Arkansas fighting for bowl eligibility after 30-27 loss to Ole Miss

If you would have said that the Arkansas Razorbacks would be fighting for bowl eligibility before the start of the season people would have looked at you like you were crazy.  Yet, thanks to a 30-27 loss in Little Rock to Ole Miss, that is exactly where the Razorbacks find themselves.

“We held them to three field goals but that was one too many,” John L. Smith said after his team’s crushing defeat.  The Razorbacks lost on a last second field goal thanks to a perfectly executed two-minute drill drive by the Rebels who improved to 5-3 on the season, and are just one game away from being bowl eligible.  Ole Miss was 2-10 last season, and their turn around is nothing short of remarkable.

Just as remarkable is the Razorbacks turn around.  They started the season with SEC West Championship aspirations and were even ranked in the top ten nationally (and No. 1 in the TAM rankings).  It is hard to believe that these same Razorbacks now stand a chance of not reaching bowl eligibility.

“It is going to be hard.  Life is hard.  We are going to battle… gain more confidence, more confidence more work, more work more confidence, and continue that cycle,” explained Coach Smith.  Hard is an understatement as the three of the next four Arkansas opponents are ranked in the top 15 in the BCS standings.  Arkansas is now 3-5 and needs to win three more games to become bowl eligible.

However, Coach Smith remains positive even with the difficult task ahead of them, “They have, to this point, shown great character and great class.  They have done everything we asked, they continue to battle, and they will continue to do the same.  They are not going to start pointing fingers or any of that stuff.”

The game changed in the second quarter when Charles Sawyer blocked a Razorbacks punt and returned the ball all the way to the Arkansas 22 yard line.  All it took was four plays for the Rebels to gain the lead on a Barry Brunetti one yard touchdown run, a lead that they would not relinquish the rest of the game.  “When you get a punt blocked there is a 90 percent chance you are going to lose.  I take that very personal.  So if there is anybody to blame it is me,” Coach Smith said.

That blocked punt is not the only thing Razorbacks fans are blaming on Smith.  He is also shouldering the blame for this disappointing season.  The disappointment started with an unforgivable loss in the second week of the season to Louisiana Monroe.  Since then the Razorbacks have struggled to find the consistency needed to win games.

Clearly Smith is not Bobby Petrino, but nobody thought Arkansas would need to win three of their final four games just to make bowl eligibility.  “We had a chance,” Smith said.  “We just have to make a couple more plays and maybe we get there.”

Hopefully Arkansas can find a way to make “a couple more plays” in their next four games.  Otherwise, this season will go down as one of the most disappointing seasons in Razorback history.

CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport.  Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from different college football games throughout the Mid-South.

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