FAYETTEVILLE -- The day after a game usually marks the time to step back and reassess what transpired.
Except the Razorbacks beat us to it. They stepped back during the game.
"Step back" and "setback" were operative assessments the Razorback themselves applied describing their last Saturday's performance in Oxford, Miss. Those assessments seemed to be among the few things the Razorbacks players and coaches assessed correctly during their SEC West loss to Ole Miss, a loss more lopsided than the 30-17 final score.
"Well," Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said, "that's about as disappointing as it gets. They beat us in all phases. They beat our defense up, they beat our offense up and they won the special teams. Obviously, this is a setback, because we would have been sitting in pretty good shape with a win here."
Since 52-41 and 35-7 SEC losses to Georgia in Fayetteville and Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Petrino's Razorbacks, now 3-4, 1-4 in the SEC, got well, winning 47-19 against Texas A&M in Dallas, routing then unbeaten and 17th-ranked Auburn 44-23 in Fayetteville and as 25-points underdog outplaying No. 1 ranked reigning national/SEC champion Florida. The Gators' 23-20 victory at their "Swamp" in Gainesville, Fla. was refereed so controversially the SEC office suspended the officials.
In Oxford, no Hogs' snouts were officiated out of joint. Arkansas couldn't come close enough to Ole Miss 170-pound scatback/receiver Dexter McCluster, 22 carries for 123 yards and seven catches for 137 yards, including a 64-yard TD, to make officiating an issue had there been any questionable calls.
All that improvement Arkansas made stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback, including the incredible six sacks of Florida 2007 Heisman winner Tim Tebow, retreated into the Oxford air. Ole Miss outgained Arkansas 559-299, held the ball 37:13 and protected Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead sack-free.
"Yeah, we took a major step back," Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said. "We really did."
It's not just Robinson's side of the ball. The Hogs offensively mounted no semblance of a running game (45 yards) leaving a one-dimensional passing game unable to protect quarterback Ryan Mallett. Mallett's off-form day was handicapped all the more by a previously glue-handed receiving corps suddenly seeming all thumbs.
"When you've got one guy giving up a pressure," always candid Arkansas fifth-year senior offensive guard Mitch Petrus said, "or one guy dropping a ball, that's holding you back. We've got to make sure we're playing together because we sure as hell didn't do it today."
Special teams shares blame, too. Like costing Alex Tejada a field goal because the play-clock expired.
That Arkansas laid an egg in Oxford no doubt particularly galls Eastern Arkansas and the border bragging rights with Mississippi accompanying any Arkansas-Ole Miss game.
And it galls many throughout Arkansas that Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, Arkansas' coach from 1998-2007, now is 2-0 over Arkansas with last year's controversial squeaker in Fayetteville and last Saturday's no-doubter in Oxford.
For some of various camps, it seems a weekly SEC obsession comparatively to brag on or deride Petrino at Arkansas, Nutt at Ole Miss and former Arkansas offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn as Auburn's offensive coordinator.
Last Saturday was thumbs up for Nutt and thumbs down for Petrino and Malzahn (Auburn lost 31-10 to LSU).
But remember pre Arkansas-Auburn, Malzahn rolled, while Nutt's once nationally No. 4 Rebels were losing at South Carolina.
That's life in the SEC. Gloaters one week can get shamed the next.