The Morning After

You would think Bobby Petrino would know better.

After all, this is the same guy that joined the Atlanta Falcons and then bolted because -- regardless of what he might say -- the job got too hard when the team lost Michael Vick.

Now, the Gypsy Coach of the South steps into essentially the same situation at Arkansas. A team that has been good but not great. (Though the Hogs were a better college team the last two years than the Falcons were an NFL team in the two years before Petrino came.)

And a team that has lost its most valuable pieces.

Darren McFadden and Felix Jones are gone. And the rest of the league couldn't be happier.

"I'm just glad that we don't have to game-plan for them anymore," said Kentucky defensive end Jeremy Jarmon.

It's easy to see why.

There are a number of statistics that show how impressive -- and indispensible -- the McFadden-Jones tandem was. Here's just a few:

McFadden holds Arkansas' career records for rushing attempts, yards (by 1,040!) and 100-yard games (22, leading the next member of the list by six, or half a season). He owns the top two seasons in terms of rushing yards, as well as the 12th.

Felix Jones is the all-time Arkansas leader in yards per carry for a season and a career, fifth in career yardage and fourth in the number of career 100-yard games.

And on and on it goes.

Amazingly, Petrino appears to have faced not a single question about the departure of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones during his session in the print and Internet room. (C&F is going by the transcript, since he had to miss Petrino's remarks.) Petrino did talk a little bit about Michael Smith, apparently the front-runner for the starting position.

"He's a smaller running back that is very quick and has a great burst," Petrino said. "Can do a lot of things with him. ... So we're going to have to try to figure out ways to utilize his strengths and get him the ball in the open field."

Of course, Petrino has a different plan for the offense. And it will be hard for the offensive line and QB Casey Dick to operate a pass-first offense in a game situation for the first time. And for a few times after that. (In fairness, if past history is any indication, it might be hard for Dick to operate any offense that doesn't consist of "hand the ball to the impossibly strong and fast guy and watch him run.") The Gypsy Coach of the South can play it down as a "learning experience" that "hasn't been difficult" if he wishes; we'll see when the games begins.

The smart money says this will be a hangover season for Arkansas, much as 2004 was for Ole Miss (after they lost Eli Manning). When a team has a great player, it can be intoxicating, creating a buzz around the program that feels good at the time.

But if you rely too much on beverages to have a good time, no amount of coffee and tylenol can stop the world of hurt you face the next morning.

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