Bobby Petrino’s no gambler. Gamblers have zero control over outcome. Petrino has drills and practice and know-how. He made that call on fourth and short because he trusts his team and trusts himself. You can’t train dice to roll, no matter how many times you fling them against the wall.
Special teams emerged from our arsenal of deficiencies as the latest gun we’d pick to shoot ourselves in the foot. Special teams coach Kirk Botkin can’t help but be an upgrade over his infamous predecessor, James Shibest, but he has some work to do. Alex Tejada took the wind out of us thrice at the end of dominant offensive possessions. Then, he and the kickoff team found ways to give the Warhawks run of the field time and again, putting our already tender defense in a position to lose the game for us. Kickers have a lonely job. There’s no margin of error. However unfairly, they shoulder the blame when missed field goals cost us a game. That doesn’t excuse poor execution. If Tejada’s knee is still an issue, he needs to have the self-awareness to say so before trotting out onto the field.
Our problems at the line of scrimmage feel dire. The O-line looked fine when opening up gaps for Michael Smith, as any squad that’s spent the last few years run-blocking should, but Casey Dick spent a disproportionate amount of time on his rear end. Granted, the senior quarterback stared down receivers like a hypnotized bird, but with protection comes confidence. He’ll start ticking off the list o’ receivers more effectively when his pocket gives him room to breathe.
The defensive line is just going to be iffy until our starting linebackers settle into their positions, and even then we’ll be overmatched by just about every SEC offense. Each team we face will attack the middle. You can’t get the wind knocked out of you when they run it up the gut. You can’t give up pressure on the quarterback and quality play in the secondary to compensate for another weakness. I have no idea what defensive coordinator Willy Robinson’s going to do about it. I look forward to finding out, if not this year then the next.
Again, the bright spots are enough to keep me going this season. Just try to keep the ball away from that slippery beast Joe Adams — a wily, exuberant, strong-willed playmaker with speed and hands and attitude. Design a play for DJ Williams, and he’ll brush himself off 45 yards down the field. Hand the ball to Michael Smith, and he’ll pinball his way past defenders twice his size. Control your frustration, and our offense will make this one of the most exciting seasons you’ll ever witness.
We have no real reason to fear Texas. They might beat us. Pro’lly will. But they’ll also prepare us for conference play by showing us some tougher competition. Their offense will be close to unstoppable. Efficient junior quarterback Colt McCoy throws well under pressure, and the elusive senior wide receiver Quan Cosby is his favorite target. If we plan to beat them, we have to outscore them. We may not face a tougher defensive line this year, with senior defensive end Brian Orakpo leading the pack. While their pass defense seems wanting, UTEP having racked up 267 yards through the air, the Miners had to toss the ball 46 times to get there. This team won’t be beat in the fourth quarter.
Because I’m not lucky enough to have made it down to War Memorial for the game, I had the pleasure of catching the inaugural Pay-Per-View broadcast. I didn’t experience the technical difficulties that some reported. My problems were more aesthetic than practical. The picture was good enough, but there just wasn’t enough of it. While regular statistical updates are nice, the large grey bar at the bottom of the screen is far too large. And for God’s sake, there’s only one proper camera angle from which to experience the game. We’re all impressed that we can get an up-close view of Dick barking the count, but keep the angle wide and horizontal. If we have five wide receivers spread across the field, I want to see them.
Scott Inman will become a better play-by-play man throughout the years, but Clint Stoerner feels washed out as a color man. One more performance like that and the web might sprout a “Fire Clint Stoerner” blog in the fashion of “Fire Joe Morgan” or “Fire Jay Mariotti” (two worthwhile pursuits, by the way, and one of which recently got its wish). There’s not much of a difference between playing the game and knowing the game, but the difference exists. I’d rather hear an analyst than a milk-slamming spokesperson.
Speaking of hopeless, Chuck Barrett’s so beside himself with joy whenever the opposing team scores that I wanted to jump through the speakers during the Western Illinois game. His much-publicized love affair with the former coach best flame out before Barrett himself goes the way of Colonel Reb. The season-opener of “Arkansas Razorback Football with Bobby Petrino” was downright embarrassing, with the duo floating in space before a half-assed green screen while wearing black suit-coats and bright red shirts. The production crew obviously got a clue and changed the set for the second broadcast, but Petrino looks no less uncomfortable and annoyed with the exercise. Nutt spent every Sunday joyfully spinning himself into a tizzy, but I guarantee you that Petrino would rather be watching tape with his staff than staring into that shiny bald pate.