Open date gives Hogs, fans a much-needed break

As much as the Arkansas Razorbacks needed an open date after last Saturday’s 45-31 loss to Vanderbilt, Hog fans may have needed the break more.

This has been a brutal season for all involved.

With all do respect to Vanderbilt’s players and coaching staff, it is one thing to get pounded by Alabama, but it’s another to be outmuscled by the Commodores. Vanderbilt has long been the SEC’s floor where football is concerned. With such a decisive loss, Arkansas now fumbles around in the league’s basement without a match to light the way out.

While it was the offense early in the season that could not get off the ground and led to embarrassing losses to Colorado State and North Texas, it was the Hogs’ defense that was hammered last Saturday.

Certainly, the Razorbacks played without starting linebacker Dre Greenlaw for three quarters of the game, but as good as the senior from Fayetteville is, his loss can’t account for the physical beating Arkansas’ defense absorbed.

Arkansas coach Chad Morris was clearly upset by the way his football team played Saturday. One could tell he felt he had the better players, but unfortunately their effort didn’t live up to their ability.

With three games left on the docket, Morris said he and his staff would use this week’s open date to see what players are still on board.

It’s hard to know exactly what that means, and without any media opportunities this week, reporters don’t have the chance to ask.

That might be good. It might be better for Razorback fans to concentrate on other things this week like the Red Sox’s World Series championship that former Razorback Andrew Benintendi greatly contributed to, or the oncoming basketball seasons for Mike Anderson and Mike Neighbors’ squads, or Halloween and the other holidays to follow.

There are scores of other things to think about this time of year than Arkansas football, and if the Razorbacks keep playing the way they have played the bulk of this season, fans will drift. In truth many already have.

It’s probably good the Hogs only have one home game left on the schedule and that it is against a top-10 squad like LSU. There is probably enough hope and loyalty left in the Hogs’ fans base for 40,000 maybe even 50,000 to show up for a shot at LSU.

However, those of us who remember the woes of the 1990s know how sparsely filled Razorback and War Memorial stadiums can be once bowl aspirations hit the skids and a chilly November wind whistles through the stadium, and deer and duck hunting calls.

I’m not sure how many fans would show for a Black Friday game against Missouri at War Memorial Stadium if the Hogs lugged a 2-9 record into the venerable venue. It might be even less at Razorback Stadium with the campus closed down for the long holiday weekend.

Don’t get me wrong. Arkansas fans aren’t apathetic. Give them a football team worth watching, and they will support it. The program’s history bears that out.

For many, it’s hard to watch their favored program flounder as much as the Razorbacks have the past two seasons and pay through the nose to do it.

It’s just not fun to watch your team get pounded week after week by the likes of Vanderbilt and North Texas or Alabama and Auburn for that matter. There are other more pleasant things to do in the minds of many fans.

Much has been made about the overall experience of attending a Razorback game, and how that could be in enhanced. Such things are worth considering, but the experience that would truly enhance fans’ trips to Razorback games is winning.

Winning makes enduring parking and traffic issues, long lines into the rest room and at concession stands, and odd helmet and jersey combinations more bearable. Heck, winning even makes Pepsi taste better.

Winning is the only cure for what ails the Razorback program.

Morris and his staff know this. Time will tell if they have the wherewithal to not only recruit but to coach themselves out of this situation.

Recruiting news has been the only promising aspect of this season. Morris and his staff are putting together what recruiting reporters are calling its best class since coordinated recruiting rankings came into being after the turn of the century.

December 19 — the first day of the early signing period — can’t get here fast enough. No commitment is binding until the young man signs on the dotted line, and once the season is over if not already, other programs will seek to poach some of Arkansas’ commitments. Hopefully all that Morris and his staff truly want will stick, but even after successful seasons sometimes a committed player or two wanders elsewhere.

Morris’ job isn’t in jeopardy. He was hired to rebuild, but the reclamation project may be bigger than most expected. It could be Year Three or even Four before the Hogs sniff a bowl game, the way things look.

There has been improvement this season. The Razorbacks are better today than they were in the second and third weeks of the season, but other teams don’t stand still either.

Arkansas won’t be favored in any of its final three games against LSU on Nov. 10, Mississippi State on Nov. 17, and Missouri on Nov. 23, but even just one victory out of the three would mean so much to the fans and their thought of the program.

After watching last Saturday, that may be asking too much of the depth-depleted Razorbacks. We’ll just have to wait and see.