Good times are here again.
All the troubles have been washed clean. The heavens cleared. Positivity, a usual staple around the Arkansas program, has returned.
Arkansas never dropped out of the Top 25, even in the midst of its two-game losing streak to start SEC play. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, usually chipper and full of laughs, was anything but this past week. The supposition wasn’t that he was angry. It was that he was focused.
Turns out, he was laser-focused.
Bielema was back to his giddy self after No. 22 Arkansas’ 34-30 win against No. 12 Ole Miss on Saturday night. It took a trip to “The Hill,” the grassy knoll overlooking Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium from the northeast corner, earlier in the week to return the mood to form.
Bielema had hauled his players to the most iconic spot around the stadium, and he had them look down onto the field. It was Friday, after practice. He told them the story of “home.” It was a play on the en vogue phrase “protect this house,” but Bielema, as he does, made it more emotionally heartfelt, as opposed to energetic and adrenaline-rushing.
“Everybody has a home they call home. That home has a lot of valuable things, but the people in it are the ones that really matter,” Bielema said. “I told those guys ‘Whatever you have to do, let’s do what we have to do to protect this house. The good news is there’s going to be 70,000, 80,000 there tomorrow to help you do this.’ I thought they bought into that hook, line and sinker.”
Ole Miss was important and Bielema knew it. Not just because of the 0-2 league start, but because of what lay in wait. The Razorbacks’ final six games provided the hardest schedule in the nation. And if you’re a believer in momentum, another loss at home would have made another win all that much harder later in the year. It could have been possible Arkansas went without an SEC win in Fayetteville.
So Bielema took his players out there, knowing it would have an impact. As much as he wears emotions on his sleeves, motivational tactics like that can be used only so often. Bielema isn’t one to waste them, either. He guessed on the timing and it worked, as it often does.
Now the nine-win season remains a realistic possibility. Heck, 10 wins still sit out there. Every game on the Arkansas schedule left is winnable. The flip side is they’re all losable, too. And will be tough.
If you bet, though, bet on the first one. Bielema is.