FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach Houston Nutt noted earlier this week that football is not a game of horseshoes. If it were, everything would be just fine with the Razorbacks. Players wouldn't be frustrated. Nutt wouldn't be discussing his job security. And fans wouldn't have a reason to boo and fly disparaging banners around Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
But football is not horseshoes. Simply getting close to the target is not good enough in the Southeastern Conference.
It's all about finishing, something the Hogs (3-3, 0-3) have had trouble doing so far this season. The same goes for Ole Miss (2-5, 0-4), which hosts Arkansas at 1 p.m. today.
"We're both in the very same boat. We both have very good teams," Nutt said. "(Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron) could have beaten Florida, could have beaten Alabama. We could have beaten Alabama. We could have beaten Kentucky.
"It's woulda-coulda-shoulda and all that. The bottom line is we're not finishing in the fourth quarter, so I know they're harping on the very same things that we are."
Before the season started, Arkansas was expected to make a bid to repeat as SEC West champions. But the Razorbacks now find themselves in a desperate situation, trying to avoid being in sole possession of last place in the division.
Their main problem: The offense can't pick up a first down to run out the clock and the defense can't make a key stop when it's needed most at the end of games.
"We've just done enough really bad things to screw things up," Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring said. "But at the end of the day, you see enough that gives you hope."
In each of their three conference losses this season, the Razorbacks have played well enough to hold leads in the fourth quarter and come within a few plays of winning.
But Alabama drove 73 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown with eight seconds remaining in a 41-38 win over Arkansas on Sept. 15.
A week later, Kentucky reeled off 21 unanswered points over the final eight minutes to erase a 29-21 deficit and pull out a 42-29 victory in Fayetteville.
And on Auburn's final drive last Saturday, Arkansas booted the kickoff out of bounds, gave up a long completion and then watched as kicker Wes Byrum made a 20-yard field goal with 21 seconds left to give the Tigers a 9-7 win.
"I think it gets harder to swallow every time you lose a game that you feel like you should have won," Arkansas running back Darren McFadden said. "It's harder than the first one to swallow."
For Orgeron, finishing games has been a problem that he has tried to get corrected over the past two seasons -- with no luck.
The Rebels lost to Georgia, Alabama, Auburn and LSU last season by a total of 17 points. It's been much of the same this year.
Ole Miss had an opportunity to upset then-No. 3 Florida on Sept. 22, but Gators' running quarterback Tim Tebow proved to be too much in the second half. The Rebels lost 30-24.
And then there was the controversial ending to last week's game against Alabama.
Wide receiver Shay Hodge caught what appeared to be a 41-yard pass, giving Ole Miss the football at the Alabama 4 with seven seconds remaining and the chance to go for the winning touchdown.
But officials overturned the call, claiming that Hodge made the catch after running out of bounds. The reversal caused an ugly scene and left the Rebels reeling from another close loss, 27-24.
"We've had opportunities against Florida, against Georgia, against Alabama to make the winning drive, make the winning stop and we haven't done that yet," Orgeron said. "Until we do that, I'm not ready to say that we're there."
For as much trouble as Arkansas and Ole Miss have had in finishing games, one of them is bound to get the job done this afternoon.
After all, someone must win, right?
Arkansas vs. Ole Miss
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