Exiting one by one, the Arkansas coaches left the door ajar just enough that the unlikely sound of soft applause could be heard coming from the meeting room of the losing team.
"Peyton Hillis asked to talk and he thanked the defense for the way they played tonight, the effort they gave," said junior center Jonathan Luigs after the 9-7 loss Saturday night to Auburn.
"The offense clapped when he was done. The defense played awesome."
Hillis, senior fullback, was stating the obvious, that the defense more than upheld its end of the bargain, never allowing an Auburn touchdown.
"Even at the end, they didn't let Auburn in the end zone and held them to a field goal," Hillis said of the winning kick with 21 seconds to play.
"We just didn't do our part on offense. We can't put together a complete game, offense and defense on the same night.
"We are 0-3 in the SEC, but we could easily be 3-0. We're just that close and it's very frustrating."
Hillis said he's not much for making speeches in front of the team, but thought the time was right.
"I've never done it after a game," he said. "I wanted to do it. This one is not on the defense. I wanted to give a thumbs up to the defense. I thought the defense did a heckuva job. It's a terrible thing to let our defense down like that. It was my senior duty to support them tonight."
Offensive line coach Mike Markuson was like Hillis and the rest of the offense, praising the defense and pointing to the lack of blocking.
"Auburn played base defense tonight," Markuson said. "We fell off blocks. We didn't get push. Give credit to Auburn. We thought they might get in some bear defense (with five or six defensive linemen), but they didn't have to and we didn't sustain any blocks against them.
"Auburn has the second best defense in the league behind LSU and we knew that. But it's disappointing not to get any more push than that.
"We are a running team and when you can't run it's going to be a real struggle. Theway we blocked, it's tough on a quarterback and tough on a play-caller."
That's what the offensive linemen said, too.
"They were in base, just what we expected and it was physical, like we expected," Luigs said. "We were on the short end of that. We just struggled (to block) all night."
Offensive guard Robert Felton said, "We slid off blocks, didn't sustain anything. That's on us. I've got to take that hit as a senior offensive linemen. My hat is off to our defense for the way they played tonight. An offense like ours has to do better than that."
Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring was thanking his group, too, and the fans.
"My heart goes out to our players and our fans," he said. "I know our players fought their guts out. And, I thought our fans fought hard, too. I feel for our players and our fans.
"We did a better job of mixing things up tonight as far as our defense. We were better in our zones. We got away from press and we did a nice job in our zone tonight. We may be figuring out some things on defense.
"The thing is, we have lost some tough games. We've been close. I think we actually tasted victory tonight and then to have it taken away, not get it done at the end is very, very difficult. The thing we did tonight is not give up the big play, but it's still tough when you can't find some magic at the end to finish the game.
That's all we lacked tonight at the end, that last bit of magic."
Hillis was scratching his head trying to figure out the answer, too. He thought back to last year in the middle of a 10-4 season when the Hogs got some bounces.
"It's hard to know why it happens one year and doesn't the other, the bounces and the little things that just go your way then and not now," Hillis said. "Who knows that answer? What I do know is that this is our team. The players have to do it. We have to figure it out and get it done. We have to pick each other up and go forward. It's tough right now, but we aren't going to give up."
Luigs doesn't think that will happen.
"We are not going to throw this season away," he said. "We are going to continue to fight. We are going to keep working and get these seniors to a good bowl. We are going to reward these seniors."
One of those seniors, wide receiver Marcus Monk, said he's not giving up on his teammates. He thought he was going to lend a hand and did see action on the Hogs' second offensive snap, a run by Felix Jones.
"I felt good in warmups and I had a good week in practice," Monk said. "I'm going to keep getting better and I'm going to play. The plan tonight was to help out in the tight red zone plays (inside the Auburn 25-yard line). We just didn't have many chances there tonight."
Lucas Miller and Andrew Davie (82) celebrate Miller's TD.
Auburn defenders held the Arkansas rushing game far below its average.
London Crawford (2) tries to make a play.
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