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Andy Hodges

Why Arkansas needs to run up score on Rattlers

Bielema can’t worry about running up the score on a seriously out-manned Florida A&M team Thursday night.

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For years, I never have been one who worries a whole lot about “running up the score” on people.

That’s for other folks.

In my opinion it’s not one coach’s fault if the other one can’t stop him from scoring. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.

And, in case you’re wondering, I also think “participation trophies” are absolutely, stunningly ridiculous.

Thursday night Arkansas is going to be in trouble if they aren’t up by 35 points at halftime.

Forget what some knee-jerking nice guys say about winning by 39. If they aren’t up by five touchdowns at halftime there’s an issue. Preferably, that would be 35-0, but I’m allowing for a wild-card big play by Florida A&M.

The Rattlers may not be the worst team to ever be on the Hogs’ schedule, but they are certainly in the discussion. Don’t throw The Citadel fiasco from 1992 out there … that team would beat this FAMU team by four touchdowns.

It’s not a lack of effort or coaching. They simply don’t have enough players of sufficient quality to stay on the field for a quarter with an average SEC team.

But Bret Bielema has a different need.

With a fan base that is starting to grow restless, the Hogs have to make a statement early and often as fast as possible.

Let’s face it, most fans won’t particularly care that it’s against a team that I’m not sure a few Arkansas high schools would fare okay against.

They just want wins. Big wins with big margins.

After finishing last year with two faceplants on national television, Bielema needs something to show fans there is hope for this team.

To be honest, I’m not sure there won’t be questions with a 35-0 win.

And there should be.

Coming into the fifth year of his tenure on the hill, Bielema is in a position where he has to win this year. Every coach I’ve ever known has said you lose about 10 percent of the fan base every year you don’t win double digits (unless you’re at Vanderbilt where a coach will probably get tenure if he breaks double digits in wins).

Following that logic, that means Bret has lost about half of the fan support he had in 2013. Based on what you hear on talk radio that sounds about right.

This is a fan base that is starved for success.

While the numbers are diminishing of those of us that remember the mid-60’s when the Hogs were among the top teams in the nation, there are still a good number that remember 1977, the late 1980’s, 2006, 2010, 2011.

They don’t understand why Arkansas can’t play at that level.

It’s reduced some fans to making excuses for losing.

At least Jeff Long can be blamed for part of that. As the athletics director, he kinda has to and while I think that’s part of the problem it’s understandable that he has to.

No, when Frank Broyles (who’s image will be on the helmets this season) stepped down in 2007, it appears the commandment to win did, too.

There was hope in 2010 and 2011 with 10 and 11 wins, respectively, but that went flying through the handlebars between Fayetteville and Elkins.

The pressure should have been for Long to find a winner.

In fairness, he may have thought he had and on the surface, at least, Bielema’s resume was as good as any coach hired at Arkansas. It was better than Holtz’ at that stage of his career, even Broyles.

But it doesn’t take five years to build a program. Sorry, but it doesn’t.

No big-time winning program needs that long to get back to the big time.

You know what you have after three years.

After Bielema’s third year, you had a losing record overall and in the conference and coming off a season where you went 5-3 in the SEC, but balanced that with losses to Toledo and Texas Tech.

It was a season that some called progress, despite those two hiccups.

And it might have been if there hadn’t been a 7-6 backwards nosedive to follow it.

Which is why Bielema needs to win big Thursday night.

A big-time tone requires a big-time win.

Something like 63-0 with backups accounting for at least half of that.

Anything less will be disappointing.

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