Doc Harper: The Positive Takeaway From The Auburn Game


The Positive Takeaway From The Auburn Game

Doc Harper Bio PageFor a few minutes, it was fun again.

It was a brief flash of hope and opportunity and attitude. Anyone who (understandably) already left the stadium or turned the game off might have missed it, but it happened.

It shouldn’t have felt like that. When you’re down 28-3 after just giving up an embarrassing, defender-fell-on-his-butt, quarterback-only-had-30-passing-yards-the-rest-of-the-game,  88-yard touchdown pass on third down that allowed Gus Malzahn to slide a whoopee cushion underneath every Razorback fan left in the stadium, there’s generally not much reason to celebrate. But that’s how low the program has been for the last few weeks.

It started with freshman Korliss Marshall’s kickoff return, which was really exciting just because, when watching him sprinting down the sideline, every fan who’d been paying attention over the last month thought: “This might be a touchdown. This might be a touchdown. This might be a touchdown! Gogogogogogogo!” It wasn’t, but it did lead to Brandon Allen’s touchdown pass to Keon Hatcher two plays later, and it was like a dark cloud had been lifted. Like a baseball player breaking out of a slump.

And then, Arkansas forced a three-and-out, punctuated by a Chris Smith sack, and the Hogs drove down the field and back into the red zone. What was left of the crowd was, if not electric, definitely rising from the dead. And when Arkansas ran the swinging gate (also known as “The Middle Fingers Play” or “The Swinging Eff You”) and converted the first down right before the quarter ended, there was genuine joy and enthusiasm in the stadium. Arkansas football hadn’t felt like that since a similar point in the Texas A&M game over a month earlier.



It was fun. It felt like the team was finally playing naturally, without feeling like they were forcing things. It was a joy to watch. And the remaining crowd was absolutely into it.

When Arkansas scored to cut it to 11 points, there was actually legitimate reason to believe the Razorbacks could score if given the ball again, and it nearly happened if Arkansas had been able to recover Nick Marshall’s fumble, or held Auburn to a field goal to keep it a two-possession game.

But that didn’t happen. It was too good to last. At least this season. However, it was real. And it was, for a moment, spectacular.

I’m not trying to whitewash the fact that Arkansas lost, that the program’s on a six-game losing streak, or any other negative point that’s driving anyone crazy.

The fact is, we’ve been over it. The deficiencies on this team are well-established. And they’re not going to be fixed this season. They might improve, but they won’t be fixed.

We could analyze the plays that cost Arkansas the game, but, A) it’s been done, and B) most of those things happened because of the deficiencies we’ve been over and over and over. Lack of depth…lack of talent…previous years’ recruiting…and so on and so forth.

After years of watching various teams in various sports lose because a handful of plays or moments, I grew to realize that, simply, better teams are better because they don’t make those same mistakes. They convert the big plays when they have opportunities to do so. They don’t blow, hypothetically, two red zone opportunities or bobble touchdown passes. They jump on loose balls when they’re laying on the field and wait until the onside kick is kicked before running over the line of scrimmage. Better players and teams, ironically, play better.

The good news is that, at least this week, it was a handful of plays that determined the game and not an overwhelming lack of effort and ability.

I don’t know how significant that 14-0 run was. I don’t know if it will mean anything in the long run, if it’s something the team will build on going forward. I don’t know if the team will play as hard in Oxford on Saturday as they did on Senior Day in Fayetteville.

So, this week anyway, I’m choosing to enjoy the good moments that perhaps, best case scenario, suggest the future is bright at Arkansas. It’s a lot more fun.


Doc Harper is the managing editor of Arkansas Fight and a contributor to Sporting Life Arkansas. You can email him at and follow him on Twitter @doc_harper.

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