FAYETTEVILLE — Bret Bielema appears to not have any idea what to do.
After Auburn exploded for 28 unanswered points in the third quarter and rolled to an easy 52-20 win over Arkansas, he pretty much admitted it.
“This is uncharted waters for me,” he said later. “The greatest thing is you only have to worry about the day in front of you. I know we’re close.”
If that sounds familiar, then you’re with everyone else.
Although no one really has any clue what he keeps referring to saying this team is close, it’s obviously not being mediocre. That ship has likely sailed.
And he wasn’t offering any clear path of hope for fans or anyone else after the game.
“Hope is everybody’s gotta do their job, including me,” he said. “How you get better every day. Hope is we’ve got kids with great character and they want to get successful.”
Hope isn’t in Arkansas these days. In the last three weeks, the Hogs have been outscored 141-57 (and at least 27 of those points have come long after the games were decided).
Most of the problems have come in the second half of games.
“It’s a mental barrier,” Bielema said after yet another second-half collapse. “It comes down to guys making plays.”
His excuses have turned to reasons. As he said, he has never been in this position before, being 2-5 and needing to win all five of the remaining games to equal his best regular-season mark.
The problem is this may be the worst team he’s had in now his fifth season.
By the end of the third quarter, you knew it was long over with Auburn leading 45-13. They had 527 yards total offense to the Hogs’ 221.
Worse than that, quarterback Cole Kelley was losing the ball while being sacked by the Tigers’ defense, which is one of the better ones in the league.
“He’s got to improve on the ball security and knowing when the play is over,” Bielema said later.
Coming into this game, Kelley was the principle hope for Hog fans. He finished 15-of-26 passing for 163 yards and no touchdowns. But he did have the fumbles, which is why it appears likely Austin Allen might be ready to go next week.
“He’s closer than he’s been since the injury,” Bielema said after the game. “He got full range of motion in his arm and he’s starting to throw.
This one, though, showed problems with the defense, particularly in the second half when they appeared to have little interest in tackling anybody in a white uniform.
“Coming out of halftime I liked the look in our guys’ eyes,” Bielema said. “They scored on their first possession and we never recovered.”
The Tigers rolled up 629 yards in total offense while the Razorbacks had just 334.
The win pushed Auburn to 6-2 overall and they likely will move up from the No. 21 spot they fell to after blowing a 20-point lead to LSU last week.
This time, in what is becoming a familiar scene for Hog fans, it was a close first half — Auburn led 17-6 at halftime — but things fell apart quickly in the third quarter.
The Tigers scored touchdowns on three of their four possessions in the third quarter and Arkansas helped. On a fair catch of a punt, two Arkansas players ran into each other, the ball caromed free and Auburn recovered it.
They scored on the first play when wide receiver Ryan Davis came on an end-around, pulled up and found Darius Slayton wide open for a 62-yard scoring play that made it 38-6 with 4:13 left in the third period.
It was over there, for all intents and purposes.
Bielema’s overall record now is 27-31 overall and 10-26 in the SEC. He will have to win every game to get his record one game over .500 at the end of the regular season.
Don’t even ask how long it would take to get near .500 in the SEC (try winning every game this year and the next year and a half)
It makes you wonder if his seat is, indeed, hot.
For his part, he’s saying what coaches have said that know they are going to be fired, although it’s still a huge question mark if that will happen regardless of what happens the rest of the way.
As he said Saturday night, he’s looking now at Ole Miss.
And, lest any of us forget, this team is close.
Bret reminds us of that at every opportunity.
Close to what, though, is still anybody’s guess.