The Razorbacks fell just short of pulling off a shocker in the final game of Bret Bielema's first season at Arkansas but Bielema still says his players will build off that game in the off season.
"I'd be very, very shocked if the story of the 2014 season isn't anything but a positive," Bielema told reporters following a 31-27 loss to the Tigers, the Hogs ninth straight setback after starting the season 3-0.
The LSU game was a positive for embattled Hog quarterback Brandon Allen who had his best game of the season considering the defense he was going up against. Allen had better numbers than LSU's Zach Mettenberger, going 19-29 for 178 yards with two touchdowns. He also did more damage to the Tigers' defense than A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel had managed the previous week.
"We've been capable of that pretty much all year and we haven't been able to click," Allen observed. "In this game it finally started to click which is a positive for going into next year."
The sky appears to be the limit for talented rookie tight end Hunter Henry who caught a pair of touchdown passes from Allen doubling his season total coming into the game. Henry finished 2013 as Arkansas' second leading receiver behind senior Javontee Herndon.
"We're not backing down from anyone," Henry stressed. "We just kept fighting throughout the year. We're really young and we're going to continue to get better this off season and learn a lot. Next year we're going to make a turnaround."
The running game also clicked against LSU to the tune of 185 yards on the ground compared to just 75 yards for the Aggies against the Tigers. Freshman Alex Collins finished the season with 1026 yards rushing, second all time for a rookie behind Darren McFadden. Sophomore Jonathan Williams amassed 900 yards in 2013.
"The blocking has gotten better every week," Bielema proclaimed. "We've got those young kids inside. It's going to be a tremendous loss to lose David Hurd and Travis Swanson but I think a year of development, we've got a number of guys in our program and then recruiting-wize I think it will get us to where we need to be."
After the game several freshmen offered a public "thank you" to the senior leaders on the team, seniors who endured a painful season but never stopped trying to grow those players who will lead the team in the years to come.
"Thank you to all of the seniors that laid the road for us. We will make ya'll proud in years to come," Offensive guard Dan Skipper tweeted.
"I wanted to give our seniors that Golden Boot," an emotional Bielema told reporters. "I wanted to see them run across the field . I wanted to see them celebrate. I was their coach this year but I'll be a coach with them forever. I'll be there no matter what."
For those players who will return in 2014 Bielema said, "The elements of why we lost that game have to come home with us. We have to sit down and analyze it as coaches and players. When we're in that situation again we'll know how to rise up."