TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The company jet stayed on the ground in the Ozarks while weather cleared in Alabama late morning Saturday. I told my young, nervous co-workers in the Springdale airport not to worry.
Even if we missed some of the game, we could talk to coaches and players afterwards. They'd tell us what we missed. Even as they pushed the rented van out of the bog just off the Tuscaloosa airport runway, I told them it would be alright. We'd get plenty of quotes.
I misled the troops. Yes, we did miss the first two possessions of the game, as I suspected. No worries. It was still scoreless when we got to our seats.
I'm just glad we didn't miss too much more. We wouldn't have had a clue from conversations from UA assistant coaches. There were none.
Perhaps what Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said was enough. He called out his team for not believing they could win.
That's a couple of firsts. Never have I covered an Arkansas game where the coordinators didn't speak. Never have I heard the Arkansas head coach say his team didn't "believe they could win."
Petrino called the performance disappointing several times in his discussion with the media. He praised the defensive effort in the first half and at the outset of the third quarter when the Hogs closed to within 14-7. But he didn't like the offensive effort in the opening two quarters, or much after Alabama took control in the third quarter.
Ultimately, Petrino said you have to put the performance on him. He said he'd seen before when a team didn't believe or play with conviction.
"When that happens, you lose your technique," he said. "We didn't play the way we are capable of playing."
Ryan Mallett preceded Petrino in the interview room. Since the media didn't hear Petrino's thoughts on believing they could win, he didn't have to answer any questions about that. The only three to follow -- Malcolm Sheppard, Greg Childs and Elton Ford -- had differing views.
"I would agree with him," said Sheppard, senior defensive tackle. "We lacked a little confidence. We were not at home. I guess we did lack confidence in a couple of areas. There's nothing you can do now. We will respond.
"He told us after the game that we lacked confidence. I agree with that. We got into enemy territory. Things were different. Our focus was not what it should be. You'd like to have it over because of that, but there's nothing you can do about it now."
Childs said the Hogs didn't respond in a "hostile atmosphere." He noted his two false starts as critical mistakes.
"We've just got to come out better," he said. "They didn't stop us. We stopped ourselves.
"I'm trying to get the calls and I couldn't hear. You make penalties and set your team back, that's always going to hurt your team. It's hard to dig out of that."
Was it not believing?
"No, the offense came out with intensity," Childs said. "But we made so many mistakes we didn't get a chance to show what we could do."
Maybe Petrino didn't believe. Famed for gambling on fourth downs, he decided to punt when he needed a little over one yard with the score at 21-7 midway through the third quarter. The Razorbacks had missed on a third-and-1 pass when D. J. Williams had it in his hands and was blasted by safety Eryk Anders just a few feet away from Petrino.
Instead, Petrino called for a punt. A strange, running attempt by Dylan Breeding was blocked, leaving the Crimson Tide with just 35 yards to cover. They did in five plays to end the suspense, 28-7. Mallett didn't complete another pass, missing on his final eight.
Asked about his confidence, Mallett said it wouldn't be a problem. He talked about lack of execution more than lack of confidence. A radio man finally asked what he meant by execution.
"That's when you don't do things all the way around," he said. "Throw the ball the right way, protect and catch the ball. All of those things."
Or, maybe Bobby Petrino said it exactly right in the first place. Maybe it's when you don't believe.
Or, maybe it's when the other team just outhits you. Maybe that's what happened. No one talked about that. From what I did see, Alabama was better on defense. The Tide knocked the ball loose from the Arkansas wideouts. It chased Mallett and hit him, too. Maybe that's what happened. Maybe that's why they didn't believe.
Hogs Lack Confidence
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