LITTLE ROCK — Excused as business decisions, ESPN’s GameDay bailed on Alabama at Arkansas and ticket speculators lowered their prices on ducats to the game.
On the more meaningful emotional front, what will Razorback fans do in light of the loss to Louisiana-Monroe?
Will they find excuses not to show? The weather forecast is so-so and the game is in high-def, but true fans do not abandon their team after one embarrassing outing that, first and foremost, came about because the quarterback-leader could not play the second half.
A hot ticket with an inflated price a week ago, 1,800-plus tickets were available on StubHub at mid-week. Forty-eight hours later, less than 500 remained. Many were offered below face value although some sellers were still hoping for more than $200.
A week has gone by; time to get over what radio talk show host Bo Mattingly accurately labeled, "Meltdown on Markham."
If the players are still reliving that game, they will have their heads handed to them by the No. 1 team in the country.
Rah-rah is not my style and I get paid to attend the games, but this is no time to jump ship.
A non-believer when it comes to home crowds making a difference— the latest evidence is the revved up 87,114 at Texas A&M and 71,000 at Missouri for their teams’ Southeastern Conference openers and victories by Florida and Georgia — I’m talking about sticking with your favorite through good and bad. From the field, the players probably won’t notice empty seats. It’s simply the idea of being all in.
In my perfect world, anybody who exits the bandwagon would be handed a one-way ticket. If Arkansas loses today and then bounces back to win six straight with a healthy Tyler Wilson, photo IDs of all front-runners would be posted at the entrances to Razorback Stadium and they would be denied access.
Since the SEC schedule was announced last December, the Alabama game has been part of every conversation about Razorback football. From Bobby Petrino’s dismissal to John L. Smith’s hiring to personnel moves in spring practice to the limited contact for key players to specific shortcomings, fans have couched questions about each revelation in terms of the Razorbacks’ chances against the Crimson Tide.
Now, it is how the coaches and players will react to the the ULM loss. Even if it’s a morbid curiosity, I want to know.
Smith’s post-game remarks about finger pointing were aimed at those involved, but they could have been generic. "That is an easy thing to do; that is what losers do," he said. "They point fingers."
To his notion, the plea is guilty. Smith’s reluctance to step in, Paul Petrino’s devotion to the pass, and the caliber of recruits on Petrino’s watch were cited in a midweek column about the loss.
Arkansas should compete hard and that’s all anybody can ask. It is unrealistic to believe that a team can seamlessly replace one of the best quarterbacks in college football with a redshirt freshman or a starting wide receiver, particularly when the opponent has a complex defense manned by talented individuals.
For the Razorbacks to be competitive in the fourth quarter with Brandon Allen or Brandon Mitchell at quarterback will require the perfect storm. Maybe Arkansas can fool the Crimson Tide for a couple of series, break a big play, get a lightning bolt from special teams, and have Alabama donate a turnover or two. Then, the No. 1 team in the nation might be vulnerable.
Alabama is far more talented. Based on the first two games, other than Wilson and maybe a receiver or two, I cannot name any Razorback who could start for the Crimson Tide.
That said, I could not imagine ULM 34, Arkansas 31.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @harrykingsports.