it's the players," Turner said. "Eventually, it gets down to man against man. You lose some, but we lose too many. We make way too many mistakes. He's right about our missed tackles.

"The bye week gives us a chance to correct some things. They look big on the scoreboard right now, I know. But it can be a lot of little things.

"I know playing eight straight is tough. The bye week is much needed. The outcome is not what we expected, but the team is still together."

Quarterback Brandon Allen said there would be "one mistake" in every drive.

"We continue to kill ourselves," he said. "Sometimes it was me, with a pass. Sometimes it's a wrong route. We made a lot of mistakes.

"It all comes down to shooting ourselves in the foot. You can't do that against a team like that."

Hunter Henry was the focus of a few more plays. The freshman tight end had a big catch for 25 yards early and finished with three receptions for 45 yards. He had his hands on an Allen jump ball in the end zone.

"We went up together and it was a simultaneous catch, and it was ripped away at the last second," Henry said. "We had a few more plays for me this week in practice and there were more chances in the game plan. I did expect the ball to come to me a little more.

"We are down, but any team would be down after this kind of a loss. I think we'll come back this week and cut down on mistakes. We just need to get clicking a little more over these next two weeks."

There was one question that did summarize the thoughts of the five-game losing streak. Allen was ready to repeat the thought when a reporter asked if the losing was getting old.

"Yes," Brandon Allen said, "it's getting old."

Then, Crhis Smith said what is probably the unthinkable for a 3-5 team.

"We are not done," he said. "We can still win three of four and go to a bowl."

Well, maybe unthinkable would have been to talk about winning out for a team that has lost eight straight SEC games.

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