Arkansas' 41-38 loss at Lousiana State was about as good of an example of competition in college sports that I've seen in a long time. Both teams played their hearts out. Both left thinking it hadn't played at its best, and that's because there was a courageous competitor on the other sideline willing to challenge the other until the end. That's the way college sports is supposed to be.
Both teams had their faults, and mistakes, many of them because the other team was playing its guts out, too. Rohan Davey made some plays, and the Arkansas defense made some plays against him, forcing five turnovers. The Hogs made some plays on offense, but the Tigers made a few more with their defense. It was a case of a team that had been getting a few breaks down the stretch not finding a way to capitalize on those breaks despite playing their hearts out, giving great effort to the bitter end.
There were things I'd like to have over on the Arkansas side. I'd like to do a little better on a second-and-1 when it looked Cedric Cobbs had enough of a crack to lower his shoulder and drive through a high wall at the goal line. That should have been a touchdown good for a 17-7 Arkansas lead. From there, maybe LSU panics a little.
I'd like the Hogs to do a little better up front as far as run blocking throughout the day, but I fear that we just didn't have the zip in our linemen's legs that LSU had after a week off. I don't know what you do about that other than to ask the SEC to not allow open dates opposite potentially big games.
Another do-over I'd like to have from Friday is the ability to see into the future that there were going to be lots of points scored, and make the call to kick extra points instead of going for two early in the game. However, I do understand if we'd kicked ones instead of failing on twos, LSU would have done the same thing. Remember, they didn't make their twos either. So, there wasn't a lot of harm done in that decision.
I kind of wish that the Hogs hadn't called their new play on the throwback to the tight end, or at least that the tight end was a little better athlete to escape the linebacker that read it right. That way Matt Jones wouldn't have turned back into the rush to try for that throwback, then paniced when his tight end wasn't wide open for the first time he's looked for him this season. Then, maybe he wouldn't have tried to throw it away weakly and an LSU lineman wouldn't have intercepted. No, really, I loved that play. It was the first time the Hogs had run it all year, according to David Lee. It just didn't work. Jones just has to be a little better at throwing the ball away. He'll learn to do that.
Another thing I'd like to have over is that field goal that hit the upright. I wish we'd sent in David Carlton for that one. No, I don't really wish that. I remember at the time thinking this is one O'Donohoe will make, and glad that he was going out there after making two-for-two in the first half.
I also wish that maybe Houston Nutt had gone back to Zak Clark a little sooner in the second half. Well, maybe I don't. I don't know. Matt Jones had done well for five or six games and Zak Clark was a little cold in the first half, hitting only 1 of 9 passes. Well, no, I liked having Jones out there. I guess I just wish he hadn't thrown two interceptions, only his second and third of his college career.
I do wish we'd done a little better in our subbing on defense so we didn't get a 12-man penalty on a second-and-10 incompletion Rohan Davey threw from his own end zone. That let LSU out of a hole and kept the Hogs from inheriting good field position late in the third quarter when the game was still hanging in the balance.
No, what I really wish is that the field judge standing next to Lou Saban on the LSU sideline had found the guts to make a no-call when Tony Bua turned his shoulder as the ball was arriving to Josh Reed, just brushing Reed's hand. Pass interference was called, and it gave LSU a first down when they would have had to punt and the Hogs would have had the time to execute yet another miracle finish for the winning touchdown.
No, what I really would have preferred was a perfect game. I'd have loved it if the Hogs could have scored on every possession, called every perfect play, made every perfect read of LSU's routes, never slipped on any cut, never thrown any poor passes, never hit one poor punt, and given me the 42-0 victory that I deserve.
Well, I guess that's not going to ever happen. I'm just thankful to be home, at my office and working. I'm just thankful that I made it out of that stadium Saturday night amongst all those drunks and I didn't see one fatal car accident. I'm just thankful that I drove those tornado laced storms on the way home and woke up in my own bed this morning.
And, I'll gladly take 7-4 for the 2001 season. I'd like the Cotton Bowl, but I'll take the Music City. Heck, I'll take the Independence. I didn't think there would be a bowl game two months ago.
And, I'll gladly take Houston Nutt, John Thompson, David Lee, Mike Markuson, Bobby Allen, Dave Wommack, James Shibest, Chris Vaughn, George Pugh and Danny Nutt to coach these players. And, I'll keep Lawrence Richardson. I'll keep all the Hogs that have any eligibility, and look forward to the future. That's all we can do anyway, and it's good enough for me.
This writer left the Arkansas dressing room as Tony Bua and Carlos Hall were trying to put their clothes on, almost too weak to accomplish the simple task. They were the last two Razorbacks in the room. Bua was worn to almost nothing. Hall was in a similar state, with tears in his eyes.
"This heart every man in this room," Hall said. "After all we've fought to accomplish and to get this close, well, it hurts like heck. It hurts like nothing I've ever been through. Yeah, I'm crying. How could you not cry. I hate to leave these guys like this, in a game where you just didn't quite get it done. We did a lot today, played hard, but we just didn't make the one play to turn the game. We tried. We tried hard. So give credit to LSU, because they tried hard, too. I think they know they played a good team that came after them. That's all I can say right now."
That's probably as good of an explanation as anyone could offer. It might be good enough for some, but it's good enough for me.