Failure To Capitalize

ORLANDO, Fla. -- This is not how Arkansas wanted to ring in the new year. What the coaches and players were hoping for was a fresh start and a reason to feel optimistic heading into the offseason. But instead, they had to settle for beginning 2007 much the same way they ended 2006.

That included a third straight loss, more inconsistent play at quarterback and another long walk back to the locker room following a 17-14 loss to No. 6 Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl.

"You don't want to end the season like that," Arkansas offensive tackle Tony Ugoh said. "You started out strong, you want to finish strong. That's what you work for in the offseason, so it's real tough to end it with three losses."

Before Monday's game, the No. 12 Razorbacks spoke at great lengths about how much momentum beating a top 10 team like the Badgers (12-1) would give them after back-to-back losses to No. 4 LSU and No. 2 Florida.

But the Razorbacks (10-4) couldn't back up the talk while playing under an overcast sky and in front of a crowd of 60,774.

They committed too many penalties, continued their recent struggles on special teams and didn't get enough from their offense -- particularly their two quarterbacks -- to avoid ending an otherwise impressive season on a sour note at Citrus Bowl stadium.

"I don't feel good. It's not a good feeling," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "I love winning, that's much better. We all know that, but we had our chances. We had 60 minutes to get it done; we didn't do it."

Arkansas had plenty of missed opportunities. Kicker Jeremy Davis pushed a 30-yard field goal to the right on the opening possession that came back to haunt him. Arkansas amassed a season-high 123 penalty yards, which prevented it from putting more points on the board.

And after getting the football back with 6:01 remaining, needing just a field goal to tie the score, the Razorbacks lost 11 yards on three plays to all but assure them of their third straight defeat.

It's the team's longest losing streak since a stretch last season from mid-October to early November. And after winning 10 straight games earlier this season, the last three losses will prevent the Razorbacks from enjoying their first Top 10 national ranking since 1982.

"It hurts real bad just to lose the last three ball games after going on a 10-0 run," said Arkansas defensive tackle Keith Jackson Jr., who was among several seniors playing in their final collegiate game.

"It's just kind of frustrating for the team. We thought we had this game in our favor. ... We just didn't take advantage of our opportunities."

Particularly on offense.

Arkansas' defense held Wisconsin running back P.J. Hill, the Big Ten's leading rusher, to just 36 yards on 19 carries. And the Badgers, as a whole, had minus-five yards rushing.

But the Razorbacks had even bigger problems of their own on offense.

Leading receiver Marcus Monk was battling a 24-hour stomach virus that left him feeling "drained." Tight end Ben Cleveland dislocated his toe and foot in the first half. And most importantly, running back Darren McFadden -- who was already nursing an injured ankle -- suffered a sprained right shoulder.

With McFadden (19 carries for 89 yards) mostly ineffective, Arkansas' offense stalled.

"The offense wasn't really clicking today. The defense played a heck of a game, and the offense just couldn't seem to put it together and put points on the board," Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs said.

"It seemed like we could move the ball in the middle of the field, but then when we got to the end of it to put it in, it seemed like we'd either have penalties that brought us back or just one or two guys had a mishap or whatever."

The much-anticipated debut of Arkansas' two-quarterback system didn't help, either.

Sophomore Casey Dick and Mitch Mustain took turns under center, but neither of them could provide much of a spark to the offense other than handing the ball off to running back Felix Jones (14 carries for a career-high 150 yards and two touchdowns).

Dick completed 9 of 21 passes for 98 yards and one interception, while Mustain -- seeing his first significant action in five games -- went 5-of-10 for 41 yards and an interception.

"We didn't play bad, but we just didn't do enough to get the win," Mustain said.


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