To his credit, Bret Bielema wasn’t trying to control the spin Saturday evening after a second-half collapse allowed Missouri to come away with a shocking 28-24 win over Arkansas.
That will come later. You can count on that.
As he usually is, Bielema was pretty straight-forward.
“One (thing) that was very, very obvious was a tale of two halves,” he said later.
Yes, it was very obvious. The Razorbacks led 24-7 at halftime. The Tigers’ biggest boost in the first half was a 44-yard field goal attempt by Adam McFain that hooked left of the uprights.
Yeah, the Hogs dominated the first half that badly. Oh, they did give up an 82-yard run by Missouri wide receiver Johnathon Johnson down the left sideline. Only a deep angle by Ryan Pulley kept it from being a 92-yard scoring play.
The Tigers scored when running back Ish Witter dropped the ball before crossing the goal and, since the Hogs’ defenders were looking at each other while Missouri celebrated, J’Mon Johnson reached down to get the ball that was lazily rolling around and got a touchdown for his effort.
But that was it for the Tigers in the first half. You could see the potential problem looming as Missouri’s wide receivers kept getting open on deep patterns down the sideline but quarterback Drew Lock missed some and the receivers dropped some.
You got the idea if they started clicking it was going to be trouble.
Missouri took the second-half kickoff and drove 63 yards in nine plays to cut the lead to 10, 24-14.
No problem, right?
Arkansas then proceeded to drive to the Tigers’ 3, but another uh-oh appeared. Austin Allen’s third-down pass was hurried and Cale Garrett intercepted in the end zone and brought it out to the 4.
Still, no worry. The Razorbacks’ defense had Missouri set up to punt from the end zone, except the Tigers ran a fake punt and got it out to their own 21. Lock then hit two passes, including a 67-yarder to Johnson, and it was suddenly 24-21 with the entire fourth quarter left to play.
Missouri scored on it’s first possession of the second half after a 49-yard pass completion to Moore set up three straight runs by Nate Strong to put the Tigers on top, 28-24 with 12:48 to go.
From there, Missouri’s defense was hanging on by it’s fingernails. Meanwhile, Arkansas couldn’t get a big play when it needed one and ended up getting bogged down in the red zone twice.
The result, well, was not what the folks in Hog Country expected.
“(We) felt like we were going to come back and do what we did in the first half,” Allen said in the initial post-mortem later. “But it just didn’t happen.”
Whatever Tigers coach Barry Odom said at halftime worked.
Whatever Bielema said didn’t.
“We didn’t match the intensity that we needed to in the second half,” Bielema said.
In the SEC, regardless who you’re playing, that’s a problem.
“I don’t care what the records are, you can throw that out the window; it’s about who executes,” Bielema said. “Give credit to Missouri. Obviously they responded well in the second half.”
Well, yes, and the result will keep the radio talk shows going for at least a few weeks.