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Even in Defeat, Arkansas and Bret Bielema Makes a Statement

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The goal is to win the game, which Arkansas failed to do Saturday afternoon against Texas A&M. But the Razorbacks, even in defeat, proved to the nation that they are once again relevant in college football.

We saw some signs in Week 1, when Arkansas battled Auburn, the defending SEC champs, to a 21–21 tie in the first two quarters before wilting in the second half. Then, two weeks later, the Hogs bludgeoned Texas Tech with 438 rushing yards in a 49–28 win in Lubbock. That win, though extremely impressive, came against a Red Raider team that had defeated Central Arkansas and UTEP by an average of 6.5 points.

On Saturday, the Hogs missed an opportunity to record a program-changing win against a top-10 (for now) opponent. They held a lead for the majority of the game and had a two-touchdown edge heading into the fourth quarter. But some self-inflicted wounds — including a bad snap which led to a missed field goal that likely would have clinched the game — prevented the Hogs from snapping their SEC losing streak, which now stands at 14. But again, we can’t lose sight of just how much progress this program has made in a short period of time.

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A year ago, Arkansas was outgained by an average of 138.3 yards per game en route to an 0–8 record in the SEC. This year, the Hogs have yet to record a league win, but they have found an offensive identity. They rank first in the SEC in rushing offense (316.6 ypg) and are averaging 6.1 yards per offensive in their two league games. It’s becoming evident that Bret Beliema’s preferred method of offensive football — a power-running game — can be successful at an SEC school not named Alabama or LSU.

Close losses and impressive stats, however, won’t make Arkansas a contender in the brutal SEC West. This team needs to find a way to break through and prove it can beat a good team. On Saturday, they came painfully close.

“Our guys did several things throughout the course of the game to get excited about,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. “But obviously, not enough to close (out the game).”