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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Brutal Truth

Since the blog needs to be updated, here we go. The Hogs lost to the Auburn Tigers 9-7 Saturday night at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. It was a hard fought, defensive, old-school SEC game. The Hogs took a 7-6 lead on Casey Dick's touchdown pass to Lucas Miller with 1:26 left in the game. A kickoff out of bounds and subsequent penalty, followed by a good return, put the ball at Auburn's 48 yard line. The rest of the game was a mere formality, as the gassed Hog defense could not keep the Tigers out of field goal range. Auburn's 20 yard field goal with :21 remaining gave the Razorbacks their third SEC loss of the season. The Hogs' chances at repeating as Western Division champions, believe it or not, was still alive after LSU's loss earlier in the day to Kentucky. No longer after the heartbreaking loss. Also gone are Darren McFadden's Heisman chances after being held to 43 yards on 17 carries.

It's time to tell it like it is, sports fans. Is the program where it needs to be after 10 years with Houston Nutt as head coach? Can we honestly say that this season has been anything other than a huge disappointment? Top 15 preseason in many polls. The Heisman front runner. No offense to Nolan for stealing his line, but can't we honestly say that a blind man can see what our offensive weaknesses are? Our passing game is flat killing us against good defenses. We still can't get defenses more than 10 feet off the line of scrimmage, because they are not scared of our passing game at all. We have held leads in the final :8 against Bama, the final :21 against Auburn, and the final 4:00 against Kentucky, yet we have found a way to lose. We are under .500 in SEC play at home since the expansion of Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Is this where we expected to be?

We aren't going to make a change midseason. Not this season. Not ever again after Jack Crowe and The Citadel. And we shouldn't. And I'm not sure if the axe will fall on Nutt this year. Most coaching changes occur the first week of December. Broyles won't do it, and I feel fairly certain Jeff Long will not do it when he takes over January 1, 2008. By that time, most coaching changes will have been made, all dominoes fallen, and the Hogs being the odd man out. For all he has had to endure, and I feel that much of it has been out of line, mean-spirited, bad for the program and recruiting, and simply wrong, I think he still wants to be the head coach at Arkansas and will not resign. Maybe I'm wrong. But it's time to take a good, hard look at where we are. This season is not over, but it is teetering on the brink of a precipice we have not seen in 10 years.


Tom Logan said...

The ultimate question is pretty simple: Is Houston Nutt going to get us where we want to be as a program? If your answer includes SEC titles, then your answer is no. If your answer includes a good quarterback and good passing game, then your answer is no. Houston Nutt has not developed a quarterback or passing game since he's been here. Is it reasonable to believe that he ever will?

Tom Logan said...

As an aside, while Long won't be technically the AD until January, I don't agree that he will therefore be without any power or say until then. Broyles obviously won't have the call and what happens with Houston. If the BOT wants him gone, then White will want him gone, and that will be the end of it.

Johnny Fayetteville said...

You may be right, but I don't think it's going to be that easy. Not saying I agree with it, but I honestly see a scenario where Nutt is our coach next year.

Tom Logan said...

He's got nine lives, no doubt. But he's been burning quite a few of them lately.

BSR said...

The real question is whether Nutt wants to be the coach at Arkansas next season. He knows as well as we do that 3-8 or 4-7 is where we'll end up. We don't have the talent to compete against (much less beat) Texas, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Alabama, Auburn, and South Carolina. I don't believe there is any scenario where he could withstand another losing season, and he knows it.

I'm the conspiracy theorist of the bunch, but my belief is that Nutt knew that this was his last chance at Arkansas to win the conference and make it to a BCS game. It was a realistic expection, and one that Sunshine Rick has been saying since 2005.

Based on that belief, I think Nutt had every intention to use a 10-2 or 11-1 season to secure another job. With that record (and the Heisman trophy winner), I think it would have been fairly easy.

But now he's in an all-together different situation. He's 0-3 in the conference, and barring a miracle, will finish 2-6. A .500 record with this talent won't find him on any decent school's short list. And he'll be faced with an impending dilemma:

1) Leave on his own accord and go to SMU, Baylor or Memphis. While he'd take an immediate pay cut, he could probably secure a 5-7 year deal that, in the long run, ends up being better for him. Or:

2) Wait it out and force the U of A's hand. If we fire him (whether it be in 07 or 08), he's entitled to be paid until he takes another job. He may very well pull a Nolan and sit it out, but I seriously doubt it. Again, him getting fired will erase any opportunity to coach in a major conference for a long time, even at a school like Baylor.

In the end, I think he'll try an leverage his overall record to get out knowing that if even if he gets one more season, it will be a losing one - and the eventual end of him.

Time will tell . . .

Tom Logan said...

At this rate, no other team is going to hire Nutt. Maybe a Memphis or Baylor would want him, but he's even putting that in jeopardy. Nutt wanted out last year and didn't get a decent job offer. He needed a big year this year, and he isn't getting it. I think he either gets fired or he stays.

Arkytam said...

I'd like to add to the quandry...who would coach us next? Who wants to be here? As much as HD sux...who could we really truly get that sux less??

Johnny Fayetteville said...

I don't have a feel about what happens at the end of the year, and that is obviously going to depend a great deal on how we finish the year. We all have our beliefs about Nutt's motivations, what the Board of Trustees is thinking, etc., and they're all educated guesses with some basis in both fact and suspicion. I sometimes think that the simplest things about Nutt tend to be true. I think the simple explanation may be the most accurate: That he really wants to be here, and he's going to have to be fired to leave. Whether or not that happens, I really don't know. As I said earlier, our overall record is going to be key. What if we are 7-5? Or 8-5 including a bowl win? Does the University demand a new head coach?

Arkytam asks the real question. Who is next? My guess is we'll throw a dart at the board with some assistant. I know that's not real exciting, but there's not much in our past that suggests we'll do something different. Pray it works out.