FAYETTEVILLE – The passion was there for Arkansas, but missed opportunities and gifts let No. 7 Alabama off the hook, 14-13, Saturday night.
Second-year coach Bret Bielema eyes showed the passion, tears welling up in his eyes as he met the media after the near miss against a team that was No. 1 just a week ago and had whipped the Hogs 52-0 in each of the last two years.
But a fumble at the goal line in the first quarter took away points. There was a bad snap that ruined a field goal chance and the ultimate difference was a blocked extra point after the first Arkansas touchdown.
It was just the kind of opportunity that two famous '64 grads talked about to the Razorbacks this week. Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson both delivered passionate speeches about opportunity. Johnson, with rings as a player and also as a coach at two levels, was the latest.
“He was awesome Friday night,” Bielema said. “He can really do that. He had our team excited. He's so good. It was about opportunity, just like Jerry did two weeks ago (before the Texas A&M game).”
Bielema's emotion was easy to spot in the interview room. Quarterback Brandon Allen said he was “kind of the same way” when he met with the team in the locker room. It was all about how far the Hogs have come, but still added another notch to the SEC losing streak, 15 in a row.
“Coach told us how close we are,” Allen said. “We are doing so many things well, but it's still a few little things. We have to correct those.”
Bielema said he wants it so badly for his players.
“It sounds like a broken record,” he said. “I get that. But as a coach, I signed up for this.
“With all due respect, I spoke to the '64 team just briefly Friday night to show them the (throwback) uniforms. There is so much pride in that group, from Jerry Jones, Jimmy Johnson and Mr. (Jim) Lindsey. What they've done in life is so awesome.
“I told our team that no one celebrates the legacy of a losing team. (Athletic director) Jeff Long leaned over to make things special for those guys.
“But it's frustrating. You have to fix this wall, or make an adjustment here. It is so frustrating, but I'm here for the long haul.
“It kills me for the players and their families because they are winners. But you can't give a (win).”
Bielema thanked the Arkansas fans for “an awesome environment. I appreciate everyone sticking with us. It's going to be awesome.”
Senior defensive end Trey Flowers didn't have to see Bielema in tears to know his passion.
“I know he wants it for us,” Flowers said. “We want it for him just as bad. I came back, not just for me, but for him and what he's building. I don't have to see tears to know how he feels.
“He has the passion for winning. He doesn't want to play games close and we don't want any moral victories, either.
“We left some plays out there today and I'm talking about defense. We know they have a quarterback who can scramble. We let him get out of the pocket and make some plays. And there were some plays we didn't make.”
The Hogs contained Tide star receiver Amari Cooper. Defensive coordinator Robb Smith's plan limited Cooper to two catches for 22 yards. He entered with 52 catches through the first five games.
“Coach Smith has had such a big influence on us,” Flowers said. “We are getting better every week. We played our gaps better this week. We got some pressure on (quarterback Blake Sims). We got stops in the run game.
“Coach Smith came in talking about attitude, physical presence and the smart swarm. We continue to get better. We are going to get there. It's about getting better every week and the victories will come.”
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