No Right Way For Bielema to Handle Hedlund Situation

Bret Bielema is getting hammered on social media for remarks he made about Arkansas junior kicker Cole Hedlund following the Razorbacks' 28-7 loss to TCU. Hedlund missed field goals of 23 and 20 yards in the game. The first miss in the 2nd quarter would have given the Razorbacks a 10-7 lead. Instead TCU took the ball and marched 80 yards on 18 plays to take a 14-7 lead of its own.

On the second play of the 4th quarter Hedlund had a chance to close the gap to14-10 but this time he bounced he ball off one of the uprights. The Frogs would add two more touchdowns after that. 

Bielema addressed the situation in his post game comments to reporters saying," Kicking game, we may either just go for it all the time or put in another guy. What you see in practice is what you believe is going to happen. We had a kicker that was kicking over 95 percent all the way through fall camp. To go out there and miss two chip shots, especially the second one, to doink it with perfect protection and a perfect snap is inexcusable so we've definitely got to find the other option because we're not going to go down that path again."

Asked about the effect the two misses had on the game Bielema said, "Those are hard to take. We have a formula for red zone efficiency that if it's not touchdowns we've got to get field goals. That second one was basically a PAT and to miss that is juvenile. That was something that probably wore on our defense." 

It is extremely unusual for Bielema to publicly call out a player in that manner which probably speaks to the level of frustration he felt which, in part, may have been triggered by a decision Hedlund made before the first field goal attempt. Because the ball was on left hash mark Bielema said he offered to order a delay penalty to move the ball back, providing a Hedlund a better angle on the kick. He said Hedlund told him he would be fine kicking the ball where it was.

Given the frustration on the part of many Razorback fans Bielema was certainly going to get criticized for what he said but he would have likely been ripped for soft pedaling Hedlund's struggles as well.

One of the questions being asked by fans is why the head coach gave Hedlund a chance to miss a second field goal attempt. With the ball at the TCU two yard line why not go for the game-tying touchdown? Bielema had an answer for that, telling reporters, "It was aligned in the middle of the field. It was basically a PAT."

After the first miss why not give the backup kicker the chance to make that kick?

"I didn't want to go with (Connor) Limpert," Bielema answered. "He's a lefty so it means we've got to change out the battery, the man that's holding it. Connor has hit the ball well though. We wanted him to concentrate more on kickoffs."

Whether Bielema should have kept his frustrations private or not Hedlund, who was a Parade All-American and an All-USA Today first team pick out of high school, has converted just 64% of his field goals at Arkansas. Given his credentials it's hard to understand his struggles at the college level and it's equally difficult to imagine him getting back into the mix after Saturday.

 


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