There was enough in the first three quarters to at least dream of an Arkansas comeback. There was enough improvement from the last two weeks to wonder if the Hogs were capable of doing to Florida what the Hogs did to Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe.
Then, came the fourth quarter. Florida's speed and overall talent turned 17-7 into the 38-7 final -- about what most expected -- with touchdown plays of 21, 75 and 48 in an impressive Gator finish.
Some of the strides the Hogs made against the fleet Gators hinged on a simplified game plan on both sides of the ball. For all of that, coordinators Willy Robinson and Paul Petrino, still sounded frustrated afterwards.
Robinson, the defensive boss, thought his linebackers and safeties looked faster and more confident through three quarters with a shorter call sheet.
"We did simplify things, cut the plan today," Robinson said. "We looked like we were running to the ball better. But maybe I should have gone away from the plan at the end.
"Florida finally got it and made some adjustments. Maybe I should have made some adjustments, too. I could have changed a couple of things and that might have helped at the end. My adjustments to their adjustments were not as good."
And, it's no good to feel good about a 31-point loss.
"You don't want to be encouraged when you lose like this," Robinson said. "You can't make this a habit, losing.
"Yes, we may be learning how to play harder and faster, but we have to learn how to finish, too. Until you do that, don't get encouraged."
On the offensive side, Petrino saw the way his wide receivers competed on down-field blocks, but he wants touchdowns when Joe Adams beats his man. He wants home runs, not first downs.
"To be honest, Joe had a nice game," he said. "But he's got to push himself for better. He's not finishing the play, beating the last man after the catch. He can do that.
"I've got to do a better job in practice pushing him. What he did today was about what he did in practice last week, so we have to get to where he's beating that last man in practice. He has that kind of ability.
"We got our matchups we thought we'd have in the running game and we blocked well enough to get Michael Smith in the secondary, too. He has to beat that last man. He has to make that final one-on-one move.
"I think there was some improvement, but it was a loss. We have to keep pushing and get to the next level, get in the end zone."
Along with tweaks in the game plan came personnel changes on both sides of the ball. On defense, Jerry Franklin moved from middle linebacker to the weak side. Wendel Davis stepped in at middle linebacker.
"I thought Wendel attacked, pulled the trigger," Robinson said. "Jerry had never played the weak side. He did a nice job in that respect and he's going to be a good player there. We will be good with Wendel and Jerry.
"We have a good one at strong, too. Freddy Burton didn't get on the field much today because of Florida's personnel groups, but he's a good one, too."
In the offensive line, Grant Cook and Grant Freeman subbed at guard and tackle, respectively. They held their own.
Cook started after DeMarcus Love hurt an ankle Thursday. Michael Aguirre was the starter when Ray Dominguez went home to be with his ill grandmother, but was injured on the first play. Freeman, the backup on the other side, took Aguirre's spot.
"I kinda knew on Thursday it would be me," Cook said. "Freeman was smiling when he came in after one play. We just knew we had plenty of reps in practice. The second o-line has gotten a lot of time so we were ready."
They didn't miss a beat, the offensive coordinator said.
"Really, we didn't change anything," Paul Petrino said. "We liked our matchups and stuck with them. We had them out-numbered in their blitz packages and did some good things. We just have to get it in the end zone."
When is that going to happen?
The new man up front thinks it will be sooner rather than later.
"I think we are really close," Cook said. "I have a feeling we are one step away. I think we took strides in protection, in our checks. We took what the defense gave us today and made some plays. We will keep making more. We are going to get there."
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