Razorbacks are trending up in Bret Bielema's eyes


DESTIN, Fla. -- While on a little speaking circuit earlier this year, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema was informed that he became the first coach in school history to beat LSU, Ole Miss and Texas in the same season. Bielema, who is in his second year with the Razorbacks, engineered a team that pounded all three by a combined score of 78-7.

“I thought that sounded really good," Bielema said of his second-year feat.

A year removed from an unflattering 3-9 record in his first season with the Razorbacks, Bielema helped stop a 17-game losing streak in SEC play and capped the season with a postseason mauling of a one of the most high-profile college football programs. It was a wonderful way to end the season, but Bielema strutted into Destin -- tan-soaked skin and all -- with an unsatisfied flair about him.

“I don’t like 7-6. It equals the worst record that I’ve ever had as a coach at Wisconsin," Bielema said.

Despite the quick turnaround and the early media love being paid to the Hogs, Bielema, a robust and prideful man, wanted much more than what he got in 2014. And that's totally fine because if you're ever satisfied with 7-6 in the SEC -- especially the SEC West -- you won't survive.

Bielema more than survived after his 7-6 run at Wisconsin in 2008. After that, he reeled off three straight double-digit-win seasons and grabbed two Big Ten championships in the process.

Can Bielema have the same sort of success with the Hogs? Well, he feels pretty good about the team he has coming back for the season ahead. He has a senior quarterback; a burly, beefy, experienced offensive line; two All-SEC-caliber running backs; and what he believes is quality depth along his athletic defensive line. This isn't a perfect team, but with the momentum Arkansas gained from winning three of its last four games and the talent coming back (16 starters return), Bielema is pretty high on his Hogs.

“I like where we’re going," he said. "I know we’re a better football team than we’ve ever been since I’ve been here. I have a senior quarter, our kids do it the right way.”

By the right way, Bielema means some of the off-field stuff. His team just reported the highest GPA for a semester since he or athletic director Jeff Long arrived in Fayetteville. Bielema lauded the chemistry within his locker room and seemed to genuinely like the team he has. Sure, most coaches brag about their guys, but Bielema's emotions are right there on his sleeve when he gushes about his players.

This team is also continuing to ride that 31-7 dismantling of Texas in last season's Advocare V100 Texas Bowl. Arkansas' defense held the Longhorns to a measly 59 yards of offense in prime time on a Monday night ... when everyone was watching.

“To play Texas and to take a knee three straight times and they couldn’t do anything anything about it at the end of the game, to me that’s a moral statement that lasts forever," Bielema said. "I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

That victory will eventually wear off somewhat when it comes to turning this team's focus to the 2015 season. Bielema wants his players and coaches to cherish that victory and the last month of the season, but he understands that 2015 is a new year. It's a new opportunity to grow and prove that this team can be a real contender in the country's toughest division.

“There’s a lot of positive things, but there’s not one tackle or one touchdown from 2014 that carries into '15," Bielema said. "I’m excited for these guys to keep their edge.”