Following a 52-0 loss to Alabama in Week 3 of the 2012 season, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson actively sought media members to deliver what he felt was an important statement: that the team had simply given up.
“Do I feel that we, at times, gave up out there? Yeah, absolutely,” a frustrated Wilson said.
Wilson did not play against the Tide because of a concussion, and if someone recovering from getting his brain scrambled could comprehend what was happening on the field, certainly a person with a fully functioning one could as well.
In an interview with the Sporting News, three ex-Arkansas coaches — interim coach John L. Smith, defensive coordinator Paul Haynes and offensive coordinator Paul Petrino — essentially agreed with Wilson’s evaluation, albeit in a much softer tone.
“There were some seniors who kind of hung it up, to be honest with you,” Petrino said. “They were going to worry about their futures more than that team. A couple seniors said they were hurt and I don’t know if they really were.”
“I think some of the players, some of the older guys, said, ‘Why should I continue on?’ They were looking ahead to the NFL,” Smith added.
“I don’t fault the kids for thinking that way,” Haynes told the SN. “Again, there was no stability there. Again, it goes back to, ‘Who am I playing for?’ Once they can’t say, ‘We’re trying to save the coaches’ jobs’—if they’re just playing for the university, sometimes kids feel the university let them down.”
No one from Arkansas commented in the story.
Reinforcement that some of Arkansas’ players quit on the season shouldn’t come as a shock — that was there for all to see and you could logically argue that JLS eventually quit too — but it’s always interesting to hear a coach’s perspective on why things went wrong. The Razorbacks looked to have a team ready to legitimately challenge Alabama and LSU for the SEC West title in 2012. Jeff Long‘s decision to hire Smith on a 10-month basis after firing Bobby Petrino indicated quite clearly there was a feeling of “if not now, when?” And nothing, not even a coaching change, was going to get in the way of those high expectations.
But that unorthodox move backfired and it would be surprising to see another program follow in Long’s footsteps if ever placed in a similar situation.
Or, in Paul Petrino’s words, “They should’ve hired (Smith) for two years or hired someone else for two years, or just (expletive)-canned all of us.”