Rose-colored glasses need to be discarded

LITTLE ROCK--Enthralled by Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Marcus Monk, and Peyton Hillis, too many Arkansas fans spent the summer dismissing any and all negatives about their Razorbacks.

Watching in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night, I thought about the chorus from a John Conlee hit, circa 1976:

"But these rose colored glasses, that I'm looking through, show only the beauty, cause they hide all the truth."

Football is the ultimate team game and Arkansas has problems on defense. USC, maybe LSU and only a few others can lose a pass rusher like Jamaal Anderson and-or a cover corner like Chris Houston and plug in a replacement.

Arkansas is not on that list of the elite.

Alabama's receivers, particularly DJ Hall, burned the Razorbacks' defenders time and again. Doing the throwing, John Parker Wilson was rarely under pressure. The daunting thing is that Wilson was pretty much stationary, unlike quarterbacks the Razorbacks will see in the weeks to come.

Mostly a wide receiver in high school, sophomore Jerell Norton came out of spring practice touted as an athletic sort and Arkansas' best cover corner. Learning on the job, he was duped by Hall for 35 yards and Alabama's third touchdown.

Apparently, Norton lined up incorrectly on a couple of occasions, but he is not alone as the fall guy. However, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said Monday that senior safety Michael Grant would move back to corner, bumping Norton. In today's game, the No. 1 priority on defense is a back who can take on the other team's best receiver.

Wilson was 6-of-9 for 138 yards in the first quarter against mostly man coverage and Arkansas used more zone as the game went along, but the issue is not just one scheme vs. another. During the final three periods, Wilson was 18-of-36, but only 11-of-27 until he completed seven for 56 yards in the late drive for the winning touchdown. A couple of completions were over the middle into an area vacated by a linebacker on a blitz, a tactic dictated by the lack of pressure from the up-front guys.

Maybe Arkansas was uptight early, but the Razorbacks were dismal in the first quarter. During the final 45 minutes, the offense made 402 yards and scored 38 points against defensive genius Nick Saban.

Extended an invitation to be on talk radio on Monday morning, the man doing the asking said it would be "brutal." It was not that bad and more than one caller latched onto the Razorbacks' resiliency from 0-21 and 10-31. The most valid question involved clock management near the end.

Trailing 38-34, Alabama used its final timeout with 2:31 to play and Arkansas facing third-and-12 at the Razorback 35.

McFadden was sidelined with a slight concussion so Arkansas asked Casey Dick to roll right and either throw to Robert Johnson or keep "if there was any question," Nutt said. Dick tried to make a play and his pass was incomplete.

If he had kept the ball, the clock would have kept moving and Alabama would have had about 1:40 instead of 2:13 to travel 73 yards. In such a case, who's to say that Wilson wouldn't have completed longer passes.

Fans can spend the rest of the week rehashing and second-guessing or they can be encouraged by the comebacks and the play of Dick, who was two dropped passes away from a 220-yard game.

As for the players, they have no time for regrets. For months, I have thought the Kentucky game was likely to define Arkansas' season no matter what happened at Alabama. It's even bigger now that the Wildcats are fresh from a 40-34 decision over Louisville, ranked No. 9 at the time. Andre Woodson completed 30-of-44 for 275 yards in the victory and, just as importantly, Rafael Little carried 27 times for 151 yards.

As a result, Kentucky is No. 21 in The AP poll, the first time the Wildcats have been ranked since the final poll in 1984.



Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media's Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is hking@arkansasnews.com.

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