Bahn: Spare Blaming Smith Or The Razorbacks, This One's On Bobby Petrino

by Chris Bahn  on Sunday, Sep. 9, 2012 12:00 pm  

Arkansas fired Bobby Petrino in April. (Photo by AP)

Arkansas couldn’t stop Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday. Play calling was questionable. Razorback players and coaches just flat got beat by the Warhawks in every way imaginable.

Officially it goes down as a 34-31 loss in overtime, arguably the biggest loss in program history and the first blemish on Coach John L. Smith’s record with the Razorbacks. Win out and this team will still likely be on the outside looking in on the BCS title race.

But Smith wanted to make sure nobody was playing the blame game. He urged unity in his locker room speech to the team and in his post-loss press conference.

“We all contributed to the loss,” Smith said. “I don’t want to see any [finger pointing].”

Well, John L. Allow me.

Before you lay this one on Smith and the coaches who got outschemed or the players who got outexecuted and outmanned, turn your attention elsewhere. Look to a house on one of the those Lindsey golf courses in Rogers, perhaps somewhere in Montana. Wherever it is that Bobby Petrino currently sits unemployed and hoping for his next job.

Nobody deserves more blame for what happened against the Warhawks than Petrino.

No, he didn’t coach this loss. This isn’t the kind of game he loses when employed. Petrino was remarkable at winning the games his teams were favored to win.

Petrino didn't give up 550 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown from Kolton Browning in overtime that won the game. He didn't fail to run the football in the second half after it becamse clear the passing game was a non-factor with freshman Brandon Allen under center.

But Petrino’s selfishness, his inability not to screw up a great thing (not to mention his inability to recruit defense) is to blame. When Petrino drove his motorcycle off that stretch of highway outside the Crosses community, he took Arkansas’ season right in the ditch with him.

Petrino has recovered from his injuries. It’s looking like this team won’t be able to recover from the blow he dealt them.

We’re witnessing a program reaching its breaking point when it should be reaching its stride under Petrino.

But short-term personal pleasure was far more important to him than winning a national title. And it's the staff and players who are paying the price.

As if their lives hadn't been hellacious enough since the passing of teammate Garrett Uekman last November.

April brought a rash of player arrests, Petrino’s wreck and firing. Injuries are starting to mount for Arkansas, just two games into the season.

Mentally and physically that's a lot of life for these players and coaches to live.

Since the spring the team has said all the right things. They rejoiced in the hiring of Smith, who’d been an assistant the previous three seasons. They talked about being resilient and not buckling under the weight of all they’d been through.

Sure, it sounded good. You wanted what you heard to be true.

We weren’t hearing much following the loss to the Warhawks.

“Just ... . Wow ... ,” was all running back Knile Davis could initially muster when asked for his thoughts on the loss.

Davis later said there was time to salvage the season. Arkansas hasn’t played a conference game yet — that comes next week against No. 1 Alabama, winner of its first two games by a combined score of 76-14 — so the team can still salvage he season.

It sounds great. It does.

But at some point you have to wonder how much more this program can take. Is the season slipping away?

Will injuries to four starters further crack the foundation? Cornerback Tevin Mitchel and fullback Kody Walker were both carted off the field. Quarterback Tyler Wilson never came back at halftime. Fullback/linebacker Kiero Small was injured during a non-contact portion of a Wednesday practice.


“We’re going to see what kind of men we are,” Davis said. “We see where we go from here. Do we let it go down the drain or pick it up?”

Where this team goes from here is anybody’s guess. But it’s not hard to see why the Razorbacks wound up here in this spot.

Smith doesn’t want to point fingers for what has happened. That’s understandable.

But there’s one place — and one place only — to place blame for the mess that Arkansas is in right now.

This loss won’t count against his record, but this is totally on Bobby Petrino.



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