There is a saying in sports: “Don’t let the same team beat you twice.”
Simply stated, it is a warning: Don’t let a hangover from a devasting loss linger to the point where it negatively impacts your next game.
Exhibit A: The Arkansas Razorbacks.
It’s hard to imagine a bigger gut-punch than the one Arkansas received last Saturday against Texas A&M in Arlington.
The Hogs jumped out to a 14-0 lead. They were still up 14-7 and inside the Texas A&M five-yard line.
But then came a bizarre play as Arkansas quarterback K.J. Jefferson dove with the ball extended at the goal line. The ball was knocked free and by the time the play had ended Texas A&M had a touchdown. That made it 14-13 after the Aggies botched the extra point.
Arkansas appeared to go into a daze and when the Hogs woke up they were behind 23-14. With 10:05 left in the game Arkansas scored and drew within two points.
Arkansas drove into position to attempt a 42-yard field goal by Cam Little. The kick looked like it might be good but the ball hit the very top of the right upright and bounced wide.
The Arkansas players, said Coach Sam Pittman, were devastated.
During the bus ride to the airport, Pittman said he talked to every one of his players.
“The sad thing is that we lost,” Pittman said during his Monday press briefing in Fayetteville. “The good thing is we’re not used to it. That’s only two losses in our past 10 games.
“It hurt. A lot of our guys were crying.”
So the question becomes: Can Pittman get this guys back up and emotionally ready to play No. 2 Alabama on Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS)?
The answer? The Hogs have no choice. They have to play at a very high level just to have a chance against the Crimson Tide.
“We’re going to be very excited to get in our stadium and play,” said Pittman.
CBS analyst Rick Neuheisel, who will be in the studio in New York for Saturday’s game, says he has no doubt at all that Pittman will have his guys ready to play.
“Here’s what Sam will say,” said Neuheisel, the former head coach at UCLA, Washington, and Colorado. “He’ll say ‘guys we’re coming back home and playing in front of our fans. We don’t have time to play the game of woulda, coulda, shouda.
“I wouldn’t worry about the ramifications of the loss. You can’t allow in any self-pity. We don’t have time to do that. We have the opportunity to play one of the best teams in the country and at home.’”
“The bottom line for Arkansas is that everything is still in front of them,” said Neuheisel. “All of their goals are still achievable.”
That’s right. Arkansas (3-1, 1-1 SEC) has one of the toughest schedules in the country. But if the Hogs can get past Alabama, a 17 ½ point favorite, there is not a team left that Arkansas cannot beat.
Get to Atlanta and play the SEC East champion—probably Georgia—and anything can happen,
Lose to Alabama, however, and the hopes of getting to Atlanta are all but over.
Last season Alabama beat Arkansas 42-35 in Tuscaloosa. Quarterback Bryce Young threw for a school-record 559 yards and five touchdowns The win clinched a spot in the SEC championship game for Alabama. Young went on the win the Heisman Trophy and take Alabama to the SEC championship and the CFP national championship game.”
“It doesn’t seem possible but he (Young) better than last year,” said Pittman. “He has a lot of confidence in everything he does.”
But Pittman said playing Alabama close last season was nothing but positive for his team.
“Alabama is one of those teams can beat you before you run out on the field,” said Pittman. "But when you play somebody close you start having some belief. I think that’s where our program is now.”