Its top two defensive players, Alonzo Highsmith and Tenarius Wright, were lost for the season with injuries. Quarterback Tyler Wilson was involved in a midweek car accident, though he was uninjured and will play when the Razorbacks (2-4, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) host Kentucky on Saturday.
Standout defensive end Chris Smith was arrested for failing to appear in court for a speeding ticket, though coach John L. Smith said the junior will play against the Wildcats (1-5, 0-3). Oh, and let's not forget Smith's own legal issues. Knee deep in a $40.7 million bankruptcy case, the interim leader of the Razorbacks spent part of his Friday — the day before the game — in federal court facing questions from his creditors.
These are indeed the days of the Razorbacks this season.
"You don't want to answer your phone this year," a relieved Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino joked about Wilson's accident. "If the phone rings, run from it."
The upheaval began in the spring with former coach Bobby Petrino's firing, a drawn-out soap opera that included his mistress being hired to a position in the athletic department, and it carried over with a stunning four-game losing streak for a team ranked in the top 10 in preseason polls.
Arkansas finally snapped its losing streak last week at Auburn when the worst defense in the SEC manhandled the worst offense — to the tune of eight sacks by the Razorbacks in a 24-7 win. The victory was enough to keep Arkansas' slim bowl hopes alive, though that possibility would be all but crushed with a loss Saturday against a Kentucky team struggling in its own right.
Smith, ever one to remain positive, has done his best this week to avoid the negative what-ifs — focusing instead on the win against Auburn and reaching next week's bye as healthy as possible. Following Kentucky, the Razorbacks are off a week before hosting Mississippi in Little Rock and then Tulsa back in Fayetteville.
All three games are crucial, given that Arkansas ends its regular season at No. 3 South Carolina and at No. 19 Mississippi State before hosting No. 9 LSU.
"We're excited to be at home again, back in front of our crowd," Smith said. "A couple of road games, I guess it's good to get that out of the way and learn to travel a little bit, because we're going to have to make a few more. But for the most part, we just need to get ready to go here."
The Razorbacks face a Wildcats' team whose lone win this season came against Kent State on Sept. 8. Since then, they've lost four in a row — the last three in the SEC by an average of 34-10.
Coach Joker Phillips said freshman quarterback Patrick Towles will miss Saturday's game after sustaining a high right ankle sprain in last week's loss to Mississippi State. Towles was already one of the Wildcats' replacements this season for starter Maxwell Smith, who is out indefinitely with an injured ankle, and freshman Jalen Whitlow is expected to start against the Razorbacks.
"We've got a young team that just got younger," Phillips said.
Arkansas is no stranger to injuries this season, the latest being the season-ending setbacks suffered by Highsmith and Wright. Highsmith, who leads the Razorbacks with 54 tackles, injured his foot against Auburn, while Wright underwent surgery Friday to repair an injured shoulder.
Arkansas has already lost its top two fullbacks (Kiero Small and Kody Walker) for the season with injuries. Also, tight end Chris Gragg is expected to miss Saturday's game with a bone bruise suffered against Rutgers — though cornerback Tevin Mitchel is expected to return after being injured in a loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 8.
Even Wilson, last year's first-team All-SEC quarterback, has missed a game and a half this season — though this week's car accident won't keep him from playing.
"Obviously, it is now how we wanted it to turn out," Wilson said. "We wanted to win every football game, but you learn a lot about yourself, you learn a lot about your team, how to get through to guys when things aren't going just as you planned it to. That is how I am looking at the past three or four months - five months really. ... But having said that, there is no reason why we can't go forward and win some games while learning from that process."