Second-guessing is too easy
This week, the same can be said of reliving the loss to LSU, gnashing teeth over why a pass was called when hindsight makes it clear that a run would have worked better. Isn't it ironic that for the first time in Nutt's nine years as the Arkansas head coach, fans are saying, "Why didn't they run more?" Call me old school, but second-guessing play selection is not an option unless your preference is made known prior to the snap. Even then, I'm going to assume that Nutt and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn — the last one to leave the team huddle — and the other coaches were trying their darnedest to select a winner on fourth-and-three at the LSU 26 early in the fourth period. The play was doomed when LSU double-covered Marcus Monk and Arkansas didn't call a timeout to reconsider. Certainly, the coaches gave serious thought to the four pass plays that closed out the game. Only the result matters. As soon as Casey Dick handed the ball to Darren McFadden in the fourth quarter, I wondered how the crowd would react to a running play that netted only a few yards in such a dire situation. The handoff was the first play from the Arkansas 20 after LSU had expanded its lead to 24-12 with less than 11 minutes to play. With the help of his offensive line and a wide-conscious defense, McFadden made the call a brilliant one and the roar was still building as he was gearing down near the goal. On the initial play of Arkansas' final series, with 2:04 to play and no timeouts, McFadden was split wide right and was single covered to the hilt by Jonathan Zenon. Dick had thrown incomplete in the second quarter, trying for McFadden and at the time I remembered an August conversation in which Malzahn said No. 5 was the Razorbacks' best deep threat and that he caught the ball like a wide receiver. On fourth down, Dick's deep throw for London Crawford was incomplete. Again, Arkansas had the much hoped- for single coverage. Simply, the play failed. Some will say that Arkansas should have put McFadden in the shotgun and let him do his thing. They will cite his 80-yard run and overlook the fact that it took the Razorbacks 5:21 to cover 37 yards for their fourth touchdown — the most allowed by LSU this year. On that drive, Arkansas ran eight times and threw once. McFadden completed both of his passes, but it's a different set of circumstances when there is the element of surprise vs. asking a running back to read defenses and make the proper throw. Others will say that Nutt should have subbed Mitch Mustain for Dick when the starter was 3-for-13 beginning the final series. I wonder if those same people wanted Nutt to play Ryan Sorahan for the final series against LSU in 2002 when Matt Jones was 2-of-13 for the first 59 minutes. Two-thirds of a column is enough documentation of stuff that is chiseled in stone. Other than eliminating the Razorbacks from consideration for an at-large bid to a BCS game, the LSU loss had little effect on Arkansas. The eight-ranked Razorbacks can represent the Southeastern Conference in the Sugar Bowl by beating Florida on Saturday in Atlanta. Such an accomplishment would set them up to finish a season ranked in The AP top 10 for the first time since 1982. If they lose to the Gators, the Capital One Bowl seems likely. South Florida's upset of West Virginia helped the Razorbacks because it bumped LSU to the top of the invitation list for a BCS game. Also working in Arkansas' favor is that Wisconsin is returning to the game in Orlando and the Badgers played Auburn last year. Last week, the set-up said, "LSU will dare the Razorbacks to throw and take care to account for Marcus Monk ..." Florida will do the same and it should be noted that the Gators supplanted LSU as the league's best against the run. On the other hand, Florida is No. 9 in the league in pass defense while LSU is No. 1. Like many coaches, Nutt is often at his best when his team is up against a wall. By now, the players have moved on. Their fans should do the same. Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media's Arkansas News Bureau. e-mail: email@example.com.
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