The Blame Game: Where does it Fall
Razorback fans are less than content after the football team that was self-promoted as a national championship contender has fallen to 1-3, two of those losses coming from unranked teams in nonconference matchups.
“I know they’re disappointed, and they deserve better,” said John L. Smith, the interim head coach, after the game.
Since beating the Razorbacks 35-26, Rutgers was ranked No. 23 and No. 25 in the AP Top 25 and the USA Today Poll, respectively. Arkansas, on the other hand, dropped from the AP Top 25 after losing to ULM and from the USA Today Poll after being shutout by Alabama.
There are many places where the blame may fall, but there are just as many that are blameless.
One such blameless individual is senior wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, who broke the school record and the Southeastern Conference record with 303 receiving yards Saturday. Those 303 yards came on 10 catches with three touchdowns.
Another is senior quarterback Tyler Wilson, who handles pressure in the pocket much better than redshirt freshman Brandon Allen. That is not to say that Allen is to blame; however, it does say that Wilson’s experience helps him to make plays when the offensive line is unable to protect him fully.
Less to blame — but not entirely blameless — are the wide receivers. Junior Brandon Mitchell couldn’t shake defenders and freshman Mekale McKay dropped a pass in the end zone when the Razorbacks were second and goal and third and goal, respectively. Because of these two incompletions, the Razorbacks settled for a field goal by junior kicker Zach Hocker.
A little more blame falls on the defense. Rutgers controlled the ball for two-thirds of the ball game. No matter how well Wilson and Hamilton were connecting, they cannot do anything from the sidelines.
“There’s a number of things that you can point to, but they fought,” Smith said and added that he was “a little bit” surprised that Rutgers won.
The players don’t deserve most of the blame. They can’t control which plays are called, such as the choice to go for a two-point conversion after the third touchdown instead of the extra point by Zach Hocker.
But placing the blame on the coaches is confusing. Most fans automatically set their sights on Smith, because of his title.
Smith may not be the best place for blame, though. In April, he said that he has “always let my coordinators coordinate,” according to an article on ArkansasSports360.com.
If Smith is allowing the coordinators to call most of the shots – these are the same coordinators that were on the sidelines when the Razorbacks beat the Kansas State Wildcats in the Cotton Bowl – and taking a more passive role as head coach, then the reasonable question is if the coordinators could have lost the Cotton Bowl if left to their own means.
This is an unpopular statement, but maybe Smith should be more involved with the play calling. After all, Michigan State won games with him as head coach. They didn’t win many nearing the end of his time in East Lansing, Mich., but the Spartans never started the season 1-3 either.
A head coach is in place for a reason, and Smith should be given more control of the reins. Until then, he will serve as a figurehead, trying to encourage fans and the team as the Razorbacks continue sink into mediocrity.
“I’m asking that the fans don’t give up on them,” Smith said.