FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas went into halftime trailing Auburn by 11 points, but the game already was effectively over.
All the Razorbacks faithful inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium seemed to sense it. What’s worse, the team played like even they knew there was no chance of a rally, as they were steamrolled in the second half of a 52-20 loss.
This was standard procedure for Arkansas. There have been no comebacks during the Bret Bielema era. In his five seasons, the Hogs are 0-18 when trailing at halftime. They haven’t outscored an FBS opponent in the second half in 10 straight games. This time, Auburn outscored Arkansas 35-14 over the final two quarters.
“The second half is a mental barrier,” Bielema said. “There are certain things we do during the course of practice to try and emphasize it. It definitely gets talked about, but I think it just comes down to being able to have guys make plays.”
What it truly comes down to is Bielema. That’s who ultimately deserves the blame for these failures. There’s seemingly no fight, desire or belief from the Hogs when they get down. It’s up to the head coach to find a way to correct that. It’s becoming increasingly clear each week he doesn’t have the solution.
The collapse started immediately in the second half. Auburn faced little resistance on its opening drive of the third quarter, promptly driving 75 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. The Tigers’ next two drives would have the same end result as they scored 21 unanswered points to begin the second half.
“Auburn came out and scored that opening drive [of the second half],” Bielema said. “We never really responded well after that.”
The players insisted they didn’t quit Saturday and won’t quit going forward. Maybe they didn’t and won’t. But at the very least, it’s clear Arkansas lacks belief it can do anything positive at key points in the game.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Cole Kelley, who made his second start Saturday, suggested the Hogs continually lack focus after halftime.
“I feel like we just get comfortable,” Kelley said. “There’s no reason for that. You shouldn’t feel comfortable whether you’re down 20 or up 20 or it’s a tie ballgame. You can’t feel comfortable. You’ve got to feel desperate. That’s when you play your best is when you feel desperate. I don’t know. I just feel like we got too comfortable. It’s frustrating.”
The Razorbacks are 2-5 overall and 0-4 in SEC play. Bielema is teetering ever closer toward losing his job. If his team is comfortable and lacking desperation at this point, the end is most definitely near for the head coach.
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