It's safe to say that John L. Smith's coaching career is not going to end on a high note.
Smith, tapped by Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long a few months back to replace the disgraced Bobby Petrino, inherited a roster that (allegedly) was stocked with a ton of top-tier talent. Led by quarterback Tyler Wilson, the Razorbacks were tipped by many to make a run for the SEC West title, and perhaps even the national title.
Well, those projections were, shall we say, a tad optimistic.
The team's latest setback was a 35-26 home loss to Rutgers, which gashed the awful Arkansas defense for 525 yards, including 397 through the air. That stat is particularly notable because of the fact that Rutgers had come into this game ranked 103rd in the the nation in passing yards. Yes, 103rd. Which means, of course, that the Razorbacks are really, really, really awful on that side of the ball.
And, truth be told, they aren't much better over on offense. Wilson stepped up with a 419-yard passing day, but his three touchdowns were offset by two interceptions. Meanwhile, the ground game never got moving; in total, the Hogs managed just 73 yards on the day.
Afterward, Smith gave credit to Rutgers for the win and said his team would continue to "battle." Which, of course, is exactly what a coach would say in such a situation.
But here's the thing: It's a disaster down there in Fayetteville right now, and to be completely honest, I'm not sure Smith is going to be capable of cleaning it up. This season has certainly started poorly for the Hogs. But it may end even worse.
♦ We don't write much here about Old Dominion football. And I suppose that's pretty understandable. I mean, we can all agree that the Colonial Athletic Association team doesn't exactly sit at the vanguard of the game. Except, this week, it most certainly does--thanks entirely to its quarterback, Taylor Heinicke. Heinicke, just a sophomore, set a new all-time Division I single-game passing record on Saturday, throwing for a mind-boggling 730 yards in his team's thrilling 64-61 win over New Hampshire. Heinicke threw five touchdown passes on the day, and also led a clutch drive that was capped with a 25-yard game-winning field goal from Jared Brown. Heinicke's amazing performance came just one week after he threw for seven touchdowns in a win over Campbell. Oh, and then there's this: Heinicke is also his team's leading rusher. Said Monarchs coach Bobby Wilder: We have this ability to be incredibly explosive, and that’s because of the quarterback. He allows us to play at such an incredible pace. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
♦ So, um, my bad. I had expected the Arizona Wildcats under coach Rich Rodriguez to at least throw a bit of a scare into the Oregon Ducks when the teams faced off Saturday night in Eugene. My thinking was that RichRod had been re-energized by his move to the desert. That he had found a suitable home after that disastrous tenure in Ann Arbor. That his high-flying Wildcats would catch Oregon off guard and push the Ducks to the limit. Well, not so much. In one of the most surprising (to me, at least) results of the day, the Ducks absolutely hammered the hapless Wildcasts, scoring a 49-0 win that saw them rack up 495 yards and limit Arizona to just 332. Mind you, this is the same Arizona team that had put up 59 points on Oklahoma State just a couple weeks back. Said Rodriguez afterward: "Offensively, it was a tale of four bad quarters. Disappointing we didn't execute better, especially in the red zone. You can't afford to do that against anybody, let alone Oregon."
♦ Speaking of RichRod, one of his former players seems to be going through something of a rough patch--and I'm wondering if (or when) he's going to come out of it. Michigan's Denard Robinson came into the season as a bona-fide Heisman Trophy contender and was seen far and wide as one of the most exciting players in the nation. The senior from Deerfield, Mich. enjoyed a fantastic season in 2011, throwing for 2,173 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushing for 1,176 yards and another 16 scores. But after struggling mightily in his team's Week 1 loss to Alabama, Robinson simply hasn't looked like himself so far this year. His struggles continued on Saturday night against Notre Dame; in fact, this may have been the single worst game the senior has ever played. On a night that saw the Wolverines muster all of 6 points, Robinson was perhaps the greatest culprit for the offense's woes. He completed just 13 of 24 passes for 138 yards, with no touchdowns and four interceptions. He was also sacked three times, and though he picked up 90 yards on the ground, he was limited to a relatively paltry 3.5 yards per carry. His longest run of the night? All of 20 yards. This is not the Robinson we are accustomed to seeing, and even he seems to know. Said Robinson: "I'm going to be accountable for the rest of the season. I don't want to feel like this no more. In the 22 years I've been living, this is the most disappointed I've ever been in myself."