Bret Bielema is out of excuses.
So is Jeff Long.
At this point, there is no way he can sugarcoat the 48-22 beatdown by South Carolina on Saturday.
The final score was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated.
There is no explanation, which he didn’t even attempt after the game on the Razorback radio broadcast when Chuck Barrett asked him if the Gamecocks won the “trench warfare.”
“Yeah,” was all he said. “Yeah.”
The interview ended at that point.
Bielema was not happy, but in reality he has no one to blame but himself.
Maybe in all of the excuse-making he did after losses to TCU and Texas A&M, he actually has started to believe his own excuses.
He did say on the radio that was “about as bad of a third quarter as I’ve ever been a part of.”
In reality, though, the problems started at the end of the first half when Arkansas gave up a touchdown with four seconds left that made it 17-10 at the break.
“We could never gain any momentum after that,” Bielema said later.
In that third quarter, the Hogs generated a whopping 50 yards of offense. Worse than that, they were obviously in a generous mood, handing the Gamecocks 14 points on a pass interception and an Austin Allen fumble.
South Carolina out-scored the Hogs 17-0 in the third and, for all intents and purposes, it was over.
Don’t get me wrong. Allen made some decisions that weren’t as bad as pretty much the only option available at the time, given the circumstances.
He wasn’t getting a lot of help from an offensive line that has often resembled recess at preschool. They gave up seven sacks in the game and, since the Gamecocks got 24 points off turnovers, they were directly responsible for the blowout.
The defense got schooled by an offensive line that was in worse shape than Arkansas’, at least in terms of players injured and sitting out.
So, to summarize, in two SEC games this year the Hogs have been beaten by a team playing 18 freshmen (Texas A&M) and a team with a beat-up offensive line manned by backups (South Carolina).
That’s what happens when you replace one of the top offensive line coaches in the country with the NFL equivalent of a grad assistant.
Now Bielema has a chance to accomplish something not even John L. Smith accomplished or what he managed in his first season.
With Alabama and Auburn looming the next two weeks, this Arkansas defense could very likely give up 150 points over the course of three SEC games. If Ole Miss’ offense bothers to show up it could be 200 points over four games.
That’s how bad things have gotten.
There are no more excuses to be made. Long has none left in his arsenal, either.
The bottom line is Long is ultimately responsible for this mess. He’s the one who didn’t do enough research to find out how flimsy Bielema’s three Rose Bowl teams at Wisconsin were.
Not a single outright title in the regular season and won Big 10 championship game with an 8-4 third-place team that got to the title game because the two teams above the Badgers were in NCAA jail.
And, maybe more importantly, Wisconsin is winning at a higher percentage since he left.
Bielema’s buyout can be handled. We’ve been told there are boosters who unquestionably can pay it ready to do just that.
Bielema is now only slightly ahead of the Danny Ford era in overall winning percentage, but far below that tenure in SEC winning percentage.
Five years was all he got and he won an SEC West division title.
What more does Long want?
Of course, he’s got issues of his own. He obviously had a credit card mentality when he gave Bielema a ridiculously high buyout after a very mediocre season in 2014. For the record, I said at the time it was stupid.
We hear from Long how great things are going with the stadium expansion (despite former Sen. David Pryor’s protestations). We also hear questions from people about how much of what Long says is the truth.
It’s pretty much a fact that he has screwed over many, many longtime boosters and effectively dismissed them as not being relevant. I know too many who have said the same things that don’t know each other that have the same story.
Long has signed off on several things that fly in the face of Razorback tradition, not the least of which is trying to replace “Go Hogs!” with “Woo Pig!” which just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
But, his biggest marketing gaffe of all has proven to be very, very true.
The Razorbacks have, indeed, become #uncommon to what that program has been for the last 60 years.
Long, by hiring Bielema among other things, has made it Uncommonly Bad.