There was a sheet of paper hanging on a door to one of the meeting rooms in the Broyles Center this week with a little ditty. It's probably nothing that will find its way into the next classic novel.
It might apply when we look back on Arkansas' 24-23 overtime victory Saturday over Alabama sometime later this season or even perhaps several seasons from now. The cliche-like quote went something like this:
"Press on! Your defining moment may arrive just when adversity has you surrounded."
This time, adversity came in the form of a play clock about to expire on the game's defining moment, a third-and-8 play with the Hogs out of options, down to Alabama, 23-17, at the end of the second OT.
H-back Ben Cleveland was in motion towards the Alabama cheerleaders, but he had not had time to make it as wide as playcaller Gus Malzahn wanted. But instead of the play — and possibly the season -- going down the tubes, a couple of true freshman came up with something on their own that wasn't in the playbook.
"Mitch had to snap it too soon because the play clock was out," Malzahn said. "After that, it was just Ben and Mitch making adjustments. Ben changed the route and Mitch picked it up. I was looking at the back side because we had man coverage on Marcus Monk and Damian Williams. Mitch went right to Ben, though, and it was a great adjustment and a great catch."
Mustain said, "We'd hope to get Ben wider, no doubt. But he handled it perfect. He cut off the route that was called and just took it on into the end zone. It was supposed to stop just past the 5-yard line to get the first down. He did it exactly like I hoped he'd do it because the corner sat at the 5-yard line."
Cleveland smiled at his quarterback's words.
"He reads things and makes adjustments pretty good," Cleveland said. "We've done it so many times. The corner is supposed to fly out, but he didn't. I just thought, ‘Why stop here!' I thought I was by myself with maybe one guy to my side. I thought I caught it over that one guy, but I guess there might have been two more there."
With that one throw, Mustain erased what had been an off day. He'd completed just six of his first 21 passes with three interceptions before the Hogs' final touchdown.
"He didn't play his best, but other people stepped up," Cleveland said. "He made some mistakes and I've sure seen him play better, but I didn't worry about any of that at the end because I knew he was going to keep paying. I knew he'd be calm all the way to the end. That stuff doesn't bother him. He was going to keep firing."
Malzahn had similar thoughts.
"I expect him to play a lot better than that," Malzahn said. "He didn't play his best. He had some throws that he didn't put enough air under.
"But the good thing is that we sputtered and still won. We have a chance to win and then come back and work on things and get better. He'll do that."
Mustain was on target when he called some of his decisions "horrible." He added, "I almost got us beat. Our defense did a great job of bailing us out. I thought the defense was awesome today."
Except for some scrambles by Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson, the Hogs controlled the line of scrimmage and stopped the run all day. Wilson had 62 yards in scrambles or draws (not counting five sacks for 42 yards in losses) while tailback Kenneth Darby managed just 64 yards on 26 runs.
"We read some quotes in some of the media from their fullback that they would come into our house and run the ball on us," Arkansas defensvie end Antwain Robinson said. "That wasn't going to happen. We gange tackled and dominated their offensive front. They did not block us. We played well as a front. We swarmed as a defense."
Sam Olajubutu said, "You have to say that we got help from about everyone, too. I got some rest tonight. We had some freshmen linebackers out there, Adrian Davis and Wendell Davis. And, we had Matt Hewitt making plays at linebacker. Those guys didn't miss a beat and they are going to get better and better now."
That seemed to be the thought process every where you turned in the Arkansas locker room. Instead of waiting for something bad to happen, these Razorbacks are starting to believe something good is going to happen even when things look bleakest.
Hogs fight through adversity
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