Sugar Bowl another disappointment for Razorbacks fans
The Sugar Bowl is in the books and it didn’t end well for the Arkansas Razorbacks as the sixth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes won 31-26.
Arkansas had a terrible first half but almost came back in the second. Yes, the Razorbacks got close, but an interception thrown by Ryan Mallett deep in Ohio State’s territory after the Hogs benefited from a fortuitous blocked punt just put the game out of reach for the Razorbacks. That second half comeback simply couldn’t undo the poor defensive play, dropped passes and general confusion that struck the Hogs in the first.
The end result and the resulting frustration that’s certainly gripped Arkansas fans tonight reminds me of a high-profile game that the Razorbacks lost in 1992. While I can’t remember who the Hogs were playing, I well remember driving to my Monday classes at the University of Arkansas a couple of days after the game and passing a house with a television set in the front yard.
The set had an ax through the screen and was sitting on a TV stand. There was a piece of poster board taped to the stand that read, “See the game this weekend? We did.”
And that, sadly, pretty well sums up how Razorbacks fans often feel after big games. Yes, Arkansas had a heck of a season, finishing 10-2 and receiving a no. 8 national ranking. Regardless, the sad truth is that Arkansas has a rotten record in bowl games — the team has played in 38 of them over the years and compiled a 12-23-3 record in those.
Honestly, the last “big” bowl game the Razorbacks won was in 1978 (33 years ago!) when the sixth-ranked Hogs beat No. 2 Oklahoma 31-6 in the Orange Bowl. That game was so big that people still mention it every year around this time and folks still remember where they saw it, who they were with and just about every detail of that evening.
Since that time, Arkansas has managed a bowl victory or two, but none of them have been major victories and the some of the losses have been just about unimaginable.In fact, Arkansas has been to 23 bowl games since the 1978 Orange Bowl and has put together a record of 6-16-1. Ouch.
The victories have ranged from somewhat minor (such as the 20-17 win over East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl last year) to morale boosting (a 27-6 win over old rival Texas in the Cotton Bowl following the 1999 season), but nothing was on par with that ’78 Orange Bowl.
What Razorbacks fans have gotten used to is watching our team get this close to doing something impressive and then just falling short of the goal. We saw it tonight with the Sugar Bowl and we saw it in the three Southeastern Conference (SEC) championship games the Razorbacks lost in 1995, 2002 and 2006. We saw the Razorbacks fall short following the 1979 season, too, when the No. 6 Hogs had a shot at a national title but lost the Sugar Bowl to No. 2 Alabama.
Still, it’s quite obvious that the team that got close to a Sugar Bowl victory tonight is the best one the Razorbacks have fielded in years. The Razorbacks played the Buckeyes to a close finish. At least this isn’t like the 2000 season when the Razorbacks suffered a humiliating loss to UNLV in the Las Vegas Bowl (that’s right — UNLV, which finished third in the Mountain West that year) or like the 2002 season which ended with a curse-inspiring loss in the Music City Bowl to Minnesota.
No, the 2010 Razorback team made it to its first Bowl Championship Series (BCS) game tonight and got pretty close to winning thing. It was a disappointing end to a great season, but one can’t help but feel more than a bit encouraged — at least the Razorbacks didn’t get blown out, lose to an inferior team or give up after a bad half.
Yes, it was a loss that might have caused a few Razorbacks fans to take axes or cinder blocks to their television sets, but at least it was one that points to the fact the team is improving. Look at it this way, Bobby Petrino took over a team three seasons ago that was reduced to a shambles by weird politics, Houston Nutt’s horrible coaching and equally nasty ego and a severe lack of talent.
In three short years, that mess of a team was transformed into one that fought its way to a No. 8 national ranking and an appearance in the Sugar Bowl. That was quite a feat, indeed, and one that demonstrates this team is headed in the right direction.
Maybe that next major bowl victory is closer than we think.
Thanks to the fine folks at Hogville.net for the bowl history. My memory’s good, but not that good.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.