FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen fought back tears as he answered questions about the 28-21 loss to Mississippi State.
His emotion showed after being asked about the disappointment of the season for the Razorbacks (4-7, 1-6 Southeastern Conference) – and how hard it's been to watch the mounting pressure on coach Bret Bielema as the losses have piled up.
"We want to play so hard for him," Allen said. "He cares about us, he does all the right things for us. How it's been this year is just tough. We see the stuff people say, we hear it."
Allen and the Razorbacks, losers of nine of their last 13 games dating to last season, have a last chance to win for their embattled coach when they host surging Missouri (6-5, 3-4) on Friday.
It's the final game of the season for Arkansas, which will miss a bowl game for the third time in six seasons, and it could very well be the final game of Bielema's five-year career in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks fell to 29-33 overall under the former Wisconsin coach with the loss to the Bulldogs , including a startling mark of 11-28 in SEC play.
That's hardly where Arkansas envisioned itself after enticing Bielema away from the Badgers following the 2012 season, and he's been asked about his future multiple times in recent weeks – even more so in the last week since the school's firing of athletic director Jeff Long .
"Have I considered it, or has it run through my mind?" Bielema said. "There's just little moments, you know, where you realize those things. I know that none if it is regret, none of it is remorse, none of it is second-guessing, It's just I have so much faith in what we've built and what could be here."
Interim athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples offered few insights about Bielema's future over the weekend, but she did say that there "are a lot of people who are weighing in on the decisions that they believe are pending."
For his part, Bielema is planning to coach this week like any other during his tenure at Arkansas. He is scheduled to fly out of Fayetteville on Saturday night to hit the recruiting trail, though even he acknowledged the possibility that those plans might fall through after the Missouri game.
"If things change, that's obviously something I've got to deal with," Bielema said.
Bielema said it would benefit Arkansas to remain "constant" in football with coaching vacancies already at Tennessee and Florida, with more expected following the season.
He also brought up how schools such as Michigan State, Mississippi State and Notre Dame struggled through lackluster seasons a year ago, and how they kept their coaches – with bounce-back years taking place this season.
"Now, I didn't have the prior success, I get it," Bielema said. "But what we took over, what we built and what's coming back is a very exciting time."