Patience From Fans Required as Bielema Installs Running Game
Patience is something you want everyone else to be -- with you being the exception.
Was Bret Bielema the right hire for the Arkansas Razorbacks? Will he be the right fit? These questions have been asked and answered a million times in the past two weeks.
The real answer is – who knows? Arkansas is somewhat of a unique situation and it takes the right coach to make it work. This is true for any school, but even more so for the University of Arkansas. Alabama went through a string of bad coaches until they found Nick Saban. Oklahoma went through the same until it found Bob Stoops. Notre Dame was the same until it found Brian Kelly. It’s hard to find a good coach who also is the right fit because every school is different.
I know the consensus among Razorback fans is that Fayetteville is the world’s greatest destination. I love it also. But for anyone outside this state, the reality is that it’s a much harder sell. For most people in the country, Arkansas is an afterthought having to still battle ridiculous ideas that it’s a racist place still stuck in the Central High crisis and is not very advanced compared with more populous states. I promise opposing coaches will paint Arkansas in that light if they need to in the recruiting battles.
But those who live here know differently. Arkansas is a great state. Actually, it’s an incredible state with a rich history and long list of prominent people who have done great things. The question is, can Bielema convince a recruit to visit to see the truth?
The conventional wisdom is that a coach needs three years to turn a program around, and believe me the Razorback Program needs some turning. The question I have is will the Razorback fan faithful be patient enough over those next three years?
I have my doubts. Bobby Petrino was a pass-first coach. If you had to guess the next play, a pass was a good guess, especially in crucial downs. It was the strength of his team with his band of receivers and sure-armed quarterbacks. The fans loved it because the fans love passing. After the Houston Nutt era, the fans were glad to see the return of the forward pass.
Arkansas football fans have always been enamored with the pass, craving it from the days of Joe Ferguson and Bill Montgomery (many still want that pass back against Texas in 1969 that was intercepted in the end zone and wiped out a sure field goal attempt with Bill McClard) to Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson.
Football fans in general, and the Razorback fans for sure, do not have the patience for waiting to see if a running game will materialize.
I don’t know how many times over the decades that I have sat in the stands and heard people just screaming fanatically to “throw the ball!” or something similar often with explicatives. Nothing gets a coach booed quicker in Arkansas than a draw play on third down. Yet, it’s what Alabama wears people out with over and over again. It’s the basis of the play-action offense and is what pauses the defense.
The only Razorback coach I remember being spit on was Ken Hatfield, who was a running coach out of the wishbone. He did not attempt a pass in the second half against Texas in 1987 and lost on the last play of the game. Quinn Grovey had a shoulder injury and could not lift his arm up making passing impossible. It was the beginning of the end for Hatfield.
Bielema is a run-first coach. I will like him because of that fact. Teams that can run the ball and play great defense win games. It still holds today. The two teams in the title game this year run first and play defense. The reason the SEC has run off a string of national championships is because they can run the ball and play defense, and they end up beating pass-happy teams. Like in the movie, “Remember the Titans,” it’s like Novocain – it’s slow but it works.
Bielema is racing the clock. He will have to get his people together quickly through recruiting to put into place this run-first offense. Sure, his offense will still throw the ball, but when push comes to shove, they will go to the ground.
Then will come the time that it will be third and four, and Bielema will run the draw play and it will be stuffed and it will be the third called running play in a row. The patience will be gone and someone in the stands will scream, “Throw the damn ball.” And it will be the beginning of the end.
Send how long you think the fans will be patient to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Twitter @robert1shields. Buy “Daphne and the Mysterious Girls Secret Bathroom Society” and “Diminishing Paige” at fruitbatbooks.com