Arkansas and Tennessee try to regroup after disappointing losses

Arkansas defensive tackle Jared Green (57) and linebackers Alonzo Highsmith (45), and Tenarius Wright (43) attempt to tackle Alabama running back Eddie Lacy (42) as offensive lineman Barrett Jones (75) looks on during second quarter action of an NCAA college football game in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/David Quinn)

Arkansas defensive tackle Jared Green (57) and linebackers Alonzo Highsmith (45), and Tenarius Wright (43) attempt to tackle Alabama running back Eddie Lacy (42) as offensive lineman Barrett Jones (75) looks on during second quarter action of an NCAA college football game in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/David Quinn)

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Arkansas fans knew if Tyler Wilson did not play on Saturday that it was going to be a long day when #1 Alabama came to town. I put it this way, if Tyler plays we got a 20% chance and if he doesn’t then we have a 2% chance of winning.

Alabama played conservative and let their defense do all the work in the first half. Arkansas snapped the ball over the punter’s head which lead to an one play drive for Alabama.

Arkansas did make Alabama’s offense struggle their first two possessions but Sabin did not panic and let his defense lead to a 24-0 halftime lead.

Tennessee had high hopes of winning at home against Florida. No one really knew how good Florida was going to be this year. Everyone knows they have the top talent in the country but they did not look good at all last year.

I thought Tennessee could pull of an upset in this game and the Vols’ fans thought so too and they came with that expectation too. However, in the second half Florida came back and put the game away.

Where do the Hogs and the Vols go now? Arkansas has a bigger challenge this week when 3-0 Rutgers comes to town and we still don’t know if Tyler Wilson will be cleared to play.  The oddsmakers have that game as a tossup.

Tennessee has a breather scheduled with Akron. However, both teams will get back into SEC play after that and things should develop soon after that. Either they will develop for the good or fall apart. I think both teams can score some upsets and make runs but I think that both teams have the potential of falling apart too.

Here is a good article on Arkansas from the AP:

Arkansas looks to regroup following Alabama loss

KURT VOIGT – AP Sports Writer (AP)

Originally published 05:03 p.m., September 16, 2012
Updated 05:44 p.m., September 16, 2012

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Bobby Petrino built Arkansas into one of the top programs in the country in four seasons, playing in a BCS bowl game and finishing as high as No. 5 in the rankings during that time.

In three games this season, the Razorbacks (1-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) appear to have all but collapsed without their former coach, and with an injured Tyler Wilson on the sidelines.

The latest crushing blow came in the form of a 52-0 drubbing at the hands of No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, a game in which Arkansas was shut out in Razorback Stadium for the first time in 46 seasons. It might not have been as shocking as an overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe a week earlier, but it was every bit as emotionally crippling — and then some.

Players walked slowly off the field afterward, coaches embraced in the team’s football complex and Wilson — who missed the game while still suffering from a head injury suffered the week before — called an impromptu news conference where he stressed that he’ll do everything he can to keep the team together, and play, in next week’s game with Rutgers.

“And most importantly, get a win,” Wilson said. “You have to start with one before you can get the rest of them. I give you my word; I am going to do the best I can to make that happen.”

Arkansas running back Knile Davis (7) and tight end Chris Gragg (80) leave the field after their 52-0 loss to Alabama in an NCAA college football game in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Arkansas running back Knile Davis (7) and tight end Chris Gragg (80) leave the field after their 52-0 loss to Alabama in an NCAA college football game in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

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While Arkansas was left to regroup, the Crimson Tide (3-0, 1-0) walked away with its second straight shutout and 21st straight win to open conference play. Alabama also reclaimed the sense of dominance it had in a season-opening win over Michigan, a sense that wavered ever-so slightly in a 35-0 over Western Kentucky last week.

The Crimson Tide allowed six sacks of quarterback AJ McCarron in that win, none against the Razorbacks. McCarron was 11 of 16 passing for 189 yards and a touchdown before exiting the blowout in the third quarter, and Alabama outgained Arkansas 438-137 in total yards.

The convincing win even led to a compliment or two from demanding Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban. Alabama hosts Florida Atlantic next week before beginning a stretch of six straight SEC games as it pursues its third national championship in four seasons.

“What we’ve really been fighting with this group about ever since the Michigan game is allowing ourselves to accept average and getting them to demand more of themselves,” Saban said. “I think we started to gain a little bit (Saturday).

“… This group is still learning how to motivate themselves every week and demand to be the best that they can be. We’re going to continue to work on that, and hopefully we’ll continue to improve.”

Meanwhile, whatever Wilson’s availability is moving forward for Arkansas, his absence has left the Razorbacks in turmoil in their first season under coach John L. Smith. The former Michigan State and Louisville coach was brought back to Arkansas in April to replace the fired Petrino, a move that was universally embraced by the players — who declared time and again their affection and loyalty for Smith.

Smith admitted that it was “kind of hard to say anything at this point” to the Razorbacks following Saturday’s loss. He was hired to a 10-month contract in April, and his interim status makes it unlikely Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long would consider other options while continuing his search for Petrino’s long-term successor.

Smith knew he was taking on a unique challenge following Petrino’s unexpected firing for hiring his mistress to a position in the athletic department and initially trying to cover up her presence during an April 1 motorcycle accident. The thought, however, was that that Razorbacks were primed for a run at an SEC championship — with or without Petrino.

All of the assistant coaches remained in place, including Petrino’s brother, offensive coordinator Paul Petrino. More importantly, Arkansas had a pair of Heisman Trophy hopefuls in Wilson and running back Knile Davis, both who turned down the NFL after last season with expectations of climbing past the only two teams the Razorbacks couldn’t beat last season — national champion Alabama and runner-up LSU.

Wilson, last season’s first-team All-SEC quarterback, hasn’t played since the first half of the loss to Louisiana-Monore, and Davis has struggled through three games to regain the form that helped him lead SEC running backs in rushing yards in 2010 — averaging just 3.5 yards per carry.

Smith’s job now is to keep a once-hopeful Arkansas team from fracturing under the weight of the mounting losses.

“I have total confidence in these guys and that the seniors are going to pull us together and the rest of the team is going to pull together,” Smith said. “I don’t think they’re going to splinter and everybody start pointing fingers and going their own way.

“It’s easy to quit. It’s easy to criticize somebody else. That’s the coward’s way out, and these men are not cowards. They’re not going to do that.”

Arkansas coach John L. Smith, center, watches play during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012.  Alabama defeated Arkansas 52-0. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Arkansas coach John L. Smith, center, watches play during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. Alabama defeated Arkansas 52-0. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

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Here is how the Tennessee paper sees it:

Tennessee faces difficult road after disappointing loss to Florida

Spotlight dims on Vols as they exit Top 25

By Evan Woodbery

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tennessee spent seven days in the Top 25 and one Saturday in the national spotlight.

The sun came up on Sunday, just as coach Derek Dooley promised it would after the Vols’ dispiriting 37-20 loss to the Florida Gators on Saturday. But the ESPN College GameDay studio had packed up and left Circle Park and the Vols’ first Top 25 ranking in four years had vanished.

The road back could be difficult.

Tennessee (2-1) plays host to Akron (1-2) Saturday at Neyland Stadium (TV: CSS, 7:30 p.m.) in a game that the Vols will be expected to win by several touchdowns.

But after that, Tennessee will begin a stretch of four games in five weeks that could define its season. The Vols play at No. 5 Georgia on Sept. 29, at No. 23 Mississippi State on Oct. 13 and at No. 7 South Carolina on Oct. 27. They host No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 20.

Tennessee is likely to be the underdog in at least three and probably all four of those games. The unforgiving SEC schedule leaves little time for moping about what could have been on Saturday.

“We’re going to have to learn from it,” Dooley said. “We’ve got to make sure we don’t make those kinds of mistakes again, because we’re going to be in a lot of fourth quarter games.”

If there’s good news, it’s that Tennessee played well enough to win for nearly three quarters. But the utter collapse on both sides of the ball in the final 20 minutes was so confounding that no one in Saturday’s post-game interview session could really put their finger on just how things went so badly.

On defense, the Vols were victimized by big plays. A 80-yard run by Trey Burton tied the game. A 45-yard run by Mike Gillislee set up the go-ahead touchdown. And a 75-yard touchdown pass by Jeff Driskel to Frankie Hammond made it 34-20 and essentially put the game away.

“It’s so deflating,” said nose guard Daniel McCullers. “You do so good and then you lose contain or lose a block and then they run right past you. We’ve got to work on that.”

The Vols’ offense bears as much or perhaps more of the blame. Through 37 minutes, Tennessee had 20 points and 303 yards. After that, the Vols were scoreless, managing 37 yards in 22 plays.

“We have to clean it up. There were too many three-and-outs on offense,” said tight end Mychal Rivera. “It’s obviously very tough, but we’ve got to move onto the next game because we can still have a great season this season.”

Despite the team’s listlessness in the final 20 minutes, Dooley brushed aside any suggestion that players had thrown in the towel.

“I don’t want to get into that giving-up deal,” he said.

Florida scored a touchdown that would have made the score 43-20 late in the game on a run by Driskel, but it was overturned after review.

“We didn’t look good on that play, but (all the defensive players) thought he stepped out of bounds,” Dooley said.

Officials decided that Driskel had in fact stepped out of bounds before reaching the end zone.

“I was going nuts,” Dooley said. “They should have still kept going on that play.”

Otherwise, the culprit was not effort, but execution. And the two statistics that Dooley cites after every game — turnovers and big plays — were both in the Gators’ favor.

“(The big plays) are something we have to work on,” McCullers said. “I know we’ll get better because we have a great team.”

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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