Matt Jones..."It's all mental."

Aloha Matt,

Could you please expand on your thoughts that the Hog’s Second Half collapses this season were “all mental.” Basically, why? Why so badly this season? And what are the solutions?

Just thinking out loud…possibly poor leadership/ motivation from CBB, the coaching staff, seniors, players? Poor mental prep by CBB and the staff? Not that it didn’t happen, I just didn’t see it, but where was the intensity, emotion, fire and CFB’s “character” this season?

Hopefully from CBB down to the freshmen, they will learn (or have learned from this season), that their are benefits from winning and consequences from losing…not just in football but in life in general.


This thread (OP) may result in a record number of post and opinions.

I have a couple of opinions about leadership. On field, I don’t think anyone played well enough from the start of the season until the last to garner the respect necessary to assume a leadership role. The one exception on offense was Drew Morgan. But if he tried the players certainly never followed up with the intensity he brought to every game this year.

On game day I question whether the coaching staff, HC on down, did enough to keep the players focused. Particularly, the second half of the season.

It’s posts like this from Matt that make me scratch my head when people say they have full confidence in Bielema. Like the guy? Sure I get that and there are things I like about him as well.

But full confidence? Really? I’m sorry but when you have historic collapses in back to back games, give up the single game SEC rushing record, play an undisciplined brand of football, etc. it’s not the sign of a well run program. Way too many holes and glaring weaknesses this deep in to his tenure for that to be the case.

Again I can understand liking him a lot and wanting him to succeed and continuing to support him. That being said, I just can’t get my arms around total belief/confidence.

PS Read elsewhere that someone did the research and no Razorback team in history has ever led by 24 pts. in a game and lost until the night of 12/28/16. Let that sink in for a bit.

It might be unwise to exaggerate the significance of the last two games of this season.

Greater goals were dashed after Texas A&M and Alabama. Injuries mounted. Winning required a precarious balance, and some matchups were simply unfavorable.

The Florida and Mississippi State games came in November. Those were two good performances by Arkansas.

It might say something about what kind of coaching/playing effort was required to beat Ole Miss, Florida and MSU – just by looking at what happened in the subsequent games.

Yep, I believe Arkansas should have finished 9-4. Much would be different here, had that taken place. Could be we are better off that a shaky team wasn’t able to go 9-4. I hope it’s a better path toward resolving chronic problems.

I think any time you have breakdowns the way Arkansas had this year, it’s a reflection that the leadership isn’t strong as a whole. Is that from the head coach, assistant coaches, players? Not sure. Maybe all of the above or a combination of some.

For whatever reason, when things started going wrong in a game, the team usually had an epic collapse and up until the final game of the season, no one was able to keep it from happening. You could see it coming a mile away in the Virginia Tech game. Arkansas was just out-coached and the players didn’t make plays when the game was on the line. We had seen that several times before.

The TCU game is the one I can think of that it was able to rebound and still win. That Arkansas was able to stay with Texas A&M, score 30 on Alabama, lead Virginia Tech by 24, etc., tells me that the team had talent to be pretty good - better than 7-6. Something between the ears kept the team from reaching its potential.

Actually someone tweeted Long and CBB yesterday in response to Long’s “sky is not falling tweet.” The tweet pointed out in 2013 we blew three leads in which we led at halftime or in the 4th qtr. 2014 we blew 4, 2015 we blew 4, and 2016 we blew three. This isn’t just a this year thing. It’s happened every year. The fact they were so big this year gets more attention, but it’s not new. Guys (players and coaches) have blew leads late for awhile.

Totally agree with Matt on this one. This was not physical talent or getting tired at the end of games, this was absolutely mental toughness. I’ll go one step further and say I think that is the real issue with the defense also the last couple of years. Sure we need more talent on defense, but that group of kids should not have played that poorly. Which pints to leadership which points right at CBB.

i wonder sometimes if the team takes on coach B’ s sideline demeanor.

No question he is into game, but with exception of call he argued successfully, he seems to fade into background.

College ball is emotional game and players feed off it at times.

I read where maybe our collapses in second half are mental.

Maybe so but you see some coaches get in some grills and motivate to overcome.

Watched Holtz as a kid throw down his watch and Arkansas kids fed off him and ran through a wall.

Maybe mental but seemed no emotion or motivation in last two second halves where maybe just a little bit of emotion helps stop bleeding and motivates to get chins up enough to win.

Matt makes good points. Mental issues are always there in sports. Confidence and mental attitudes decide most games. I do think there were physical issues, too. Lack of solid offensive line play and lack of speed on defense are the physical things this team lacks. Experience may be a mental thing, too.

I can see two other games where they made significant rallies. Clearly, they were up against the wall against Louisiana Tech and fought back to win in the fourth quarter. I think they had to rally against Ole Miss, too. Austin Allen threw an interception to help Ole Miss take the lead. I believe Ole Miss had scored 10 straight points. Then, Arkansas drove the ball to win the game, then made a rare defensive stand to stop Chad Kelly.

When you can’t run the ball on the goal line, it leads to all kinds of problems. That was an issue for most of the season. That’s just lack of strength and experience in the offensive line. Physical maturity and strength up front was a critical flaw in this team. I don’t know that I’d call that mental.

I saw physical flaws on defense as far as lack of speed. You can look at experience on defense as a plus heading into this season, but the physical flaws seemed to show up on open field plays and that includes the jet sweep. Lack of speed seemed to be an issue.

If you want to say it’s lack of leadership to not have enough experienced linemen in the pipeline, I’ll go there. If you want to say that it’s leadership for not getting players in right spots on defense (as far as 3-4 versus 4-3), I’ll go there. If you want to talk about 23 seniors with a lot scattered through the depth chart, I’ll go leadership. Yes, the leadership wasn’t right in the second half in the last two games.

But it still comes down to being able to run the ball with the offensive line. I didn’t see that they could do that against the better defensive lines. And, they sure couldn’t protect against those good defensive ends.

I couldn’t agree more. I firmly believe it’s was mostly mental. Because the 2nd half collapse happened numerous times this year, by the time the first mistake in the 2nd half of the VT game happened, it was over. I think everyone got tight and didn’t play the way they are capable of playing. The real question is, how do the coaches correct the problem?

The OL suffered from a recruiting gap that had a couple of guys playing either too early or when they should not have been starting at all, a new OL coaching technique which required an adjustment which was tough for guys who had only started to grow into the job, and a lack of any strong player leadership. I thought Ragnow would eventually be the leader, but I think the death of his dad made that way too much to ask for this year.

Even with all that, with one or two exceptions, the OL physically looked like SEC level players, and at times played like good SEC OL. On the other hand there were big chunks of big games where one or two guys on every down would break down mentally, and it was often different guys from game to game. The coaching staff kept trying to fix the leaks all year, with occasional success(notably Florida) and some failures. All in all, it was a tough year for the OL.

The good news is that most every one will be back, a year older and more experienced. We also redshirted some guys who now are in a much better position to contribute. I think we’ve got plenty of SEC level players on the OL now that should be ready to play next year. The two issues now to me are can the staff make the talent cohesive and can some leadership emerge among the players.

Simple fix here I think. First, divide practices into two distinct segments like a game. Then, make the second segment so tough that the 2nd half of games are considered easy. And it doesn’t have to be just physically tough, you can really work on decision making skils when the body is fatigued. This certainly isn’t my original idea but I was coaching the team I would try it.

Actually, not all those instances are comparable. Sometimes Arkansas executed a delicate balance to get a lead, and the superior opponent finally overwhelmed the Hogs. A time or few, the Hogs gave up big plays late because the defense was undermanned.

The Missouri and Virginia Tech games this year were completely different than anything that happened in previous games.

Fantastic post Clay!

Not being able to run inside the 5…or as Bo put it…“win the big boy fight”…really hurt this team’s confidence. When you build a team to have a certain character…a certain strength…and then you don’t have it…you lose overall confidence. Period.

And, confidence is earned. You can’t conjure it up. No pep talk or PR strategy will gain it for you. Its earned. Now, you can prepare like crazy in order to hopefully perform well…and that good performance LEADS to confidence. But you must perform well first. This is not the same as just feeling good about yourself as a person. This is being confident in doing a specific thing well. You have to see yourself succeed in order to feel confident.

(Which is why I currently have no confidence standing on the first tee…I’ve been driving like crap lately).

I believe the 4th quarter losses early in Bielema’s tenure…when our roster was frankly lacking, especially depth-wise…continues to play a role. The subconscious remembers…and can cause issues. Some call it choking. Whatever you want to call it. Past failure leads to tension, and often bad technique. And just plain bad performance.

Aside from the obvious need for more defensive speed, I totally believe Clay is on to the ultimate Bielema-team solution…being able to run the ball…in the 2nd half…ice the game that way…and “win the big boy fight” when we are able to reduce the game to those moments. The team is built to win those fights.

The offensive line is the key.

When I watched the games, it seemed like the opponent would score right before half–or we would fail to score–and then they would get the ball back to start the second half and go score and now, instead of having a comfortable lead, we were just holding on or behind. The rest of the game was a dogfight and we were a Chihuahua going against a pit bull.

You hit it on the head…we could not run the ball when we needed to. In the VPI game, we were backed up three or four consecutive times in the third quarter and were forced to pass. And, as anyone with football sense knows, throwing the ball inside of your 25 is high risk. Sure enough, two critical interceptions enabled VPI to catch up in a hurry. The two fumbles were really unlucky for Morgan and everything snowballed as the opponent got higher and higher. I’m not sure mental had a thing to do with it…looks pretty physical to me…three interceptions (in your own end) and two fumbles. I really believe the game came down to one play…the fumble after the long pass. And, it’s tough to fault Morgan as he was straining to score.

Good thread and comments.

Last week, I read a letter written by Bama’s Eddie Jackson that he sent to his team mates prior to the Washington game. Jackson had a season ending injury in October and wrote some things that give you an idea what it is like on the Bama sidelines. Yeh, they have a stable of top talent, but there is certainly a mental side of their success. A couple of good quotes:

“When I found out my season was over, I couldn’t stop crying. I think what made me the most upset was knowing that I’d have to miss out on all the fun we were going to have. Playing good football is hard work. It takes hours and hours of sweat and preparation. You have to push yourself to a level you didn’t think was possible. But ultimately it’s all worth it, because as everyone in this program knows, playing good football is — more than anything else — really, really fun.”

“At Alabama you’re either teaching or you’re learning — always. The reason we’re a great team has nothing to do with external pressure or anything else like that. What pushes this program to a higher level is that each of you demand the very best out of each other. If you build up your teammates, it all comes back. Hootie’s next interception might come because of pressure that Dalvin put on the quarterback. Dalvin’s next sack might come because of Ryan spying a quarterback and freezing him up. Our next victory might come because you did your job so well that the guy in front of you was able to do his that much better. Play by play, that’s how we win here.”

"What distinguishes us is not our expectation to win, but rather it’s our refusal to lose. The difference between this team and all the others isn’t just found in what happens on the field, it’s also found in how we handle our business on the sidelines. The teams we beat get down when we start making plays. They might be jumping up and down, hollering during pregame, but by the third quarter they’re usually sitting quietly with their heads in their hands.

But that’s not how we operate.

On our sideline, there are no separate units. The defensive guys pump up the offensive guys, and vice versa. If another team makes a play against us, nobody believes we’re beat. Instead, we rally around each other. We pump each other up and shout, “That’s all they’re getting this game! That’s the only play!” And we all believe it. That kind of thinking is our edge. That confidence is what makes us champions. Keep that positive energy. We’re in this together."

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It may be mental, but I will add the mentality and personality of the team reflects the head coach. The head coach establishes the identity and personality of the team. The head coach needs to strongly emphasis that losing is not an option. Wining results in awards and losing results in consequences.

Additionally, the results of CBB’s tenure at Arkansas (and not any personalities…strictly results based) indicates to me the team has a severe lack of self confidence, bonding, teamwork and leadership. There is no fight in our dog.

Well coached, highly motivated and disciplined teams don’t lose 56-3 or give up huge halftime leads. Their is something seriously wrong at the very core of the Arkansas football program and CBB needs to identify it and take immediate action. He needs to start by looking at himself. Because after his fourth season, results indicate his way of doing business is not working.

Lastly, he needs to can his marketing talk about how tough it is to play in the SEC West and all of the ranked opponents on Arkansas’ schedule. In the Navy, we have a motto: “Select your rate (job), select your fate.” CBB selected Arkansas. He wanted to come to Arkansas. Time to stop complaining about the SEC West and do something about it. His constant complaining about the schedule has developed a mental excuse with his players. “We’re not expected to win, so what if we lose…”



I have never one time heard CBB “complain” about the SEC West nor have I heard him “complain” about the schedule. He, just as every coach in the SEC West, comments about the strength of the conference and the division. Prior to the middle of this year, every sportscaster “commented” on the strength of the SECW. It helps in rankings and in bowl selections. Since he came here, he has always stated he wanted to coach in the SEC, the best conference in the country. He said he welcomed the challenge of the SECW.

He also had improved each of his first 3 years. He took a step back this year. Now, it’s up to him to get the team back on track. An 8 to 10 win regular season is, and should be, expected of him next year.

It is my belief that you have misjudged his comments as complaints and as justifications for losing. I don’t believe a single player has interpreted those comments in the manner that you have. I’m certain he HATES losing more than anyone on this board. After all, he has several $million more reasons to hate losing than any of us.

It is also my belief that he knows that if there isn’t marked improvements in the team next year, he will be in the hottest of seats the following year, or possibly by the middle of next season. I would expect him to do everything he possibly can to see that those improvements will be made. I also believe he will succeed in making the improvements. It is however, also true that, after seeing these last two 2nd halves of football, I have a little less confidence he will succeed than I had a few months ago. Without a doubt, I will be rooting very hard for him to succeed, as that will mean my favorite team, the Razorbacks will be succeeding also.