By ROBBIE NEISWANGER
Arkansas News Bureau
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett had an interesting way of dealing with the 24-20 loss to top-ranked Alabama last Saturday.
The junior said he watched it. Over and over. Again and again. In his words: "All day. For two straight days."
Mallett saw Arkansas build a 13-point lead, then watched it crumble down the stretch. It couldn’t have been easy on the eyes, but he didn’t care. There was a reason for the continuous playback even though it was a performance Mallett admitted will haunt him forever.
"I think it makes you work harder when you’re watching and you see the pain you went through after you had them by the throat and you just didn’t finish it," Mallett said. "It adds something to you.
"It was definitely a motivational thing."
Different players had different ways of getting over their frustrations Sunday and Monday. Some were mired in misery. Others ignored it as if it never happened.
But no matter the method, the healing process continued when the Razorbacks returned to practice Tuesday. It was the first workout of Arkansas’ bye week and offensive coordinator Garrick McGee was impressed with how the 15th-ranked Razorbacks (3-1, 1-1 in Southeastern Conference) appeared to handle the disappointment after coming so close to beating the defending champions.
"We are going to use what happened Saturday to push us forward," McGee said. "I think our light has come on that we can possibly be a really good football team if we start doing things the right way all the time."
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said the Razorbacks were "lucky" to have the bye to take some time to get over Saturday’s loss. McGee agreed. But the goal Tuesday was to work it out of players with a demanding practice.
Tight end D.J. Williams said it helped to get back on the field. He admitted there’s still plenty of "mental wounds to heal," but Tuesday was a good start as Arkansas began preparing for its next game against Texas A&M (3-0) in Dallas on Oct. 9.
"Everybody on this team put their whole heart into that football game," Williams said. "So when we lost it was very tough for everybody. Sitting around those two days was very hard. It was good to get out there (Tuesday) and put the pads on, move around a little bit and start to ease (the loss) on out of our system."
The extra time on the practice field also gives Arkansas an opportunity to evaluate itself after four games. From an offensive standpoint, the Razorbacks have plenty to consider after struggling late Saturday.
Arkansas finished with 64 rushing yards, but had 13 in the second half. The offense committed five penalties (four false starts and one holding penalty). And Arkansas was unable to make plays down the stretch, blowing a double-digit lead for the second game.
"We just learned that every play is very important," Arkansas running back Knile Davis said. "We had a lot of mistakes that just added up. That was the reason we lost the game. I feel like we beat ourselves. I don’t feel like they were the better team. But it’s a ‘show me’ world, so we have to go out for the rest of the season and show the world that we’re a good team."
Mallett shouldered his share of responsibility, too, after making critical mistakes in the national spotlight. He was a leading contender in early-season Heisman Trophy talk heading into the Alabama game, but his name has since slipped from the conversation.
McGee, who had a couple of meetings with Mallett Saturday night and Sunday, said his quarterback is a "tough kid" who bounced back in practice.
"He was built to be a quarterback," McGee said. "He understands the responsibility that goes on with being a quarterback. He understands that you can play 72 snaps in a game and if the last five snaps are really bad, that’s all we are going to remember. That’s what you sign up for when you play the position."
Mallett was adamant nothing will let him — and, perhaps, the rest of his teammates – forget the disappointment from Saturday’s loss. Mallett alluded to it several times Tuesday, saying he’s not sure he’ll ever be "over it completely" and every time he watches it "from now into the future it’s going to be tough."
But he said the loss, which damaged Arkansas’ chances of winning the SEC West, still served a purpose.
"Everybody has a little chip on their shoulder, there’s no doubt about that," Mallett said. "It’s a tough one, but I think we’ve done a good job of putting it behind us. You can’t let that hang with you. We came out, had a great practice. It was focused. It was intense.
"We’re ready to get back out there and play."