"That, to me, was crucial," Smith said through clinched teeth in his post game press conference. "If you get a punt blocked there's over a ninety percent chance you'll lose and I take that very personal. So if there's anybody to blame it's me."
As it turned out the Hogs could have probably survived the blocked punt. It was the series of mistakes that followed that kept Arkansas winless in Little Rock for the first time in nineteen years.
Senior quarterback Tyler Wilson pointed to a 4th quarter illegal formation penalty as the main culprit in Arkansas' 30-27 loss. The infraction wiped out a touchdown pass from Wilson to tight end Austin Tate, a pass that would have tied the game at 24-24.
"Unfortunately we had the penalty on the touchdown called back," Wilson said as he faced reporters following the game. "That (if the touchdown had been allowed to stand) put us in a position where we could be looking at a "W" instead of an "L."
The flag was hotly contested by the normally passive Smith who threw his hat to the ground before charging the line judge that made the call. He was more restrained when asked about penalty afterward.
"We'll have to look at the film," Smith responded quietly.
"I'm going to be kind with my words," Wilson added when asked for his version of what happened. "I felt it should still be a touchdown. We'll go back and look at the replay."
Game announcers noted that the replay appeared to show five Razorbacks in the backfield prior to the snap.
"From what I saw it did not look like that," Hogs offense coordinator Paul Petrino countered. "We went to the officials before the game and told them it was a play we were going to run. The outside two guys were going to be on the ball and that's their call (to inform the players before the snap if they are aligned improperly). I can't say anything else. Get myself in trouble."
Wilson had bigger problems than the erased touchdown. Mixed in with his 24-43 passing day for 297 yards and a pair of touchdowns were two interceptions and several other near picks served up under a strong pass rush.
On a couple of occasions Wilson appeared to throw the ball wildly prompting speculation that his throwing motion was restricted due to an injury.
"The first touchdown, I think he got hit and probably hurt a little bit," Petrino confirmed.
"There were a couple of shots," Wilson added. "I took one on the chin later but it's football. You've got to play through stuff like that."
Almost half of Arkansas pass completions went to senior Cobi Hamilton raising questions about Wilson's efforts with ball distribution.
"I'll have to watch it on film to see what they were doing and why we weren't getting it into more people's hands," Wilson explained. "I think that's what's been so good with us the past two weeks is that we're been able to distribute it to different people."
"Today they limited us," Wilson continued. "They were aggressive on a lot of routes so I had to throw it early and kind of guess sometimes."
With a modest two game winning streak snapped the Razorbacks post season hopes once again appear to be dimming. Can they bounce back the way they did after getting buried by Texas A&M, a loss that extended their losing streak to four straight?
"What are you going to do, quit?" Petrino stressed. "We've got to show up tomorrow and fight and work hard and try to win. I'm going to fight I'll guarantee you that. I'm going to show up and work my *** off every day."
"I don't expect this team to lay down," Wilson echoed. "I thought we fought out there. Found a way to come back and get in the game late. We're getting better. There's still a lot this team can accomplish and salvage and think we can do it."
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