Bobby Petrino built Arkansas into one of the top programs in the nation in four seasons, playing in a BCS bowl game and finishing as high as No. 5 in the rankings during that time.
In three games this season, the Razorbacks (1-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) appear to have all but collapsed without their former coach, and with an injured quarterback Tyler Wilson on the sidelines.
The latest crushing blow came in the form of a 52-0 drubbing at the hands of No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, a game in which Arkansas was shut out in Razorback Stadium for the first time in 46 seasons. It might not have been as shocking as an overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe a week earlier, but it was every bit as emotionally crippling -- and then some.
Players walked slowly off the field afterward, coaches embraced in the team's football complex and Wilson -- who missed the game while still suffering from a head injury suffered the week before -- called an impromptu news conference where he stressed that he'll do everything he can to keep the team together, and play, in next week's game with Rutgers.
"And most importantly, get a win," Wilson said. "You have to start with one before you can get the rest of them. I give you my word; I am going to do the best I can to make that happen."
Whatever Wilson's availability is moving forward for Arkansas, his absence has left the Razorbacks in turmoil in their first season under coach John L. Smith.
Smith acknowledged that it was "kind of hard to say anything at this point" to the Razorbacks after Saturday's loss.
He was hired to a 10-month contract in April, and his interim status makes it unlikely Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long would consider other options while continuing his search for Petrino's long-term successor.
Smith knew he was taking on a unique challenge following Petrino's unexpected firing for hiring his mistress to a position in the athletic department and initially trying to cover up her presence during an April 1 motorcycle accident. The thought, however, was that the Razorbacks were primed for a run at an SEC championship -- with or without Petrino.
All of the assistant coaches remained in place, including Petrino's brother, offensive coordinator Paul Petrino.
More important, Arkansas had Heisman Trophy hopefuls in Wilson and running back Knile Davis, both of whom turned down the NFL after last season with expectations of climbing past the only two teams the Razorbacks couldn't beat last season -- national champion Alabama and runner-up LSU.
Wilson, last season's first-team All-SEC quarterback, hasn't played since the first half of the loss to Louisiana-Monore, and Davis has struggled through three games, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry.
Smith's job now is to keep a once-hopeful Arkansas team from fracturing under the weight of the mounting losses.
"I have total confidence in these guys and that the seniors are going to pull us together and the rest of the team is going to pull together," Smith said. "I don't think they're going to splinter and everybody start pointing fingers and going their own way."
Top 25 poll: Stanford jumped from 21st to ninth in The Associated Press college football poll after its 21-14 victory over USC. The Trojans slipped 11 spots to 13th.
LSU moved up to No. 2, one spot behind Alabama. The Crimson Tide is No. 1 for the third straight week, receiving 58 of 60 first-place votes. LSU got the other two.
Ohio State (3-0) fell from 12th to 16th after a 35-28 home victory over Cal.
Nebraska: Coach Bo Pelini returned to work Sunday, a day after he was taken to a hospital during the Cornhuskers' game against Arkansas State.
Pelini, 44, was taken by ambulance to a Lincoln hospital after halftime for precautionary tests. He was released from the hospital by Saturday evening.
Notre Dame: Starting safety Jamoris Slaughter will miss the rest of the season after tearing his left Achilles tendon in a 20-3 win over Michigan State.