ARK-UGA column

Georgia outside linebacker Nolan Smith pressures Arkansas sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson. The Razorbacks struggled mightily against the No. 2 Bulldogs, but are not panicking after their first loss.

ATHENS, Ga.— The No. 8 Razorback football team endured a full-fledged 37-0 throttling at the hands of the No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. It was the Hogs’ first game as a top-10 team since 2012, and they flopped. Hard.

The Bulldogs bullied Arkansas in every facet of the game, revealing that the Razorbacks are mortal. Anyone who expected a different result read too much into a two-score victory over a Texas A&M team with an inexperienced quarterback. The Hogs played well in that game and deserved to win, but the Aggies and the Bulldogs are on considerably different levels.

Georgia is an elite team, and Sanford Stadium is one of the most hostile environments for a visiting team to play in. The Bulldogs entered Saturday with a perfect 3-0 record against top-10 teams at home under head coach Kirby Smart, and the pressure was simply too much for an Arkansas team that is still a stranger to the big stage.

“We won four games in a row, we beat the 15th-ranked (team), beat the seventh-ranked team,” head coach Sam Pittman said in the postgame press conference. “We’ve got a good football team. Georgia was a hell of a lot better than us today.”

The loss was ugly, but it is no reason to panic. Georgia is a perennial College Football Playoff contender. The Bulldogs have allowed just 23 points all season, the fewest through the first five games since 1937, when they played against schools called Ogelthorpe, Holy Cross and Mercer.

The Razorbacks have not had a winning season since 2016 and have a very good chance of securing one this year. From this point forward, they could lose more games than they win and still do it.

“Our pride got crushed, our ego got crushed, but it’s one ballgame against a team (in) the East,” Pittman said. “We’re still right where we need to be (in) the West. As long as we’ll go back and fight and work this week, we’ll field a good football team next week, and I believe that’s what we’ll do.”

The early success of Pittman’s squad has created an exciting energy in Fayetteville. It was clear that the Razorbacks missed that Saturday, when their stout defense let the Georgia rushing attack have its way. It was clear when their disciplined offense fell victim to more than 90,000 noisy Bulldog fans, committing a slew of penalties and struggling to find momentum.

But that energy should remain unwavering and put on full display when the Hogs return home in two weeks for a game against the No. 22 Auburn Tigers. Even next week in Oxford, Mississippi, where hotels and rental properties are next to impossible to come by ahead of the Arkansas-Ole Miss matchup.

That energy should remain unwavering from the stands, because that is exactly what it is in the locker room.

“We’re going to bounce back because that’s what we do,” senior linebacker Grant Morgan said. “That’s what good football teams do and we’re a good football team. Just because of how this game went today doesn’t define us.”

The Hogs are used to enduring bad losses to less-than-elite teams. If you cannot stomach a blowout on the road against a powerhouse that appears bound for the CFP, then you need to temper your expectations.

“We don’t play the games to just keep it close and be happy about (being) 4-1,” Morgan said. “We are happy, (but) we’re (also) realistic. We know we are likely ahead of what we could be or what we should be right now as an Arkansas team, but we don’t care about that. We want to be able to be in every single game.”

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