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ULM 34, Arkansas 31 OT
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Earlier on Saturday, Wisconsin lost to Oregon State partly because it forgot that it had a Heisman-caliber back in Montee Ball and quit feeding him the ball. Arkansas apparently wasn’t watching.
It isn’t exactly rocket science; part of the key to running the ball against an inferior opponent is to keep doing it. Wisconsin abandoned ship, but it didn’t lose its starting quarterback. Arkansas was without Tyler Wilson, who went out with an apparent head injury, and seemed to forget about Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson, who combined to run the ball just 23 times for 112 yards. ULM isn’t a bad Sun Belt team, but no Sun Belt team should outgain this Hog squad 145 yards to 95.
Was it a problem with the injuries? Along with the loss of Wilson, other key Arkansas players were knocked out including a frightening moment when defensive back Tevin Mitchel was immobilized and carted off the field.
Was it the lookahead factor with Alabama up next week? Everything was going fine with a 28-7 lead late in the third quarter.
No, the problem was Arkansas deciding to blow off the running game by not feeding the ball to the best player on the field, Davis, when the team needed to simply pound away for the final quarter to get out alive.
Let the John L. Smith hot seat watch begin.
Do not make the mistake of blaming Arkansas’ stunning loss to Louisiana-Monroe on the absence of QB Tyler Wilson … or Bobby Petrino for that matter.
The Hogs’ quest for a perfect season was ended by a Sun Belt team because the defense was inexcusably unable to make stops when it mattered most. Hey, Warhawks QB Kolton Browning was phenomenal all night, and epic down the stretch, but a so-called SEC contender has no business blowing a 28-7 lead at home, let along to an opponent that began the evening having never defeated a ranked opponent in its history. The D went AWOL down the stretch, repeatedly allowing ULM to convert on fourth-and-long, eventually allowing the game to even to get to overtime on a desperation flip from 23 yards out in the final minute. Once Browning broke containment in the extra session, you pretty much knew that Arkansas was about to suffer one of its most crushing upset losses in school history.
This game was not about Petrino, even though many are bound to suggest that the outcome would have been different had he not blown his coaching gig in the offseason. It will, however, dog current coach John L. Smith for the balance of the year. If he had the players’ undivided attention before the season began, it’s unlikely that’s the case today. With ‘Bama up next, the situation in Fayetteville could get ugly quickly.
By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb
Arkansas may have lost its leader this spring, but they didn’t begin feeling it until this fall. J.L. Smith looked overwhelmed on Saturday; imagine what he'll look like next week across from Alabama’s Nick Saban.
The Hogs have been playing on borrowed time with quarterback Tyler Wilson's health, and lady luck turned her back on both of them Saturday against the Warhawks. Other than Tennessee’s Tyler Bray, no SEC quarterback took more punishment in 2011 than Wilson, yet he regularly bounced up and performed at a high level.
However, last year Wilson had ex-coach Bobby Petrino roaming the sidelines, thinking up plays to protect Wilson. To take him out of harm's way, if only so he could clear his head for a play or two. This year, Wilson’s offensive line has twice the experience it did in 2011, yet Petrino is absent. We saw the effect that had in the first half against ULM.
Without both of its leaders (Petrino & Wilson), this team cratered in the second half against ULM. For the second week in a row, new defensive coordinator Paul Haynes called a frenetic game, and his unit performed to match his play calling.
On the day, Arkansas’ defense surrendered – and we do mean surrendered – 550 yards of offense to the Warhawks, while only recording 377 itself. 412 of those yards came by way of the forward pass, though UL Monroe also ran for 4 yards per on 35 carries (138 yards).
ULM did better than Arkansas on third down conversions. It did better on passing efficiency. It did a better job tackling, and it clearly did a better job putting pressure on the quarterback. The Razorbacks, meanwhile, had more penalties, more turnovers, and less coaching.
ULM had 103 offensive plays to the Hogs 66. It’s not surprising then that the Hawks had nearly TWICE the time of possession – 39:19 to 20:41.
I remind you, this is a Sun Belt team that hasn't had a winning season since 1980, playing a ranked SEC team…ranked in the top ten, no less. Yes, a grossly overrated SEC team, but nonetheless...
Perhaps most telling of all, in terms of both this game and perhaps this season, the Arkansas defense stopped ULM on just one of seven fourth down conversion attempts. One.
Petrino has likely not have been nominated for many Best Man or Husband of the Year awards, but his offensive genius was often enough to make up for Arkansas' defensive woes during his tenure in Fayetteville. Even with Casey Dick under center.
READ MORE: Mitchell: Arkansas Craters
By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, and that you’ve it all figured out, games like these remind you of why we love college football. There is absolutely no reason (well aside from John L. Smith) that UL-Monroe should hang with Arkansas. I repeat--none.
But just like March Madness, you never know when kids begin to believe in themselves, gain confidence, play the game of their lives, and literally shock the nation with a monumental upset.
It’s not like the Warhawks escaped because of some lucky breaks and weird bounces. Louisiana-Monroe was the better team on this day. Sure Tyler Wilson left the game, but the Hogs couldn’t get anything going on the ground against a smaller, less athletic bunch.
All told, Arkansas got out-gained by almost two hundred yards. Let me state that again: Injuries aside, a team from the Sun Belt conference just out-gained one of the so-called big dogs of the SEC by almost two hundred yards. The time of possession? Yeah, there’s that too. The Warhawks had the pigskin for eighteen more minutes than the uninspired Razorbacks.
Simply put, the kids from UL-Monroe will never forget tonight because of how it won, and neither will Razorback fans.
And If John L Smith was hoping to hang around Fayetteville a while, this wasn’t the best bullet point to put on the resume.
By Matt Zemek
What is the timeless rule of football strategy in pressure-cooker situations? You do what your opponent does not want you to do. Louisiana-Monroe head coach Todd Berry heeded this piece of wisdom instead of ignoring it, and the leader of the Warhawks was handsomely rewarded for his decision.
Go inside the mind of an Arkansas coach, player or fan: When Louisiana-Monroe faced a fourth-and-one from the Arkansas 16 in overtime, with the Razorbacks holding a tenuous 31-28 lead, was it in Arkansas's best interests to have the Warhawks kick a field goal, or for ULM to go for it? Clearly, it was in Arkansas's best interests to have ULM kick the field goal. The Warhawks got the defensive stand they wanted. There were no guarantees that the 30.5-point underdogs from the Sun Belt Conference would get another defensive stand in a second overtime stanza. ULM had reduced the game to a simple equation: get one yard on fourth down, and stand 15 yards from victory. When a massive underdog can reduce a game to those small numbers and immediate terms, you go for the brass ring. You make the heavily-favored opponent sweat bullets.
You don't kick the field goal.
Sixteen Kolton Browning yards later, the first gigantic upset of the 2012 season had become official.
Others will (appropriately and necessarily) write about the devastating effect this loss will have on Arkansas against Alabama next week. For tonight, simply appreciate the wisdom of doing what your opponent does not want you to do. Todd Berry got it right… and cashed in as a result.
By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball
Give UL-Monroe credit for pulling one of the biggest upsets in college football history.
Despite the fact that the Warhawks outplayed Arkansas in the final thirty minutes, many will dismiss this loss as an aberration because the Razorbacks played the second half without Tyler Wilson. However, the reason that the Hogs had to go without their signal caller is because of the immense pressure that ULM placed on Arkansas QBs all night, which resulted in several big hits (but surprisingly, no sacks).
Even if Wilson was completely healthy, it would not have mattered since he doesn't play defense. The Hog defense had no answer for QB Kolton Browning. Browning torched the Razorbacks for 410 yards, and scored the game-winning touchdown with a nice scramble.
That's quite an improvement from his last trip to Fayetteville.
Let's face it: ULM wanted to win this game more, and it showed. The Warhawks made big plays when it mattered most, converting 5 of 6 on fourth down, including a crucial 4th and 10, which sent the game into overtime.
With this loss, it's safe to say that John L. Smith era at Arkansas is over. Even if -- and that's a big if -- Arkansas were to win every game for the rest of the season, there's no way that he survives an embarrassment like this. No SEC fan base, especially one that expected to play in a BCS game this year, will ever tolerate losing to a team in the Sun Belt.
Let to rumors of Gus Malzahn's return commence.