Tuesday was the first day anyone from the Arkansas program was available to speak to the media since the Razorbacks’ loss to Auburn on Saturday. Everyone who entered the basement meeting room at the Fred W. Smith Football Center was a player. No coaches.
They all carried the same sentiments, mostly player-speak, public relations-type responses. Comments were predictable, such as “We have to get better,” “We have to focus,” and so on. Such responses become more common as seasons get deeper, regardless of whether the team is winning or losing. Things become a slog, them having to come meet with us and all that.
One player who was a bit different Tuesday was linebacker Brooks Ellis.
Ellis is normally a vanilla quote. He’s well-coached in the nonanswer answer and the standard, throwaway lines to the press. His demeanor is calm, he rarely lets his voice come off a room-appropriate tone or volume and his body language is neutral. Mostly he did the same thing Tuesday, too, except for the last response.
It was clear Ellis was angry. Whether that anger is from the game Saturday, having to answer hundreds of his fellow students’ questions or ours, or for whatever reason, the future medical school student had a different vibe about him than usual.
“We are angry all the time,” Ellis said. “That’s how you’re supposed to play, especially coming off that game; you want to improve so much, you’re just trying to do everything you can get everybody on the same page. You’re just angry that it happened.”
While that sounds standard — and is — but from Ellis it’s a step outside his comfort zone, away from the usual stock responses. If he’s different, the sense is, the locker room is, too. He’s the touchstone. Dan Skipper is the only other four-year starter on the team, but he’s been known to be emotionally unstable on the field at times. Ellis hasn’t been. Not viscerally.
But the team is only a few days removed from the worst SEC loss in school history, too. It would have been fraudulent for any of the six players Tuesday to completely feign emotion, or lack thereof.
Certainly those outside the program aren’t holding back.
A blip or something more?
I’ve written in this space before about Chris Fallica, my former colleague in ESPN’s Stats and Analysis department. Good guy as far as I recall, even though we never worked in the exact same department.
Anyway, Fallica is the lead researcher for ESPN’s College GameDay and a weekly guest on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly here in northwest Arkansas (and other parts of the state, too). His take on Arkansas’ 56-3 loss to Auburn was a bit of a head-scratcher.
Fallica: The loss to Auburn was a blip on the radar for Arkansas.
— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) October 25, 2016
I mean, I get it’s just one game; wrote that Tuesday, even. Fifty-three points, the worst SEC loss in school history and a school-record for most yards rushing ever allowed is more than a blip. Throw in, for the pessimists, Arkansas is an upright (Louisiana Tech), a miracle (TCU) and a fourth-down conversion (Ole Miss) from being 2-6 instead of 5-3 and a “blip” doesn’t seem to encompass it.
Now, that doesn’t mean if Arkansas goes 4-0 or 3-1 the rest of the way the Auburn loss won’t be forgotten, not completely. But even if that happens, think about last year. The Natural State rued the Toledo and Texas Tech losses even after Arkansas went 8-5.
Plus, man, 53 points. Yikes.
- After tweaking his knee against Auburn on Saturday, quarterback Austin Allen looked like he might injured, not just hurt. But Allen told reporters Tuesday he is going to play Nov. 5 against Florida.
- Week 8 is about the time realistic bowl projections can be settled. Anything before Week 8 is bollocks. Too soon. Three national sites have bowl spots predicted for the Razorbacks. One has Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl … again, which I think is unlikely. And the other — this one and this one — two say TaxSlayer in Jacksonville.
- For a guy who spent all of one season as a tight end in college, A.J. Derby is making a career for himself in the NFL. He was traded Tuesday from New England to Denver in this, his second year as a pro.
- Jason Kersey and Trent Shadid are looking at the Arkansas team, unit by unit, during the bye week. It’s a good series. On Tuesday, they peeked at the receivers.
- Dan Skipper is “embarrassed and ashamed” he and the offensive line have been unable to keep Allen upright this year, writes Shadid.
Reppin’ the Hogs in the World Series
Arkansas doesn’t have any players in this year’s World Series; the last of the former Razorbacks, Andrew Benintendi, saw his team eliminated in the American League Championship Series. But one ex-Diamond Hog is a coach, anyway.
Eric Hinske, who played at Arkansas from 1996-98, is in his second year as assistant hitting coach for Chicago. The Cubs, of course, are hoping for their first World Series title since 1908. Hinske actually has won two already — 2007 with the Yankees and 2009 with the Red Sox. He hit 127 home runs and won Rookie of the Year in 2002 during his 12-year MLB career.
Hinske’s Cubs will have to come back to do it. Chicago lost Game 1 to Cleveland on Tuesday night, 6-0.
DVH’ll fix it
Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn will wrap his team’s fall season Thursday when he meets with the media. Mostly, Arkansas players just have to go through individual training sessions until January, but Van Horn will have several personnel decisions to make in the meantime.
The Razorbacks had 50 players take part in the Fall World Series, Arkansas’ best-of-five intrasquad scrimmage to cap the fall season. Only 35 can make the team for the spring. Of those 50, 25 were part of the team last spring. That leaves 10 spots, assuming the two who redshirted last year are a part of the 35-man roster.
Van Horn almost certainly won’t project the complete spring picture on Thursday, but we should have a better idea of some of the newcomers who have a real shot.
Arkansas finished dead last in the SEC last year with a 26-29 overall record, including 7-23 in the SEC. Don’t count on that happening again.
• Razorbacks men’s golf finished its fall season Tuesday, coming up with a third-place finish at the Quail Valley Intercollegiate. Arkansas shot a -19, 10 strokes behind the winner, Michigan State, and eight behind second-place finisher North Florida. Alvaro Ortiz finished fourth individually and he will be the team’s top player when the spring season begins Feb. 6 in Florida.
• Arkansas owns a 37-5 volleyball record over Mississippi State, but the Razorbacks have just one SEC victory this season as the Bulldogs visit Wednesday night at Barnhill Arena. The game is the third of a four-game match home stand. Play begins at 7 p.m. live and on the SEC Network.
• Alana Uriell won the individual women’s golf title at the UTSA Maryb S. Kauth Invitational on Tuesday, shooting 12-under par to beat teammate and runner-up Kaylee Benton by two strokes. The win is Uriell’s first of her college career and Arkansas’ first as a team this fall.
Yee-Haw! Today in Arkansas
What the hell is wrong with people? Rhetorical question, but I’m asking it more and more when it comes to the goings-on in Little Rock.
Three guys robbed a Pizza Hut delivery guy of $15 and two pizzas in the state’s capital late Monday night, according to this story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Cut it out, LR. You’re too beautiful a city for this garbage.