Some interesting stuff on the culture change with Arkansas football.
From Inside Read on SI…
• Second-year Arkansas coach Bret Bielema likes to joke that his team is like Bill Murray’s character in the comedy What About Bob? In the flick, Richard Dreyfuss plays a psychotherapist who counsels Murray, his troubled patient, to try taking “baby steps” in all he does.
“We were taking baby step after baby step after baby step,” Bielema told The Inside Read with a laugh.
But Bielema and Arkansas finally took a monumental step with last Saturday’s 17-0 win against LSU, which snapped a 17-game SEC losing streak and was Bielema’s first conference win. It had been widely expected by SEC coaches after the Razorbacks came so close this season against Texas A&M, Alabama and Mississippi State. Those games were decided by a combined 15 points.
The victory symbolizes just how much progress has been made under Bielema after Bobby Petrino’s ill-fated motorcycle ride wrecked the program and John L. Smith ran it into the ground.
“It just didn’t happen yesterday,” Bielema said. “Nobody flinched. Everybody just stayed the course. They believe in what we’re doing.”
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When Bielema arrived after winning three consecutive Big Ten championships at Wisconsin, he had to get his players to focus off the field after they’d experienced a 4-8 campaign under Smith in 2012.
“They thought a C in a class was a good thing,” Bielema said. “I kept hearing, ‘I’m eligible.’ We’re not into eligibility. We’re into degrees. You’re not going to go into a job interview and tell them you’re eligible.”
Bielema also revamped his program’s training table, prioritized his players getting proper rest and emphasized they be careful about what they put in their bodies.
“You’ve got to live life the right way,” Bielema said. “As that began to turn, we saw our guys have more and more success on the field.”
It all eventually led up to last Thursday night, when after perhaps the best week of practice under Bielema at Arkansas, he told his team, “You’ve earned the right to win.
“From like Tuesday or Wednesday on, I felt like this one was pretty much in the bag. We matched up really well. I thought our kids were confident. I think we’re going to be able to take this thing and run with it right now.”
Bielema admitted that Saturday’s victory was “kind of cool” because LSU beat Wisconsin earlier this season. “To watch that game and see a lot of the players I coached before and then to be able to execute the plan here the way I want to get it done and see the results is kind of fun to watch,” Bielema said.
Bielema received approximately 300 text messages after the game, some from fellow SEC coaches. Many of those same people wouldn’t even bring up his winless streak in the SEC. “Everyone always kept saying this is the one, this is the one,” Bielema said with a laugh.
And now Bielema finally has one. Baby steps.