Vintage. Old-school. A little mean. Rough around the edges. A little cocky.
There was nothing about Arkansas’ 31-10 pasting of Florida on Saturday that didn’t scream Bret Bielema.
Arkansas’ coach is brash. His teams are best when they take after him in that regard, too. Thing was, the Razorbacks had been anything but for most of the season, especially two weeks ago when Auburn beat the pants off Arkansas, 56-3, to send the fans screaming for wholesale changes.
“Fire Kurt Anderson,” the offensive line coach. “Fire Robb Smith,” the defensive coordinator. “Fire Bielema” (which was always asinine).
Bielema knew the kerfuffle, undoubtedly, but he didn’t care. What we write, what you think, irrelevant. His focus was on what was happening inside the Fred W. Smith Football Center. He wasted exactly zero days on implementing changes he wanted to see happen. There was running it past his assistants, no suggestions. Bielema said he wanted some changes and he got them.
“When [stuff] needs to happen, I’ve got to make it happen,” he said after Saturday’s game.
The “stuff” was a curse word referring to excrement. Bielema said it directly, with no sense of humor in his voice. He was a man embarrassed and ashamed during the last two weeks. His quarterback, Austin Allen, was hurt. His defense gave up a school record for yards rushing against Auburn. His team as a whole was down to 1-3 in the SEC, mired in a tie for last.
So he, like his boss did earlier in the week, showed his salt. Bielema was the leader.
The offensive line, with walk-on Johnny Gibson in for Jake Raulerson, gave up just one sack. They made way for 243 yards rushing. That total, by the way, is more than Florida had in total offense. The Gators had 13 yards rushing and 229 passing, 72 of which came on the last drive when the outcome already was decided.
The team took its cues from Bielema. Austin Allen played through his injury, at one point completing 12 straight passes. Devwah Whaley showed his burst as well as he has this season. Drew Morgan took shots going over the middle and still made the catch. Brooks Ellis looked strong running downhill with backs in line of vision. Santos Ramirez laid hits and took the game’s first pass for a pick-6. Everything came up Arkansas.
Then after the whipping was finished, Bielema went to bat for his coaches. Anderson especially was called out as being one he preferred, glowed about, even.
“I can’t say enough about Kurt. I know some of you guys think you got it figured out,” Bielema said. “I’ve had a lot of good offensive line coaches. That guy might be the best one I’ve had.”
Whether one game is enough to neutralize the bloodlust for change remains to be seen. For one night, anyway, it didn’t matter. Bielema said, simply, he has to get better players on the offensive line. Saturday showed, if that’s what he wants to make happen, it will happen, and he doesn’t care what we think about it.
My kind of guy.