18 October 2007

Q&A with Razorbackexpats.com

The guys at Razorbackexpats.com took the time to answer a few questions about Arkansas and this weekend's game.

(1) How do you think the Arkansas players will react to the close loss to Auburn? Will they come out flat or motivated?

It's hard to say. I'd imagine that they're feeling pretty bad after three straight last minute SEC losses, plus all the controversy swirling around the program. It's certainly possible that Houston Nutt will use this as a "circle the wagons" opportunity and get them properly fired up...it's happened before. My guess, though, is that they'll come out flat but will play better as the game goes on.

(2) What is the morale of the team and the fan base at this point in the season?

Hard to say about the team....like I said above it could go either way, but I certainly wouldn't blame them for feeling pretty low by now. The string of tough losses plus fan uprisings like the banner and booing have to hurt (even if things like the banner are claimed to be only about the coaching staff). As for the fan base, things are bad and getting worse. There's a huge amount of unrest about the program and its future right now - just check out the comments and articles on our blog or any of the other Razorback blogs to get a first hand taste. There's a lot of bitterness left over from the end of last season and the whole Malzahn/Mustain controversy, and the disappointing results this year have only added to that. I think Nutt has lost all but his most die-hard supporters by now.

(3) Is Nutt in trouble?

Oh yeah. I really can't imagine a scenario where he's the coach next year. Best case for him is that he gets to resign with some dignity still intact and then goes on to another decent job in another conference. Worst case is that he needs a police escort to safely get him past the angry mob surrounding his house, I suppose.

(4) What are the keys to an Arkansas victory?

Well, for starters if we have a lead in the 4th quarter it would be really nice if we didn't blow it. Beyond that obvious statement, the key to every game so far as been to establish at least a tiny semblance of a down field passing game so McFadden and Jones aren't battling all 11 guys on defense. Aside from a few stretches that hasn't really happened much this year.It would be great if McFadden and Jones could pop a couple of their trademark long runs, of course. The Auburn game was the first one in quite awhile where they were both contained, so I'm hoping they'll get back on track. Also, I know you guys have a good passing game so we need to keep the big plays there under control, of course - we had some problems with that against Alabama and Kentucky, but did a much better job against Auburn.

(5) It seems Arkansas has a one dimensional offense right now. Is this because of your QB play or does this have to do with play calling?

Probably a little of both. Casey Dick isn't going to be on Mel Kiper's short list of 1st round NFL picks any time soon, but you certainly can't put all the blame on him. He's had moments where he's hit some really nice passes, so I know the potential is there. He's certainly not being helped by the rather lackluster play calling, that's for sure. Perhaps most importantly, he hasn't really had a whole lot of people to pass to this year...our two top returning receivers, Marcus Monk and Ben Cleveland have been injured all year (Monk may play on Saturday; Cleveland is out for the year) and no one else has stepped up as a consistent playmaker.

(6) Is this win a must for Arkansas to make it to a bowl game this year?

It's crazy that I'm saying this, but I guess it is. I mean, technically we could still beat South Carolina, Tennessee or LSU instead, but no one is feeling great about that happening at this point. Right now our best chance to get to that six-win mark would be against you guys and Mississippi State (although neither of those games are gimmes by any means) plus our four incredibly weak non-conference opponents. Thank God for North Texas State, at least.

(7) How is your defense this year?

Not as good as last year - we lost a few stars to the NFL - but it's getting better. Our secondary in particular was torched by both Bama and Kentucky (who both scored more than 40 on us), but we looked a million times better against Auburn. Reggie Herring's defenses tend to start slow and improve over the course of the season, so hopefully that trend will continue this year.

(8) What did you think of the controversial call at the end of our Bama game?

To be honest, it seems like it comes down to a lot of judgement calls about various rules and regulations that I'm not intimately familiar with. I'm sure if I were an Ole Miss fan I'd be incredibly outraged...I can certainly understand that sentiment. And if I were a Bama fan, I'd probably think the call was correct!

(9) Will McFadden win the Heisman this year?

No way. It's too bad, because I really think he's the best player in the country and definitely deserves it. But the Heisman typically goes to the QB or RB on a top 5 team, and with our three losses (and counting) we're certainly not going to be in that conversation. Unfortunately, he's being hurt by a lot of things largely beyond his control.

(10) What are your predictions for the game?

Maybe someday I'll learn my lesson, but I'll stick with the optimistic route for now. Hogs win, 24-14.

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