Improvement is the measure of the Razorbacks for the rest of the season

Connor Noland and Devwah Whaley / Photo:

In the 1990s, there were more than a few falls when Razorback fans turned their thoughts to basketball before the football season was over.

Part of that was how poorly the football Razorbacks played during much of that decade and part of it was because Nolan Richardson had the Razorbacks rolling at the highest level.

But it was usually at least October before such talk began. We’re two weekends and change short of October, and it feels for all intents and purposes that the Razorback football season is over before it really got started.

Oh, there are still nine more playing dates on the schedule, but the way the Razorbacks are playing, I think more fans may be dreading Saturdays than looking forward to them.

I guess there always is the tailgate party?

I once made fun of the Ole Miss motto of always winning the tailgate party whether they won the game or not. Now the joke is not so funny. It hits too close to home.

Arkansas’ 44-17 loss to North Texas last Saturday and the 34-27 loss to Colorado State the week before were gut punches, knocking all the air out of the season.

If it wasn’t bad enough to absorb the losses, the Razorback program was further denigrated by falling for a Bush-league trick play that played upon a player’s fear of being flagged for a personal foul in the first half against North Texas, and at the beginning of the second half, a chorus of boos by frustrated Razorback fans.

I’m not sure which made me feel worse. I take that back, the booing made me feel worse.

It’s a free country, and there is no law against booing, but it is a counterproductive activity that only leaves a bad taste in the mouths of everyone involved. Fans booing their own team is a traitorous act. It’s kicking the program when it is already down.

Some will say the boos show that fans care. What it actually shows is ignorance and a misunderstanding of the big picture as well as a serious lack of class.

But everyone has their bad moments. I’ve certainly had mine.

Last year after Bret Bielema was fired before he could even warm up after the season-ending loss to Missouri, ESPN and SEC Network pundit Booger McFarland made the comment that Arkansas needs to accept who they are.

I’m not exactly sure what he was getting at. I suppose it was that Hog fans shouldn’t expect so much from their program or that being less than average is Arkansas’ place and that fans should just accept it.

While I certainly believe that Arkansas’ head football coaching job is difficult and challenging, Hog fans should should accept nothing less than winning seasons and bowl trips as the standard.

Obviously Arkansas’ program has fallen below that standard at the moment.

It’s way too soon to assume that first-year head coach Chad Morris and his offensive assistants are in over their heads at Arkansas, but it’s also hard to explain losses by an SEC team to the likes of Colorado State and North Texas no matter the circumstances.

Morris said Monday he is certain that he knows offensive football. He and his staff are in a position where they need to prove it to Hog fans because that knowledge has not shown up yet on the football field.

Arkansas’ defense has its issues, too. The one-on-one tackling was poor against North Texas, but six turnovers by the offense hung the defense out to dry.

Talent and a lack of experience in Morris’ style is an obvious issue on both sides of the ball. Recruiting better athletes and time are the only real cures for those problems.

The Razorbacks have their work cut out for them in their 6:30 p.m. Saturday matchup against No. 9 Auburn (2-1) in a game to be televised by the SEC Network.

Morris said that Ty Storey will start at quarterback. From what we’ve seen of him in the first two games, he has a greater understanding of the offense than the other quarterbacks, but he doesn’t have a major college arm.

If he were on a more talented team, one that excelled in the running game, crafty play calling could protect him. That’s not going to happen against the Tigers, which boast one of the best front sevens in the college game.

The past two seasons, the Razorbacks have experienced ugly losses to Auburn, and this Saturday probably won’t be any different.

As far as judging the Razorbacks the rest of the season, Hog fans need to watch for improvement, and considering the bulk of the opponents left to play, improvement might be difficult to clearly see on a week-to-week basis.

That’s not much consolation, but it’s what Hog fans have to hold on to at this moment.