Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze inherited an SEC losing streak that was becoming a monster.
At Arkansas, Bret Bielema inherited a streak that was disappointing, but nobody was jumping off Ozark Mountain cliffs.
It took Freeze three swings in 2012 to break into the SEC win column. Former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt – previously of Arkansas – was forced out in November of 2011. The Rebels were beaten soundly in the last three games, with their finale at Mississippi State the 14th consecutive SEC loss.
Freeze and his first Ole Miss team were painfully close to snapping the streak at 15 before Johnny Manziel led a magical comeback for Texas A&M.
The next week, the Rebels stepped on the throttle in the second half, surging from a 17-17 tie to beat Auburn 41-24 and snap a 16-game conference losing streak.
Two weeks later, the Rebels won an SEC road game with a last-play field goal, 30-27, against Arkansas in Little Rock.
Bielema’s Razorbacks, in their last two games, lost 24-17 in overtime in Little Rock to Mississippi State and 31-27 at No. 15 LSU.
Some games are more lost than won, he says.
“A lot of times you do things that prevent you from winning more so than another team’s execution,” Bielema said. “As coaches we have to take a practical look at what we’re asking kids to do. If they can’t do it, don’t call it.”
The Hogs have lost their last 12 SEC games. They last beat a conference team on Oct. 13, 2012 in Fayetteville, a dominating 49-7 win over Kentucky.
Two weeks later they lost to Freeze and the Rebels.
LSU scored 10 points in the final 4 minutes, 56 seconds, including the game-winning touchdown on a 49-yard pass with 1:15 left to extend the Razorbacks’ misery.
“That was when it really hurt us, after the LSU game. We saw how close we were. We’re doing everything we can to get over the hump and get an SEC win,” defensive end Trey Flowers said.
The next chance is Aug. 30 at Auburn in the season opener, the streaking Hogs against the defending SEC champs. It will be Bielema’s traditional grind-and-pound against Gus Malzahn’s up-tempo.
The streak may reach 13 SEC losses, but Flowers, who had 131⁄2 tackles for loss and five sacks a year ago, turned down a chance to enter the draft because he believes Bielema can turn around things as Freeze did for Ole Miss.
“I see where this program is going. I see the consistency of coach Bielema and the honesty he holds himself to. Him being a winning coach, he knows how to win,” Flowers said. “Seeing how close the program is to turning around, I can do a little bit to help.”
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@ journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com