I thought a lot Saturday about Joe Kines. First, ironically, during a conversation on the drive to the stadium. And then again during the second half of the Hogs’ Homecoming loss to South Carolina. It was Kines who famously told Razorback fans upon entering the SEC in 1992, that "in this league they’ll slit your throat and drink your blood". Kines had been Jack Crowe’s defensive coordinator for a season and a game when he was named Arkansas’ interim head coach following a loss to The Citadel. He’d already spent eight years as an SEC assistant before coming to Fayetteville. He knew what was on the horizon, and his colorful quote still resonates over two decades later. No one personifies that more than Steve Spurrier who’s gone for the jugular more than a few times during his coaching tenure. He did it again Saturday when he opted to go for it on fourth and two from the Razorback seven yard line with 25 seconds left in the first half. Up 17-7 and out of timeouts, Connor Shaw ran for the first down. Then after a spike to stop the clock, he hit Bruce Ellington for a 4 yard TD pass. Carolina had all the momentum, and it carried over to a scoring drive on their first possession of the second half that made it 31-7. The rest is history.
The hope today is that the Hogs will be able to build on the things that went right Saturday. The first drive of the game was as well called and well executed as anyone could hope for. Sixty four yards in seven plays, capped off by Alex Collins’ six-yard TD run. It came early, and there wasn’t much to be happy about later, but that drive is what this team has to hang their hat on as we move through the new week. In a season where progress has to be measured in things other than victories, that’s the starting point. It’s also becoming obvious that Darius Philon and Deatrich Wise Jr. are going to be big time SEC defensive linemen.
The fact that the Hogs are playing Alabama this week may, in fact, be a blessing rather than a curse. The Tide command their opponent’s focus. That won’t be as hard as you might think this week. Nobody likes being embarrassed, and everyone who goes to Tuscaloosa knows that there is no mercy to be found at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Getting better as a football team is a day-by-day, snap-by-snap process. The truth is that it can be brutal, especially when you’re playing in the toughest conference in America. There will be days like Saturday. But there are also days when we see glimpses of the good things to come. Hopefully we’ll have some more of those days before the season is over.
I still believe in these coaches and players. I’m privileged to watch them work and learn about their character. They are solid, and they will have their day.