FAYETTEVILLE – Santos Ramirez was noticeably ticked off while taking questions from the media following Arkansas’ come-from-behind win over Coastal Carolina last Saturday. His frustration wasn’t directed at the writers for asking tough questions that needed to be asked, though. The junior safety and vocal leader of Arkansas’ defense seemed to completely understand, and even agree with, the fact that a 39-38 victory over the lowly Chanticleers wasn’t worth celebrating.
“I feel like the outcome shouldn’t have been that close,” Ramirez said. “I’m glad we got the win, but 38 points to Coastal Carolina, a 1-7 team — no disrespect to them, they’ve got some good players –that’s not the message we want to come out here and make.
“We did get the win, but that’s not Arkansas football. That’s not Arkansas defense.”
Ramirez’s postgame comments were one of very few bright spots on Homecoming Day in Fayetteville.
Fans appreciated his honesty and seeing that he was clearly bothered by his team’s lackluster performance.
The team’s head coach, however, decided to take a different approach in his postgame press conference. Bret Bielema was defensive, even downright arrogant at times, while deflecting what he called “negative” questions from the room.
Even those who had always described Bielema as a “likeable guy” – myself included – knew that he was making a very unlikeable move.
In Bielema’s first few years on The Hill, fans appreciated the coach’s ability to give honest assessments even if his comments came off as brash and reckless.
All he had to do following Saturday’s game was acknowledge that his team was fortunate to avoid what probably would have gone down as the worst or second-worst defeat in school history. Instead, he took the podium and played more defense in 14 minutes than his team had played in the previous three hours.
The Razorbacks (4-5, 1-4) may have finished the game with more points than the Chanticleers, but the way the game unfolded, followed by Bielema’s reaction to justified criticism, made it impossible for fans to enjoy the win.
Coastal Carolina entered the game 1-7 on the year, was playing under an interim head coach, had already taken a 51-17 loss to Arkansas State, and was down to its backup quarterback playing behind four freshmen and a sophomore on the offensive line.
Fans have a right to be upset about the Hogs barely squeaking out a victory against a club like that.
The media also has a right to ask hard questions about the performance, and everyone involved has a right to be pessimistic about what lies ahead in the last three weeks of the season.
Arkansas’ final stretch begins with a trip to LSU on Saturday.
The Tigers (6-3, 4-2) are coming off a 24-10 loss at No. 1 Alabama but will be tough for the Hogs to beat in Baton Rouge. Saturday’s game kicks off at 11 a.m. and will be televised by ESPN.
Arkansas will return home the following week to face a Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2) that is currently ranked No. 18 heading into its showdown with Alabama this weekend.
The Hogs finish the regular season the day after Thanksgiving when Missouri travels to Fayetteville.
Mizzou has an identical record as Arkansas (4-5, 1-4) after winning three straight games, and is coming off a big 45-16 win over the Florida Gators.
The word “improbable” was used by many to describe the Razorbacks’ comeback victories over Ole Miss and Coastal Carolina in the last two weekends.
Based on what was seen last Saturday, “improbable” is an appropriate way to label Arkansas’ chances of finding enough wins to make a bowl game.