Arkansas appeared on its way to an important victory after it took a 24-7 lead at Rutgers on Saturday, but that's when everything fell apart for the Razorbacks. Rutgers began its rally with a punt return touchdown, and quarterback Gary Nova -- who suffered a concussion the week prior -- tossed a pair of fourth-quarter scores to put the Scarlet Knights ahead for good.
Whether it was the concussion or nerves, Nova was visibly off after the first two drives of the game. He threw passes nowhere near his receivers and should have had two additional interceptions after his horrendous pick-six. Regardless, you have to give him credit. Besides Janarion Grant and his electrifying punt returns, Nova put the team on his back and roasted the Hogs in a game for the ages. If you take a look at the highlights, you can see Nova insert throws like a surgeon into some of the tightest windows, while anticipating his receiver in open space. Heady stuff for a guy who suffered a concussion a week earlier and was crushed on several hits earlier in the game.
On the other side, Razorbacks fans were understandably feeling bad about blowing a three-score lead on the road. Arkansas Fight's Doc Harper isn't optimistic about what lies ahead for the team in 2013 considering the schedule ahead of it:
No way to get around it, things don't look good for the Hogs going forward. There's absolutely no evidence to suggest the Hogs can come close to hanging with A&M on offense next week. We know what's coming because we spent the off-season breaking down the schedule. Bowl hopes aren't completely dashed, but the odds are much longer now than they were when Arkansas was ahead 24-7.
Arkansas faces a run of four straight games against teams currently ranked in the top 25 -- Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama. Ole Miss and LSU also loom ahead.
Brandon Larrabee of SEC blog Team Speed Kills weighs in from a neutral perspective, noting how circumstances were against the Razorbacks from the outset, and yet the end result was excruciating anyway:
Arkansas was at a distinct disadvantage going into this game -- taking a long trip to New Jersey and playing A.J. Derby at quarterback instead of their usual starter. In some ways, it wasn't a shock that Rutgers won if you look at the box score; they outgained Arkansas 400-283 and only came as close as they did to losing because of three turnovers. Still, the loss was a gut-punch to the team's fans and perhaps its hopes. Suddenly, there's a reason to be nervous about what happens next.
On a side note, Jen Bielema was the center of a little more Twitter controversy -- her "#karma" tweet from a week ago prompted a shot back in her direction from the wife of an Ohio State assistant coach following the Razorbacks' loss to Rutgers.
Highlights from the game: