How on earth can a team, in back-to-back weeks, blow a 17 point halftime lead and then an 18 point halftime lead.
We had the football world right where we wanted....where we had dreamed for it to be. It was a Top 20 matchup - another big game - and we were in the process of rolling up our opponent (a future SEC rival) and we blew it - AGAIN.
We can't quite take advantage of momentum.
The weekend itself was fun. Jennifer and I drove up Friday night with the kids after I got off work. Saturday morning Jennifer dropped me off at her Dad's house and they went to the State Fair and we went to the game, where we met up with my brother, my dad, and my brother-in-law. After the game we met back up with the Fair group for dinner and had an evening at GrandAggie's place.
Our running game was outstanding. It was probably the best rushing performance I've ever seen from us....the '06 Nebraska game where J-Train and McGee each ran for 130+ is the only other game I can think of that would be in the conversation.
Christine Michael led the way with 230 yards and 3 TDs. He was like a man amongst boys. It was the most rushing yardage by a single player since Darren Lewis put up 232 back in 1990 against tech....tied for 3rd most in school history. And he did it on only 32 carries (7.2 ypc).
He's probably my favorite running back to watch since I got to school. He runs with such passion and strength. J-Train was lots of fun to watch in short yardage situations but C-Mike has him beat when it comes to doing it from anywhere on the field.
Not only did C-Mike run all over the Hogs but Cyrus added 95 yards and 2 TDs and Tannehill tacked on 56 more.
Everytime C-Mike or Cyrus scored I turned to Sean and said, "C-Mike/Cyrus did it for your birthday." Because it was Sean's birthday. I feel like I said it a lot during that first half.
We went into half-time with a 35-17 lead and I told Sean, "The winner of this game is going to have more than 35 points. We're either going to put up 70 or finish with 35."
The frustrating thing was that I was pretty close to being right. We scored 3 points in the second half, including a highly scrutinized FG late in the game. The game was tied with 4:22 remaining after Arky had marched back with 18 unanswered points and we had the ball in a 4th & 2 on their 6 yard line. I turned to my father-in-law and said something along the lines of, "Wow, he thinks we're going to stop them." (referring to Sherman). I then turned to my brother and moaned, "We're not even going to have enough time to get back down field and score after they score."
Arkansas marched down the field and scored a TD and we got the ball back with a little under 2 minutes remaining - which actually was enough time, we just couldn't move the ball.
I understand that Sherman plays a conservative style and that his background in the NFL is much more of a play it by-the-book approach but in college football you're dealing with 18-22 year old kids who can unravel when things go wrong. The ones that don't and are able to rise to the occasion are the ones that go onto the next level where you can have a more by-the-book approach.
How did Arkansas manage to mount this sort of comeback? They threw the pigskin off the ball. 510 yards passing.
Now the two things that I find interesting is that they actually threw for more yards in the first half when we were romping them than they did in the second half when they mounted their comeback (271 in 1st H and 239 in 2nd H). Their leading receiver, Jarius Wright, had a school record 281 yards and 2 TDs....but he only had 54 of those yards in the second half.
The difference was that the offense stalled out in the second half. It wasn't that Arkasnas wasn't scoring in the first half, they were, it was that we were just tacking on points faster.
Here's a look at the blow-by-blow scoring....
7-0We did have two turnovers. Tannehill threw an INT in the first half that led to Arkansas's first TD drive of the game and C-Mike fumbled a ball. We are not getting turnovers - we are -5 on the season and haven't forced one since the first quarter of the SMU game (excluding the oSu Blackmon self-inflicted fumble into the endzone for a touchback). Even with that gimmie fumble we are 112th in the nation in turnover margin. That has to change.
Lots of people pointed to the C-Mike fumble as the turning point in the game but I'm not completely sure it was because our defense came out and forced the only 3-and-out of the second half and got the ball back. I think that the turning point came on our drive following the 3-and-out:
1-10 C-Mike ran for 5That illegal block killed what was looking to be a MONSTER drive. A backbreaking drive.
2-5 C-Mike ran for 10
1-10 Cyrus ran for 7
2-3 Cyrus ran for 11
1-10 Cyrus ran for 10 (called back on a illegal block)
1-15 Pass to Fuller for 9
2-6 C-Mike ran for 2
3-4 Pass to Cyrus for 3
Jeff Fuller is playing on a bad hamstring and as a result our passing game has looked pretty weak - particularly down field. Ryan Swope had the play of the game (and long pass of the game) when he leapt over a diving defender and picked up major YAC but beyond that I don't think we had a single pass go for more than 15 yards.
Somehow, amidst the roller coaster of emotion, Sean and I noticed that Arkansas's players all seemed to have some sort of abdominal bleeding.
What a horrible uniform design.
What is happening? I'm not sure. I don't think we're getting enough pressure without having to blitz an outside linebacker or a defensive back. Dustin Harris and Terrence Fredricks each had a sack and Sean Porter had two. On the season we have 18 sacks but 10 of those are from CBs and Porter.
I don't think it is our defensive backs that are the problem - we returned everyone from last season. It has to be our DL and our LB corps (particularly the inside LBers).
Even with our 112th ranked turnover margin and our 120th ranked pass defense - we lost to the current #6 and #10 teams by a combined total of 5 points. It's amazing to me how slim the margin is. If we fall on that Arkansas fumble in the endzone 1/10th of a second faster than we did they don't score that TD and we probably win the ballgame and we're riding high as the 10th or 11th ranked team in the country. We didn't - and it's the end of the world and we're just hanging onto a #25 ranking.
It's a funny game. A game of inches. And emotion.