State of the Hogs: Post-South Carolina

The frustration among Arkansas players, coaches and fans was very evident after the Razorbacks' 14-10 loss to visiting South Carolina on Saturday afternoon.

Some Arkansas fans blamed the coaches as they filed out of Reynolds Razorback Stadium after a 14-10 loss to South Carolina. One screamed at Houston Nutt and several others voiced their approval.

Others were hollering at SEC referee Penn Wagers after his crew negated an interception return for a touchdown with a holding penalty and marked Darren McFadden out of bounds on the 1-yard line when players thought the ball crossed the goal line.

Losing will make you point the finger at coaches, referees and look for someone to blame. It's the ugly side of the game.

UA offensive right tackle Robert Felton didn't want to hear any of that. He said he was willing to point the finger at himself and his teammates in the Arkansas offensive line.

"What you have to realize in this game is that Coach Nutt put it squarely in our lap," Felton said. "We are a veteran offensive line. We have guys who have played several years. We didn't get it done.

"We didn't make it when we went for it on fourth-and-inches at the start of the game and we didn't make it on fourth-and-1 at the end of the game. We didn't make anything when we had it first and goal from the 1-yard line at the end of the first half.

"It's our fault. It's very difficult to accept that, but face facts. It's on us up front."

Felton shook his head in disbelief when he recounted those three missed opportunities. He said his mates up front came into the game thinking they were better than South Carolina's defensive line, pure and simple.

"It comes down to who is better on fourth-and-2," Felton said. "This time, their defensive line won. Face facts. We didn't get it done."

Nutt said the Hogs ran their best play at the end, a play that had produced positive yards all day. This time McFadden lost yardage when a linebacker scraped to the outside and made the play.

McFadden was the best player on the field Saturday. But for the first time in several weeks, he was kept out of the end zone. Or was he?

"He got in," said Arkansas defensive tackle Keith Jackson on what was ruled a 36-yard play to the USC 1-yard line. "I saw the replay. He got it.

"I thought this was the year we had the replay official. Where was he today? Did he show up today?"

Presumably, SEC replay official Doyle Jackson was in attendance. The Conway resident did not stop play to review a single call. They must not have been close in his eyes. Perhaps McFadden's foot was out of bounds before the ball crossed the plane of the goal line.

"I guess he saw what he needed to see on that one," McFadden said. "I didn't see the replay. I just felt like I was going to go out at the 1-yard line. I planted my foot in bounds and then extended the football across the line. I was sure the ball was across. I felt like it was (a TD)."

South Carolina coaches were glad to get any help from the officials. Even Steve Spurrier mentioned that the Hogs "gave us some good penalties." Defensive coach John Thompson, former Nutt staffer, knew the Gamecocks got their share of breaks throughout the game.

"Just a play or two, that's all that was the difference today," Thompson said. "We were fortunate. They were gashing us at the end and then we got them stopped just enough.

"I know what those guys (Arkansas coaches) feel like right now. It's a tough deal. I hurt for Houston. He made a good call at the start of the game, going for it on fourth down. That's a good call, not a bad call at all. But ... "

Thompson's voice trailed off. He was fired last year as head coach at East Carolina. He's been around the business long enough to know how the pressure builds in a losing streak.

"Right now, it's going good for us. But this one could have turned out the other way real easy. Just a break or two is all it takes to make it go the other way. Tough, tough busineess. I'm getting old fast."

Surely, some at the other end of the stadium in the Arkansas locker rooms were aging fast, too.

"It's so frustrating," said Jackson. "The ball is not bouncing our way this year for whatever reason. You see a crucial play and it's going to go against us. We aren't going to a bowl and they are. We have to dig deep and work for next year.

"That's hard to take, but it's where we are."


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