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College football: Week 8

Monday, October 16th, 2017

A wounded band of Auburn Tigers will play in Fayetteville on Saturday, but the Razorbacks simply don’t appear to have the firepower in 2017 to hang with Gus Malzahn & Co.

Last Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama went 75 yards for a score on its first play from scrimmage, and the game was over for all practical purposes.

Alabama 41, Arkansas 9.

That’s about what everyone expected, and let’s not start with the moral victory, silver lining stuff. We’ll leave that to the likes of Vanderbilt.

Alabama (7-0, 4-0) outgained Arkansas (2-4, 0-3) 496-227 in total yardage and 308-27 on the ground. The Tide averaged 7.8 yards per play, and Arkansas averaged 3.2 yards. Alabama has now scored five times on its first play from scrimmage in the Nick Saban era.

Arkansas is 4-19 through the years against teams ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press poll. Alabama, meanwhile, is 70-11 when ranked No. 1. Alabama has played Arkansas five times when atop the AP poll and won all five of those games.

Since joining the Southeastern Conference in 1992, Arkansas has started 0-3 in SEC play eight times. This was the 11th consecutive loss to Alabama and the sixth consecutive loss by Arkansas to a Power 5 opponent. Saban last lost to Arkansas in the 2002 Miracle on Markham when he was the head coach at LSU.

Arkansas should be able to stay in the game much longer at home against Auburn. But a victory for the Hogs is probably too much to expect in a season that unraveled early.

We were 9-1 on the picks last week. Only UAPB let us down, and this might have been the low point of the Monte Coleman era as the Golden Lions fell to an 0-6 Central State team out of Ohio before a large homecoming crowd in Pine Bluff. UAPB had lost the previous week to a Mississippi Valley State team that also came into the game winless. The Golden Lions are now 2-5 and might have a hard time winning another one.

We did successfully predict that all six Arkansas teams from the Great American Conference would defeat the six GAC teams from Oklahoma even though the six games were in Oklahoma. That included picking Henderson’s upset victory at Southeastern Oklahoma.

After a crazy start to the season, I’ve been expecting the cream to rise to the top in the GAC, and the cream tends to be the Arkansas teams.

Ouachita, Arkansas Tech and Southern Arkansas are 5-2.

Harding, Henderson and UAM are 4-3.

This is the year that 9-2 likely will win the conference outright.

The record is now 42-15 on our picks for the season. Here are the picks for Week 8:

Auburn 31, Arkansas 21 — Auburn led LSU 20-0 in the first half at Baton Rouge, but the visiting team’s offense disappeared after that. LSU closed the margin to nine points at 23-14 by halftime and then shut Auburn out in the second half. Auburn had won four games in a row since losing to the defending national champions from Clemson by a final score of 14-6. Auburn now finds itself 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the SEC. Auburn only had 64 yards of offense in the second half. Look for the Hogs to hang around for at least three quarters this Saturday night.

Arkansas State 35, Louisiana-Lafayette 27 — This is a Thursday night game in Jonesboro. ASU improved to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the Sun Belt Conference last Saturday night in Jonesboro with a 51-17 rout of Coastal Carolina (1-5, 0-3), which will play Arkansas in Fayetteville later this year. Red Wolf quarterback Justice Hansen threw five touchdown passes to tie the single-game record he had already tied against UAPB earlier this season. Hansen has 19 touchdown passes in just five games. With six more, he will break the school record set by Fredi Knighten in 2014. Hansen was 24 of 37 passing for 286 yards against Coastal Carolina. Louisiana-Lafayette is 3-3 overall and 2-1 in conference play. The wins have come by scores of 51-48 over Southeastern Louisiana, 21-16 over Idaho and 24-7 over Texas State. The loses were by scores of 66-42 to Tulsa, 45-21 to Texas A&M and 56-50 to Louisiana-Monroe in two overtimes.

UCA 40, Northwestern State 19 — The Bears maintained their Top 10 ranking in the FCS in Conway on Saturday night with a victory over Stephen F. Austin, but it didn’t come without a struggle. UCA had to come from behind late in the fourth quarter to beat SFA, 24-20. The Lumberjacks (2-5, 2-3) are coached by former UCA head man Clint Conque. UCA (5-1, 4-0) is the only one-loss college team in the state. Bear quarterback Hayden Hildebrand didn’t have his best night. He threw three interceptions after having thrown just two total in the first five games. But Hildebrand led the Bears on the winning drive, which ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Roman Gordon with 1:30 left. It was the first time UCA had trailed in the second half since the season-opening loss to Kansas State, and the Bears responded. This Saturday’s road game in Louisiana shouldn’t be as challenging. Northwestern is 1-5 with the only victory having come by a final score of 35-28 over Lamar. The losses have been by scores of 52-24 to Louisiana Tech, 23-10 to Grambling State, 49-20 to Southeastern Louisiana, 14-10 to Nicholls State and 40-36 to Sam Houston State.

Henderson 29, East Central Oklahoma 10 — The Reddies did the rest of the conference a favor by going to Durant and handing Southeastern Oklahoma its first defeat after six consecutive Savage Storm victories to start the season. Henderson thus extends the nation’s longest road winning streak to 30 games with that 21-20 victory. The Reddies have lost four consecutive road games dating back to last year’s Battle of the Ravine, but expect them to end that streak against a 1-6 East Central team. In the win over Southeastern, Evan Lassiter was 28 of 46 passing for the Reddies for 316 yards. The Reddies relied heavily on the pass as 357 of their 397 yards of total offense came through the air.

Ouachita 34, Oklahoma Baptist 14 — The Tigers struggled on the road last Thursday night before defeating a vastly improved 3-4 Southern Nazarene squad that had defeated both Harding and Henderson earlier in the season. Trailing 14-13, Ouachita scored in the fourth quarter on a 67-yard pass from Austin Warford of Malvern to Drew Harris of Benton. The Tigers then converted a two-point conversion to win 21-14. Ouachita should have a bit easier time of it Saturday afternoon in Arkadelphia against an 0-7 Oklahoma Baptist team.

Harding 49, Southwestern Oklahoma 28 — The Bisons are on a roll. The defending GAC champions started the season 0-3, but then all of those first-time starters figured out what they were doing. The Bisons have won four consecutive games and get stronger each week. Harding shut out 3-4 Northwestern Oklahoma by a final score of 34-0 in Alva on Saturday. The Bisons, who lead NCAA Division II in rushing, outrushed the Rangers 408-83.

UAM 22, Southern Nazarene 20 — As noted, Southern Nazarene is much improved (the Crimson Storm is 3-0 on the road) and should give the Boll Weevils all they can handle on homecoming afternoon in Monticello. UAM is now 4-3 after dropping Oklahoma Baptist to 0-7 with a 64-21 victory in Shawnee. UAM outgained its opponent 590-367. Cole Sears passed for 251 yards and five touchdowns for the Weevils.

Arkansas Tech 33, Northwestern Oklahoma 18 — The Wonder Boys, who won their first four games and moved to No. 11 in the national rankings, ended a two-game losing skid with a 38-21 victory over 2-5 Southwestern Oklahoma at Weatherford. Braden Stringer rushed for 111 yards for the Wonder Boys, and Ty Reasnor passed for 211 yards.

Southern Arkansas 30, Southeastern Oklahoma 26 — Despite the loss to Henderson, Southeastern remains alone in first in the conference at 6-1. The Muleriders can change all of that in Magnolia on Saturday afternoon. SAU struggled a bit before dropping East Central Oklahoma to 1-6 with a 35-28 win last Saturday at Ada. Barrett Renner passed for 176 yards for the Muleriders. SAU outgained East Central 217-53 on the ground.

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College football: Week 7

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

Where do we even begin?

We were one of the few in the state to pick South Carolina over Arkansas last week, but even we didn’t see that 48-22 whipping coming.

The Razorbacks are 2-3 overall, and a losing season looms. For the fourth time in Bret Bielema’s five years as head coach, they start 0-2 in the Southeastern Conference.

Under Bielema, the Hogs are 0-16 in games they trailed at the half.

Arkansas has lost its past five games to Power 5 teams, and that streak will go to six since this Saturday has the Razorbacks traveling to Tuscaloosa for a night game against the No. 1 team in the country.

Picking that one is easy.

What’s ruining our average is the crazy Great American Conference where nothing makes sense.

Parity rules with Ouachita, Arkansas Tech and Southern Arkansas all at 4-2, and Henderson, UAM and Harding all at 3-3.

Harding upset Ouachita, and UAM upset Arkansas Tech last weekend. That gave us two of our three misses for the week.

The other miss was picking UAPB to win. We figured the Golden Lions might get a victory against a Mississippi Valley State squad that came to Pine Bluff with an 0-4 record. But it was not to be.

It’s really sad to see how far the UAPB program has fallen. Just when we swear not to pick the Golden Lions to win another game, we notice that they’re playing an 0-6 Central State team out of Ohio. So we’ll go with UAPB this week and probably end up regretting it.

Our 5-3 record last week makes us 33-14 for the season.

Here are the picks for Week 7:

Alabama 49, Arkansas 17 — The Gamecocks scored three defensive touchdowns against Arkansas as South Carolina improved to 4-2 overall and 2-2 in the SEC. In the process, South Carolina ended a seven-game losing streak to SEC West teams. It was the highest point total against a Power 5 team for South Carolina since a victory over Arkansas in 2013. Bielema said afterward: “The third quarter probably was one of the most frustrating quarters I’ve ever been involved with. It just seemed everything disintegrated right in front of us.” What do you think it will feel like this Saturday night in Tuscaloosa? After outscoring its first two SEC opponents 125-3, Alabama pretty much took the night off in College Station with a 27-19 victory over Texas A&M. The Aggies fell to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in conference, while Alabama improved to 6-0 and 3-0. You have to believe that Nick Saban won’t allow two consecutive close games against inferior opponents.

Arkansas State 30, Coastal Carolina 20 — The Red Wolves opened Sun Belt Conference play last week on a Wednesday night with a 43-25 win at Georgia Southern, which fell to 0-4. Arkansas State, now 2-2 overall, came up with four interceptions and one fumble recovery in that game. Chris Murray had five receptions for 188 yards and two touchdowns to lead the ASU offense. Coastal Carolina gets to come to the state of Arkansas twice this fall. This Saturday sees a trip to Jonesboro. That will be followed by a Nov. 4 visit to Fayetteville to take on the Razorbacks. The Chanticleers won their opening game against Massachusetts by 10 points, 38-28. They have since lost four consecutive games — 30-23 to UAB, 52-10 to Western Illinois, 51-43 to Louisiana-Monroe and 27-21 to Georgia State.

UCA 37, Stephen F. Austin 28 — With both Arkansas Tech and Ouachita getting upset last week, there are only two one-loss teams remaining in the state. And they’re both in Conway — UCA and Hendrix. UCA had that huge win over Sam Houston State on the final Saturday of September. There was no letdown on the first Saturday of October as the Bears moved to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the Southland Conference with a 27-7 victory at Houston Baptist (1-4, 0-3). Senior quarterback Hayden Hildebrand was 19 of 30 passing for the Bears for 293 yards and two touchdowns. Former UCA head coach Clint Conque brings his Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin to Conway this Saturday night. SFA is 2-4 overall and 2-2 in conference. Two losses to open the season were followed by two wins and then two more defeats. The SFA victories were by scores of 37-31 over Incarnate Word and 20-10 over Abilene Christian. The losses were by scores of 58-14 to SMU, 51-14 to Southern Utah, 35-0 to McNeese and 27-16 to Sam Houston State.

UAPB 15, Central State 13 — The 38-31 loss in Pine Bluff last Saturday night to Mississippi Valley State was a bad one. The Delta Devils, after all, had lost 15 of their previous 16 games. But the Golden Lions, who are struggling just as mightily, have now lost two years in a row to Mississippi Valley State. UAPB is 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the SWAC. Our instincts tell us not to pick UAPB again this year, but the opponent in Pine Bluff this Saturday is an 0-6 Central State team that has lost 24-23 to Elizabeth City State, 55-14 to Clark Atlanta, 35-33 to Morehouse, 22-34 to Kentucky State, 21-11 to Benedict College and 41-20 to Miles College.

Ouachita 40, Southern Nazarene 31 — This is a Thursday night game on the road for Ouachita. The Tigers will try to shake off that disappointing homecoming loss to Harding, but they can’t take this one for granted since this is a new version of Southern Nazarene (3-3). In fact, Southern Nazarene is the only GAC school other than the Ouachita team that went undefeated in 2014 to beat both Harding and Henderson in the same season. And those wins came in Searcy and Arkadelphia. The problem for the Crimson Storm is that they’re 0-3 at home, and this game is at home.

UAM 44, Oklahoma Baptist 35 — The Boll Weevils evened their record at 3-3 with a stunning 46-45 victory over Arkansas Tech. The Wonder Boys had started the season 4-0 and moved to No 11 nationally in NCAA Division II before back-to-back losses to Ouachita and UAM. Tech led by 10 points early in the fourth quarter, but UAM’s Cole Sears led his team back. Sears threw a touchdown pass with 8:43 left. After a Tech field goal, Sears scored on a 10-yard run with 1:44 remaining. Oklahoma Baptist is the only winless school in the GAC at 0-6.

Harding 27, Northwestern Oklahoma 26 — This should be an exciting game way out in Alva, Okla., between a pair of 3-3 squads. Harding has momentum. Having lost most of the starters off the team that went 11-0 in the regular season a year ago, the Bisons started the year 0-3. They’ve now won three consecutive games and looked like the old Harding against Ouachita on Saturday. That 31-28 victory in Arkadelphia should give Harding the momentum it needs to have a good season going forward. Tristan Parsley even put through a 50-yard field goal against Ouachita on a day when everything went right for the Bisons.

Southern Arkansas 34, East Central Oklahoma 22 — The Muleriders, the conference’s preseason favorite, moved to 4-2 with a 27-15 victory at Southern Nazarene as SAU quarterback Barrett Renner completed 21 of his 34 passes for 250 yards. East Central is 1-5.

Arkansas Tech 43, Southwestern Oklahoma 36 — The Wonder Boys should bounce back in Weatherford on Saturday against a Southwestern team that’s 2-4. Tech has talent and now has to hope that at least two teams can knock off 6-0 Southeastern Oklahoma in the final five games of the season. Southeastern’s next four opponents are Henderson in Durant, Southern Arkansas in Magnolia, Harding in Durant and Arkansas Tech in Russellville. All four Arkansas squads are capable of defeating the Savage Storm.

Henderson 25, Southeastern Oklahoma 24 — Upset special! We’re calling for the 3-3 Reddies to shock the 6-0 Savage Storm since it’s a road game for Henderson. In case you haven’t heard, Henderson has the nation’s longest road winning streak at 29 games. Reddie players just don’t feel they can lose on the road, and that confidence can be contagious. The streak almost came to an end last Saturday. Oklahoma Baptist scored with 10 seconds remaining in the game to pull within a point of the Reddies, 14-13. The Bison faked the extra point, but a pass fell incomplete and Henderson held on for the victory.

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College football: Week 6

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Halloween nears. Maybe we have an explanation for that announced attendance of 70,000 in Fayetteville last Saturday.

About 20,000 fans came disguised as empty seats.

Arkansas did what it needed to do in the 42-24 victory over New Mexico State.

Austin Allen passed for 264 yards and three touchdowns. Jonathan Nance had six receptions for 58 yards and two touchdowns. The Hogs outrushed the Aggies, 230-11. Arkansas also dominated in time of possession, 41:35 to 18:25.

It had been 30 days since the previous victory so the lack of drama in the second half was nice for Razorback fans after Arkansas had scored on six of its first seven possessions. Now, the bad news: Arkansas must return to Southeastern Conference play. The silver lining there is that at least seven of the 14 teams in the conference are average at best this year.

We limped to a 4-3 record last week, making the record 28-11 for the season.

We’ll start this week with Arkansas State, which has one of those horrible Wednesday night games.

Arkansas State 36, Georgia Southern 20 — The fact that Arkansas State came close at Nebraska in its season opener doesn’t look as good as it did at the time given the Cornhuskers’ struggles. The Red Wolves’ 48-3 win over a weak UAPB team told us nothing, and the 44-21 loss to SMU was discouraging for ASU fans. Fortunately for the Red Wolves, the Sun Belt Conference opener is against a Georgia Southern squad that’s not very good. The home team will come into the Wednesday night affair (which will be shown on ESPN2) with an 0-3 record following losses of 41-7 to Auburn, 22-12 to New Hampshire and 52-17 to Indiana.

South Carolina 31, Arkansas 30 — Two SEC teams in need of a conference victory square off in Columbia on Saturday afternoon. The Gamecocks are 3-2 overall and 1-2 in SEC play with wins of 35-28 over North Carolina State, 31-13 over Missouri and 17-16 over Louisiana Tech. The losses have come by scores of 23-13 to Kentucky and 24-17 to Texas A&M. In College Station last Saturday, Aggie quarterback Kellen Mond passed for 159 yards and ran for another 95 as Texas A&M moved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the SEC. With so many questions surrounding both South Carolina and Arkansas, we see this game as a tossup. We’ll give a slight edge to the home team.

UCA 39, Houston Baptist 19 — What a win that was in Conway for UCA on Saturday night. Sam Houston State came to town ranked No. 3 nationally in the FCS and went home with a 41-30 defeat. The Bearkats had won the previous three games in the series. UCA came out on fire, building an 18-point lead in the first half. Sam Houston pulled within four points at 34-30 in the fourth quarter, but UCA took advantage of a dropped snap on a punt. The Bears recovered the ball at the Sam Houston 17 and scored two plays later to put the game away. UCA quarterback Hayden Hildebrand was 13 of 25 passing for 294 yards and four touchdowns as his team improved to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in Southland Conference play. The Bears must go on the road this week, but 1-3 Houston Baptist shouldn’t provide much of a challenge. The only HBU victory has been a 24-17 win over Texas Southern from the SWAC. The losses have been by scores of 20-11 to Texas State, 34-3 to Abilene Christian and 27-12 to McNeese.

UAPB 18, Mississippi Valley State 17 — UAPB fell to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the SWAC with a 27-14 loss at Alabama A&M (2-3, 2-0). This Saturday’s game in Pine Bluff could be a chance to get well against an 0-4 Mississippi Valley State squad that has lost 72-7 to North Dakota State, 55-3 to Southern Illinois, 38-6 to Grambling and 58-7 to Charleston Southern.

Ouachita 38, Harding 34 — Yes, Ouachita is 4-1 and coming off a big win in Russellville Yes, Harding is 2-3, having lost 17 starters and its head coach from a team that went undefeated in the regular season last year. Yes, it’s Ouachita’s homecoming. But games between these two schools haven’t been decided until the final minutes of play for four consecutive seasons (Ouachita has won two, and Harding has won two). There’s no reason to think Saturday’s game will be any different. With so many new starters, Harding began the season 0-3. Don’t be fooled. The Bisons are dangerous, having won two consecutive games. The double-slot offense seemed to be hitting its stride in a 56-46 win over UAM last Saturday as the Bisons rushed for 474 yards and seven touchdowns with two backs topping 100 yards. Harding finished the game with 535 yards of offense.

Arkansas Tech 40, UAM 28 — Tech was flying high coming into its home game against Ouachita with a 4-0 record and a No 11 ranking in NCAA Division II. The Wonder Boys had an eight-point lead and the ball in the fourth quarter but couldn’t put away pesky Ouachita. They wound up losing 35-31. Ouachita’s Drew Harris (the son of Benton High School head coach Brad Harris) ran 34 yards for a touchdown with 7:18 left in the game, but a failed two-point conversion left Ouachita trailing 31-29. The Tigers forced a punt, and Harris scored from four yards out with 1:36 remaining. Tech drove to the Ouachita 18, but a pass into the end zone was tipped away on the game’s final play to leave both teams with a 4-1 record. Tech is a superior team to 2-3 UAM and should get back on track Saturday in Monticello.

Henderson 47, Oklahoma Baptist 21 — It’s hard to figure out this 2-3 Reddie team. Real hard. Henderson has won 28 consecutive road games. Yet the Reddies have lost four consecutive home games dating back to last season’s Battle of the Ravine. Losses in Arkadelphia this year have come to Arkansas Tech, Northwestern Oklahoma and, most surprising of all, a Southern Nazarene team that prior to this season had been the Great American Conference punching bag. No one saw the Reddies’ 42-24 loss to Southern Nazarene coming. There are two pieces of positive news for Henderson this week. This first is that the game is on the road. The second is that the opponent is the worst team in the conference, 0-5 Oklahoma Baptist. Reddies roll.

Southern Arkansas 37, Southern Nazarene 16 — Southern Nazarene is like Henderson in the fact that it wins on the road and loses at home. The Crimson Storm is at home this week. Both SAU and Southern Nazarene are 3-2. The difference is that Nazarene was supposed to have a worse record at this point. And SAU, picked to win the conference in the coaches’ preseason poll, was supposed to have a better record. The Muleriders are coming off a 56-27 victory over hapless Oklahoma Baptist. SAU rolled up 718 yards of offense. Quarterback Barrett Renner was 32 of 41 passing for 405 yards and six touchdowns.

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College football: Week 5

Monday, September 25th, 2017

We’ve seen this show before, haven’t we?

Texas A&M 50, Arkansas 43 in overtime at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

It was the sixth consecutive win for the Aggies over Arkansas, tying the record set from 1938-43.

If Coach Kevin Sumlin’s team could play the Razorbacks more often, he wouldn’t be on the hot seat. Sumlin is 6-0 against the Hogs, and Bret Bielema is 0-5 against the Aggies. Three of the past four Arkansas losses in the series have come in overtime

A&M is 5-0 in overtime games under Sumlin. Both Arkansas and Texas A&M have 12 overtime victories, tying them for the second most overtime wins in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

The Aggies continue to have Arkansas’ number, and the Razorback fan base grows increasingly restless with a team that’s 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the Southeastern Conference.

It appears the weather will be wonderful in Arkansas on Saturday. It will be a good day for college football with games in seven Arkansas cities — Fayetteville, Conway, Magnolia, Russellville, Arkadelphia, Searcy and Batesville.

In what could turn out to be the game of the year in the Southland Conference, 3-0 Sam Houston State travels to Conway to take on 2-1 UCA. Sam Houston State is No. 3 nationally in the Football Championship Subdivision, and UCA is No 12 in the FCS. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.

And in what could turn out to be the game of the year in the Great American Conference, 3-1 Ouachita travels to Russellville to take on 4-0 Arkansas Tech. The Wonder Boys are No. 11 in this week’s American Football Coaches Association Division II poll. It’s the highest ranking for a Tech team since 2005. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.

We were 6-3 on the picks last week, making the record 24-8 for the season.

Here are the picks for Week 5:

Arkansas 40, New Mexico State 30 — Arkansas must take on another group of Aggies, and it’s another 11 a.m. kickoff. New Mexico State comes to Fayetteville with a 2-2 record. The wins have been by scores of 30-28 over New Mexico and 41-14 over UTEP. The losses were by scores of 37-31 to Arizona State and 27-24 to Troy. Normally this should be a blowout. But this is an Arkansas team that gives up big plays. Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk, for example, had a 100-yard kickoff return, two touchdown catches and 246 all-purpose yards. A&M had four plays of 44 yards or longer. So expect this new group of Aggies to hang around for most of the game with Arkansas pulling away at the end.

Sam Houston State 33, UCA 28 — This is an opportunity for the Bears to make a statement and move into the Top 10. And they’ve had two weeks to prepare for this one. Sam Houston State has won games by scores of 48-34 over Richmond, 44-31 over Prairie View and 66-17 over Nicholls State. This should be a highly entertaining battle against a Bear team that bounced back from an opening loss at Kansas State to post victories over Murray State and Southeastern Louisiana.

Alabama A&M 15, UAPB 14 — The Golden Lions are off to a 1-0 start in the SWAC (2-2 overall) following a 34-27 overtime victory over 0-4 Jackson State on Saturday. UAPB trailed 27-16 at the end of the third quarter but got a touchdown and a two-point conversion with 13:10 remaining. A 33-yard field goal with 15 seconds left forced overtime and set the stage for the Golden Lion victory. Alabama A&M lost its three nonconference games by scores of 38-7 to UAB, 42-0 to Vanderbilt and 45-0 to the University of South Alabama. A&M won its SWAC opener by a final score of 30-13 over Texas Southern. Which team will move to 2-0 in the SWAC? We’ll give Alabama A&M the slight edge as the home team.

Arkansas Tech 35, Ouachita 27 — The Wonder Boys upset the preseason favorite in the conference — Southern Arkansas — on the final night of August in Russellville and have gotten better each week with subsequent victories over Henderson, Oklahoma Baptist and Southern Nazarene. In last Saturday’s 52-0 victory over 2-2 Southern Nazarene, Tech quarterback Ty Reasnor was 16 of 22 passing for 205 yards. Ouachita, meanwhile, defeated 1-3 East Central Oklahoma 45-14 as Drew Harris out of Benton scored three touchdowns for the Tigers. Ouachita has won its two road games by margins of 28 and 31 points, but Southwestern Oklahoma and East Central aren’t to be confused with Tech. Ouachita could easily be 4-0 had its defense shown up in the first half of a 41-35 loss to a Southeastern Oklahoma team that’s now 4-0.

Henderson 41, Southern Nazarene 19 — Those used to seeing Henderson win GAC games were stunned when the Reddies started the season 1-2. Henderson appeared to get back on track Saturday with a 37-14 victory against a 1-3 Southwestern Oklahoma club. That extended the nation’s longest road winning streak to 28 games. Look for the Reddies to gain some confidence in Arkadelphia on Saturday afternoon while improving their record to 3-2.

Harding 34, UAM 26 — Yes, Henderson’s 1-2 start was surprising. Even more surprising was the 0-3 start by Harding, which was 11-0 in the regular season a year ago. The defending conference champions finally picked up a victory, going on the road and defeating 0-4 Oklahoma Baptist by a final score of 45-14 in Shawnee. There are a number of first-time starters on this Harding team, and the Bisons’ double-slot offense takes time to perfect. Expect Harding to get better and better as the season goes along. UAM is 2-2 following Saturday’s 41-21 loss at 4-0 Southeastern Oklahoma. UAM quarterback Cole Sears was limited to just 79 yards passing in that game.

Southern Arkansas 37, Oklahoma Baptist 12 — The Muleriders were picked by most to win the GAC in 2017 but find themselves 2-2 following a 38-16 loss to a 2-2 Northwestern Oklahoma team that had upset Henderson the previous week. Barrett Renner passed for 295 yards for SAU in the losing cause. He should be able to pick a bad defense from Oklahoma Baptist apart in Magnolia on Saturday night.

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College football: Week 4

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

It was a nice, relaxing weekend for Razorback fans.

An open date, in other words.

No need to worry about a lack of offensive production, defensive breakdowns or poor game management by the coaching staff.

Is this the point we’ve reached in this state?

Apparently so.

It has come to this: The 11 a.m. kickoff slot (the one usually reserved for the likes of Northwestern, Iowa State, Connecticut and Kansas) in each of the next two games; two teams badly in need of victories with depressed fan bases and coaches on the hot seat; rumors of fights in practice; angry callers to talk-radio shows.

The record was 5-3 on the picks last week as the Great American Conference threw me for a loop. I just didn’t see Harding, Henderson and Ouachita all losing at home to Oklahoma teams. I still think the cream (meaning the Arkansas teams) will rise to the top of the GAC during the course of an 11-game season.

We’re 18-5 for the season and ready to go another round, starting with two games in the DFW Metroplex that are awfully hard to pick.

Texas A&M 31, Arkansas 29 — Flip a coin on this one. These are two programs in search of answers. Arkansas, which is 1-1, looked bad in its 28-7 loss to TCU but has had two weeks to prepare for the Aggies. Texas A&M is 2-1 with a head coach, Kevin Sumlin, who seems to survive on a day-to-day basis in College Station. Arkansas has an offense that ranks 116th nationally in passing and 56th in rushing. That kind of production won’t win many games in the Southeastern Conference. We’ll give the slight edge to the Aggies based on the fact that they’ve dominated Arkansas in recent years, including a 45-24 victory over the Hogs last season. The Razorbacks won the first three games between these two teams in Arlington (2009-11) but have lost the last three in AT&T Stadium from 2014-16.

Arkansas State 39, SMU 37 — ASU didn’t get to play Miami in Jonesboro two weeks ago, but the Red Wolves did have an opportunity to beat up on poor ol’ UAPB a week later. ASU could have named the score. The final was 48-3 as Red Wolf quarterback Justice Hansen was 24 of 31 passing for 336 yards in only three quarters of play. He had five touchdown passes, tying the school record set by Fredi Knighten in the 2015 GoDaddy Bowl. Visiting Arkansans who want a full day of football can easily make it to the Arkansas-Texas A&M game in Arlington at 11 a.m. and then go to Gerald Ford Stadium in Dallas in time to watch 1-1 ASU and 2-1 SMU square off at 6 p.m. Arkansas State played well in a loss to Nebraska to open the season. SMU started the year with wins of 58-14 over Stephen F. Austin and 54-32 over North Texas before falling last Saturday by a final of 56-36 to TCU. Expect this to be an exciting, high-scoring game.

Jackson State 21, UAPB 19 — The Golden Lions are 1-2 and make a trip to Jackson, Miss., to take on an 0-3 Jackson State team that has lost 63-0 to TCU, 17-15 to Tennessee State and 36-21 to Grambling. We’ll give the edge to the home team in a battle between two programs that are likely to struggle the entire season.

Arkansas Tech 47, Southern Nazarene 28 — Tech and Southern Nazarene have been the more pleasant surprises during the first three weeks of the GAC season. The Wonder Boys upset preseason favorite Southern Arkansas in Russellville to start the current campaign, went on the road to defeat Henderson and then returned to Russellville to demolish Oklahoma Baptist by a final score of 58-21. Quarterback Ty Reasnor was 14 of 19 passing for 264 yards and four touchdowns in last Saturday’s game for Arkansas Tech. Southern Nazarene, the whipping boy since entering the conference, is off to a 2-1 start that no one saw coming. This is the week that reality hits against a Tech team that has superior talent at almost every position.

Harding 30, Oklahoma Baptist 20 — What a difference a year makes. Harding was 11-0 in the regular season a year ago and won its first two games in the NCAA Division II playoffs. But the Bisons find themselves 0-3 in 2017 after a shocking 28-27 loss to Southern Nazarene in a game played at Searcy. Harding led 27-14 in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Nazarene scored a touchdown with 49 seconds remaining, recovered an onside kick and scored again with 29 seconds left. This is the week that Harding gets well against 0-3 Oklahoma Baptist.

Ouachita 42, East Central Oklahoma 32 — Ouachita and Southeastern Oklahoma both came into their game at Arkadelphia last Saturday with 2-0 records and a chance to be tied with Arkansas Tech atop the GAC standings. Southeastern escaped Cliff Harris Stadium with a 41-35 victory after the Ouachita defense failed to show up in the first half. The Savage Storm scored on all five first-half possessions. Southeastern led by 20 points at the end of three quarters, but Ouachita stormed back with two quick touchdowns. The Tigers, however, were unable to score on their final two possessions. It was the first time for Southeastern to beat Ouachita in Arkadelphia since 1999. A mad group of Tigers goes to Ada, Okla., this Saturday to take on a 1-2 East Central team that lost 49-7 to UAM last weekend.

Henderson 26, Southwestern Oklahoma 16 — What’s wrong with the Reddies? A lot of people are asking that question this week. After all, Henderson won three of the first six GAC titles. The Reddies find themselves 1-2 after a 36-30 loss to a Northwestern Oklahoma team that came in at 0-2. Henderson went ahead with a  field goal with 3:24 left in the game that made the score 30-28. But Northwestern scored with 1:32 remaining, leading to some soul searching this week at the School With A Heart. Southwestern won its opener at UAM but has since fallen to Ouachita by 28 points and and Southern Arkansas by 24 points. Expect this to be the week that Henderson starts getting its act together.

Southern Arkansas 38, Northwestern Oklahoma 33 — After that season-opening loss  at Arkansas Tech, the Muleriders have bounced back for victories over Harding and Southwestern Oklahoma. In the 38-14 victory in Magnolia against Southwestern, Mulerider quarterback Barrett Renner was 18 of 29 passing with three touchdowns. Northwestern is much improved this year. It played Ouachita and UAM tough before the win over Henderson. Expect the Rangers to give the Muleriders all they can handle out in Alva on Saturday night.

Southeastern Oklahoma 44, UAM 40 — It’s 3-0 Southeastern hosting 2-1 UAM in Durant in one of the better games of the week. Boll Weevil quarterback Cole Sears was 23 of 34 passing for 383 yards and four touchdowns in UAM’s 49-7 win over East Central Oklahoma. Sears also rushed for 70 yards. He will need to have another big night this Saturday since Southeastern is beginning to feel as if it can compete for a GAC title.

 

 

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College football: Week 3

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

It was a cold, cold room that Jeff Long walked into Monday for his speech to the Little Rock Touchdown Club.

Razorback fans aren’t happy, and who can blame them following an awful performance against TCU last Saturday afternoon in Fayetteville. It was 28-7 at the end as the Horned Frogs avenged last year’s double overtime loss to Arkansas in Fort Worth. This was the first TCU win in Fayetteville since 1984.

TCU outgained Arkansas 195-129 on the ground and was 10 of 14 on third down. Arkansas was just four of 14 on third down.

The Horned Frogs led in time of possession, 33:52 to 26:08.

The Hogs don’t have a game this week, thus giving those frustrated fans a chance to see other college teams across the state.

UAPB is at Arkansas State. ASU, unlike the Razorbacks, will play other Arkansas schools.

In Conway, UCA hosts Southeastern Louisiana.

And all six of the state’s Great American Conference teams host squads from Oklahoma. That means two games at Arkadelphia along with contests at Magnolia, Searcy, Monticello and Russellville.

This just might be the week when some dismayed Razorback fanatics find an enjoyable, less expensive alternative. They might realize that watching college football can be fun at a place where the parking is free, the tickets are cheap, donations to the scholarship fund aren’t required and the concession lines aren’t long.

We were 5-2 on the picks last week, making the record 13-2 for the season.

Let’s get to the games for Week 3:

Arkansas State 49, UAPB 13 — It was a shame that we couldn’t see what the Red Wolves could do at home against Miami following a solid effort by ASU at Nebraska in the first week of the season. UAPB is 1-1, having defeated Morehouse in the opener before going on the road last weekend for a 52-3 loss at Akron. Akron, which is coached by former Auburn head man Terry Bowden, had lost 52-0 the previous week at Penn State. ASU should be able to pretty much name the score in this one.

UCA 30, Southeastern Louisiana 19 — The Bears were thumped in their season opener at Kansas State but rebounded for a 41-13 win at Murray State. Hayden Hildebrand passed for 286 yards and three touchdowns for UCA. The Bears outgained the Racers 312-91 in the first half and had a 31-6 lead at the break. Southeastern Louisiana comes into Conway with an 0-2 record following losses of 51-48 to Louisiana-Lafayette and 28-23 to Bethune-Cookman.

Ouachita 37, Southeastern Oklahoma 28 — After two weeks of play, there are only three 2-0 teams in the 12-team GAC. Two of the three play Saturday night at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia. Southeastern Oklahoma started the season with wins over two of the league’s weakest teams, 58-0 over Southern Nazarene and 21-17 over Oklahoma Baptist. The Savage Storm, who are 2-0 for the first time since 2011, will be hurt by the loss of quarterback C.B. Cantwell, who went down in the first half of last week’s game. Ouachita opened the season with a 31-28 win over Northwestern Oklahoma and followed that up with a 38-10 victory last Saturday night at Southwestern Oklahoma. Drew Harris from Benton had three rushing touchdowns for the Tigers.

Henderson 31, Northwestern Oklahoma 18 — Henderson, which has won three of the first six conference titles, went on the road and knocked off defending GAC champion Harding in the first week of the season. But the Reddies came down to earth quickly last Saturday with a 26-3 loss to Arkansas Tech in Arkadelphia. Henderson should have a bit easier time of it this Saturday night at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium. The Reddies host a Northwestern Oklahoma team that’s 0-2 following losses to Ouachita and UAM.

Southern Arkansas 25, Southwestern Oklahoma 17 — The GAC coaches picked Southern Arkansas to win the conference, but the Muleriders slipped up at Arkansas Tech in the first week of the season. The home opener last Saturday night in Magnolia was a different story as the Muleriders beat Harding, 35-24. SAU ended an 11-game losing streak to Harding. The Muleriders had not beaten a Bison team in Magnolia since 1993. The Magnolia advantage should help again as SAU hosts a 1-1 Southwestern Oklahoma team (the Bulldogs beat UAM and then lost to Ouachita) this week.

Harding 44, Southern Nazarene 20 — Harding was 11-0 in the regular season in 2016. So it has to be a tough pill to swallow when the season begins at 0-2 with losses to Arkansas Tech and Southern Arkansas. Southern Nazarene has been the GAC whipping boy since joining the conference, but SNU upset East Central Oklahoma last week. The visit to Searcy won’t be as pleasant as that game. The young Bisons (Harding lost most of the starters from last year’s playoff squad) are hungry for a victory and will get it this Saturday night.

UAM 21, East Central Oklahoma 15 — The Boll Weevils are one play away from being 2-0. They had a 32-yard field goal attempt blocked in the final seconds of the season opener against Southwestern Oklahoma and lost by a point. They came back last Saturday on the road in Alva, Okla., with a 37-35 win over Northwestern Oklahoma. East Central is reeling following its loss to Southern Nazarene.

Arkansas Tech 36, Oklahoma Baptist 23 — Tech shocked Southern Arkansas in the season opener at Russellville and then went on the road to Arkadelphia to whip Henderson. It was one of the biggest road victories for the Tech program in years. Quarterback Ty Reasnor was 15 of 25 passing for the Wonder Boys for 124 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for two touchdowns. Cua Rose had three interceptions for Tech to tie a school record. Can the Wonder Boy magic continue? It will for at least one more week against an 0-2 Oklahoma Baptist team.

 

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College football: Week 2

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

We were 8-0 on the picks last week, a performance you shouldn’t come to expect on a weekly basis.

This is, in a sense, the real season opener for the Razorbacks following that glorified scrimmage last week at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Arkansas’ 49-7 victory over Florida A&M was about what one should have expected. TCU didn’t have a challenge either, rolling to a 65-0 victory over Jackson State from the SWAC.

Miami decided not to come to Jonesboro to take on Arkansas State. Thus the spotlight in the state after that game in Fayetteville falls on 1-0 Arkansas Tech at 1-0 Henderson and 0-1 Harding at 0-1 Southern Arkansas. The winner of the Tech-Henderson game has to be considered the early favorite in the Great American Conference. The GAC coaches picked Southern Arkansas No. 1 and Harding No. 2 in their preseason poll. The loser of the game at Magnolia on Saturday night likely will already be out of the running for a GAC title. It’s do or die time for those two teams in a league where all 11 games are conference games.

Here are the picks for Week 2:

TCU 37, Arkansas 34 — Arkansas leads the series 44-23-2, including last year’s 41-38 win in double overtime at Fort Worth. Prior to last season, the teams had not played since Arkansas left the Southwest Conference for the Southeastern Conference in 1992. From 1959-91, Arkansas won 30 of 33 games in this series. TCU last won at Fayetteville in 1984. Coach Gary Patterson has changed things at TCU. He doesn’t have two down seasons in a row, and last year was a down season. The Horned Frogs haven’t gone on the road to play an SEC team since 1997 when they lost at Vanderbilt. Freshman tailback Chase Hayden needs to have another good game for the Razorbacks. He had 120 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries against Florida A&M. Hayden was the first true freshman to rush for more than 100 yards for Arkansas in his first game since Alex Collins did it in 2013.

UCA 30, Murray State 26 — It was a long night for the Bears at Kansas State as they fell in their opener, 55-19. Kansas State led only 17-16 midway through the second quarter before running off 24 consecutive points. UCA trailed 38-16 at the half. While UCA was playing its “money game,” Murray State was picking on a Division II school in a 67-7 victory over a woeful Kentucky Wesleyan squad. The Racers were 4-7 overall and 4-4 in the Ohio Valley Conference last year year, finishing in a tie for fifth. They lost their star quarterback, K.D Humphries, to graduation. Even though it’s on the road, this should be a victory for the Bears.

Akron 46, UAPB 17 –The Zips are in their sixth season under Terry Bowden, the former Auburn head coach. They played their “money game” last week, losing 52-0 at Penn State. Akron returns 15 starters from last year’s team. UAPB, which was 1-10 a year ago, won its opener last Saturday in Pine Bluff against Morehouse, 23-10. The Golden Lions trailed 10-0 before scoring 17 points in the third quarter.

Henderson 29, Arkansas Tech 27 — It’s an early showdown in the GAC at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium in Arkadelphia on Saturday night. Harding went 11-0 during the regular season a year ago but lost its opener in Searcy to the Reddies, 28-20. It was the first home loss for Harding in almost two years. Henderson, which won three of the first five GAC titles, now has a 28-game road winning streak. So the good news for Tech may be the fact that Henderson is playing at home, where it lost big games to Harding and Ouachita a year ago. Tech scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to come from behind and shock Southern Arkansas, 28-21. Ty Reasnor threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Drew Wade with 9:46 left and then ran 10 yards for the winning score with 2:54 remaining. This should be a fun game between two talented teams.

Southern Arkansas 19, Harding 16 — Both teams are desperate for a victory even though we’re still in early September. Harding lost most of its starters off last year’s championship squad and has a new head coach. SAU, not used to being picked atop the conference, didn’t react well last week in Russellville when the pressure was on in the fourth quarter. We’ll give a slight edge to the home team in this one.

Ouachita 39, Southwestern Oklahoma 38 — Ouachita won its opener for an 11th consecutive season. The 31-28 victory came against a Northwestern Oklahoma squad that’s vastly improved from last year. Ouachita’s fifth-year senior quarterback, Austin Warford, was 14 of 21 passing for 200 yards and rushed for 84 yards on 17 carries. Kris Oliver, the Tigers’ starting tailback, left the game during the first drive with a sprained ankle. The Tigers will need him in Weatherford, Okla., this Saturday night. The Ouachita defense is suspect, meaning the Tigers probably will have to best opponents in high-scoring games this year to extend their streak of consecutive winning seasons to 10.

Northwestern Oklahoma 23, UAM 21 — As noted, Northwestern is much improved from the 4-7 team of a year ago. UAM had a chance to win at home with six seconds left Saturday, but a 32-yard field goal attempt was blocked and Southwestern Oklahoma left town with a 20-19 victory.

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College football: Week 1

Monday, August 28th, 2017

It’s football time in Arkansas.

The University of Arkansas Razorbacks will open the season on what looks to be a wet Thursday night in Little Rock with a glorified scrimmage against a 1-0 Florida A&M squad that can’t even afford to fly to the capital city. The Rattlers will make the long trip by bus.

Conspiracy theorists claim that the Thursday night slot against a no-name opponent is the university’s way of ensuring that the stadium isn’t sold out. When the current contract between the university and War Memorial Stadium ends next year (the Razorbacks are obligated to play a Southeastern Conference opponent in Little Rock in 2018), the conspiracy theorists contend that athletic department officials will point to empty seats in Little Rock as one reason for not signing a new contract.

I don’t believe in conspiracy theories.

Or do I?

Let’s get to the picks:

Arkansas 44, Florida A&M 9 — We finally get to see the 3-4 Razorback defensive scheme that has been implemented by the new defensive coordinator, Paul Rhoads. On offense, if things go as planned, we likely will only see senior quarterback Austin Allen play for a half. Allen led the Southeastern Conference with 3,430 passing yards and threw 25 touchdown passes last season. The seat has warmed a bit for Coach Bret Bielema, who is 25-26 as the head Hog. The natives are restless following a 7-6 season in which Arkansas was outscored 56-0 in the second half of its final two games — at Missouri and in the Belk Bowl against Virginia Tech. Arkansas has yet to win an SEC championship as it enters its 26th season in the conference. Don’t expect this to be the breakthrough year, though it’s going to be hard to tell much until next week’s CBS game against TCU in Fayetteville.

Nebraska 30, Arkansas State 20 — Look for the Red Wolves to hang around for at least three quarters in Lincoln on Saturday night. “We truly want to bring that signature victory, that signature season to Jonesboro,” Coach Blake Anderson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “We love winning conference titles, and we want to continue to do that. But we want to take that next step.” Upsetting the Cornhuskers would be a huge next step. ASU has won four Sun Belt Conference championships in the past five seasons. The Red Wolves were 8-5 overall and 7-1 in conference play a year ago, winning seven of their final eight games following an 0-4 start.

Kansas State 35, UCA 21 — The Bears return eight offensive starters and seven defensive starters from a team that finished the 2016 season with records of 10-3 overall and 8-1 in the Southland Conference. UCA is ranked 15th in the FCS preseason coaches’ poll. Four of last year’s starting five offensive linemen are back, as is leading running back Carlos Blackmon. The Bears are usually competitive in the money games (they defeated Arkansas State, 28-23, last year in Jonesboro), and they’ll be competitive again Saturday night at Kansas State.

UAPB 19, Morehouse 12 — It has been rough for Monte Coleman’s program at UAPB since the Golden Lions won the SWAC championship in 2012. UAPB is 9-35 since that time, and Coleman is now 19-62 as head coach. The Golden Lions were 1-10 a year ago, defeating only Alcorn State. Seven offensive and eight defensive starters are back from that team. Given the number of starters returning and the weakness of the opponent, we’ll give the nod to the Golden Lions in the season opener at Pine Bluff on Saturday night.

Henderson 31, Harding 29 — This Thursday night game in Searcy should be a dandy. Harding went 11-0 in the regular season last year (the Bisons finished 13-1 overall) and won its first Great American Conference championship. Henderson had won three of the previous five GAC titles (Ouachita won the other two). The Reddies were 8-3 last year but return far more starters than Harding. The GAC coaches’ preseason poll had Harding second and Henderson third. In addition to a number of new starters, Harding has a new head coach in Paul Simmons, who had been the defensive coordinator since 2010. Expect it to take a few weeks before new starting quarterback Terrence Dingle has the Bisons’ Flexbone offense clicking on all cylinders.

Arkansas Tech 24, Southern Arkansas 23 — This is our upset special for Week 1. All signs points to a stellar season for the Muleriders. Southern Arkansas returns nine starters on defense and eight starters on offense. Quarterback Barrett Renner, who led the GAC in passing with 3,371 yards, is back. Running back Michael Nunnery, who had 1,110 yards rushing, is back. Leading tackler Elgin Moore is back. SAU was 9-3 last season. Arkansas Tech was 6-5. The coaches have Southern Arkansas picked to win the GAC. They have Tech picked sixth. Since Bill Keopple has been the Southern Arkansas head coach, the Muleriders are 0-4 in Russellville. And Thursday night’s game is in Russellville.

Ouachita 37, Northwestern Oklahoma 26 — The Tigers open their season at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia against a Northwestern Oklahoma team that finished 4-7. Ouachita finished 7-4 — including a victory at Henderson in the Battle of the Ravine to close the season — despite losing its starting quarterback, its top three running backs, its best wide receiver and two starters in the secondary to injuries. Quarterback Austin Warford out of Malvern, who missed the second half of the 2016 season, is back for his senior year. Ouachita has nine consecutive winning seasons, the most of any college program at any level in the state. The coaches picked Ouachita fourth and Northwestern Oklahoma ninth out of 12 GAC teams in the preseason poll.

Southwestern Oklahoma 39, UAM 36 — The Boll Weevils, who finished with a record of 4-7 a year ago, open the season at home in Monticello on Saturday night. Southwestern Oklahoma was 5-6 in 2016. The coaches picked Southwestern to finish seventh and the Boll Weevils to finish eighth. It should be a competitive game between two programs seeking to move into the GAC’s top tier.

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Coach Broyles

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Frank Broyles wasn’t born and raised in Arkansas.

He hailed from Decatur, Ga., and his rich Southern accent was never replaced by an Arkansas twang. Yet he was one of us. Indeed, he was the best of us.

He moved to Fayetteville following just one season as the head coach at the University of Missouri.

Orville Henry wrote in the Arkansas Gazette the day after Broyles’ Dec. 7, 1957, hiring at the University of Arkansas: “Frank Broyles is the fastest walking, thinking, talking Southern boy I’ve ever run across, in or out of football. He charms the uninitiated with his complete candor and confidence and the rippling softness of his Dixie accent. And he possesses the pigskin technicians with the inside-outside mastery of his subject matter, which is basic football in general and the T formation attack in the specific. As of this hour, he embodies every answer to John Barnhill’s prayer.”

Barnhill, the Arkansas athletic director at the time, told Henry: “Frank is the only man from the outside who could come in and pull us all together toward what we’re after. We’ve lost no ground in the last three years, and we’re in good shape. Within a month I believe we’ll be a lot better than we were.”

Barnhill added: “Broyles convinced me that he wants to come to Arkansas and stay.”

Stay he did, for the next six decades.

National news had been dominated in that fall of 1957 by the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis. That didn’t deter Broyles, who always would refer to the Arkansas coaching position as his dream job.

The desegregation crisis made Arkansas the subject of derision in other parts of the country. Arkansans had both a strong pride in the place they called home and a glaring inferiority complex.

Though Broyles wasn’t from here, he understood us.

He pledged his allegiance to Arkansas and never left.

It didn’t take Broyles long to build a football powerhouse. John Barnhill’s instincts had been correct.

As least among college football fans, Gov. Orval Faubus wasn’t the only well-known personality in Arkansas. We had Broyles, his shirttail flapping as he paced the sidelines on those glorious fall afternoons.

College Football News once ranked the top college football programs for the 1960s. The ranking was based on Associated Press polls. Alabama (coached by a native Arkansan, Paul “Bear” Bryant) was first in that decade. Arkansas and Texas were tied for second.

I was born in September 1959. Frank Broyles was the only Razorback football coach I knew until high school. Arkansas won several versions of the national championship in 1964, but that was the year my 9-year-old brother was killed in an accident. So the few memories I have of that year are of family tragedy, not college football.

The next year was different. I clearly remember that at the end of the 1965 season, as the Razorback winning streak reached 22 games, my parents announced that they would take my older sister and me to Dallas to see Arkansas tangle with LSU in the Cotton Bowl.

I remember the trip down U.S. Highway 67 from our Arkadelphia home to Dallas. I remember the stop at The Alps restaurant in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, for lunch. I remember staying in downtown Dallas at the Baker Hotel.

And I remember wanting to see Frank Broyles in person, which I finally did.

I got into trouble with my father on that trip when I refused to shake the hand of the LSU head coach, Charlie McClendon. McClendon was from south Arkansas (Lewisville to be exact) and knew my father. McClendon’s brother, Bill, and my dad hunted quail together.

But to a 6-year-old, he was the enemy because he coached the hated purple-and-gold Tigers.

LSU upset Arkansas on Jan. 1, 1966, ending the 22-game winning streak. I cried in the cab on the way from Fair Park back to the Baker Hotel.

With victory having proved elusive, the highlight of the trip for me was having seen Broyles at the hotel.

You could tell by looking at him that he had once been a great athlete. He was a star quarterback at Georgia Tech, where he played for Bobby Dodd and led the Yellowjackets to three bowl games. He started his coaching career as an assistant at Baylor in 1947, but Dodd soon brought him back to Atlanta where Broyles served as the head coach’s right-hand man for a decade. Many Southern football fans felt that Broyles would hang around until Dodd retired and then become the Georgia Tech head coach.

Broyles was restless, however. He wanted to lead his own program and try out his own ideas. He took the Missouri job.

Arkansas, though, was the place where he really saw potential. His vision, in fact, went beyond the football field. He once told me that the smartest move the university made in his early years there was when it offered broadcasts of Razorback games free to any radio station in the state that wanted them. Prior to that, a number of people in west Arkansas followed Oklahoma football, a number of people in south Arkansas followed LSU football and a number of people in east Arkansas followed Ole Miss football. Having one of the largest radio networks in the country united the state.

Broyles continued to make us proud on the national stage after retiring from coaching following the 1975 season. Broyles and play-by-play man Keith Jackson of ABC Sports became the best college football crew on television.

Broyles also proved to be as savvy as an athletic director as he had been as a football coach, raising millions of dollars to improve athletic facilities for multiple sports and moving Arkansas from the Southwest Conference to the Southeastern Conference in the early 1990s.

No wonder the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette named him Arkansas’ most influential sports figure of the 20th century.

No wonder David Bazzel created the Broyles Award to honor the top college assistant coach in the country. Think of those who played and/or coached under Broyles — Barry Switzer, Jimmy Johnson, Joe Gibbs, Johnny Majors and on and on.

Still, Broyles’ most important accomplishment was that he made us proud to be from Arkansas at a time when we most needed it.

Finally Winthrop Rockefeller became governor in January 1967 after 12 years of Faubus.

Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell hit it big on the national stage.

And Frank Broyles’ Razorbacks kept winning football games — lots of them.

Even though the end result was an excruciating 15-14 loss to the hated Longhorns, we were proud that what was known as the Game of the Century was played on Arkansas soil in 1969. I was 10 years old and still recall that gray December afternoon.

As a state at that time, we were just more than decade removed from the embarrassment of 1957. Arkansas also had lost the highest percentage of population of any state from 1940-60.

Frank Broyles helped us to believe in ourselves again.

I didn’t fully understand that at age 10.

I do now.

He was a giant in his field. Yes, he was born in Georgia. But he became one of us and was never ashamed to be known as an Arkansan.

Thank you, Coach Broyles. You were the right man at the right time for Arkansas.

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College football: Week 14

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

It’s rare for me to pick all of the Arkansas teams to win on the same weekend.

You have to realize that my prediction post each week has nothing to do with the teams I want to win. The posts have everything to do with the teams I think will win.

I wanted Arkansas and Arkansas State to win.

In this case, I also was confident that they would win.

After all, Arkansas was taking on a 3-8 Missouri team that had just given up 63 points to a mediocre Tennessee squad (which would proceed to lose to Vanderbilt), and Arkansas State was taking its 15-game Sun Belt Conference winning streak up against a Louisiana-Lafayette team that came in with a 4-6 record.

The Hogs and Red Wolves laid eggs.

The Razorback performance was so bad that it has fans across the state questioning the direction of the program while calling for staff changes.

Arkansas State, meanwhile, blew an excellent opportunity for an outright conference title. Now the Red Wolves will wind up sharing the title with Appalachian State (which has completed conference play) if ASU wins at Texas State on Saturday. If Troy also wins on Saturday, it will be a three-way tie for the title.

At least Harding and UCA came through for us in the playoffs as both teams posted wild fourth-quarter comebacks.

That made the record 2-2 for the week and 72-26 for the season.

Here are the picks for this week:

Arkansas State 41, Texas State 29 — The Red Wolves appeared to have won the game at Lafayette on the final play. One official signaled touchdown, causing everyone on the ASU sideline to rush the field. After a review, it was ruled that quarterback Justice Hansen’s knee had touched the ground just before he pitched the ball to an offensive tackle who ran it into the end zone. Blake Anderson, the ASU head coach, still disagrees with that call. The fact remains that the Red Wolves are 6-5 overall and 6-1 in the Sun Belt. Appalachian State and Troy also have just one loss in conference play. Arkansas State should come away with a win this Saturday. The night game will be telecast nationally from San Marcos by ESPN2. Texas State is 0-7 in conference play and 2-9 overall. The wins were over Ohio in overtime, 56-54, in the season opener and over Incarnate Word, an FCS school, by a final score of 48-17. Few of the losses have been close — 42-3 to Arkansas, 64-3 to Houston, 41-21 to Georgia State, 40-34 to Louisiana-Monroe, 27-3 to Louisiana-Lafayette, 35-10 to Appalachian State, 47-14 to Idaho, 50-10 to New Mexico State and 40-7 to Troy.

Eastern Washington 34, UCA 24 — It was quite a comeback for the Bears on the stripes in Conway on a cold Saturday afternoon. UCA was lethargic for three quarters of the FCS playoff game, trailing a 6-5 Illinois State squad by a score of 17-7 going into the final 15 minutes of play. A blocked punt for a touchdown fueled a comeback that ended with a four-yard scoring run by senior Antwon Wells with 1:28 left in the game. The Bears improved to 10-2 with the victory. They must now make the long trip to Eastern Washington to play on the red turf against a 10-1 team that had a bye last week. Eastern Washington’s only loss was to powerhouse North Dakota State, 50-44. Eastern Washington won nonconference games by scores of 45-42 against a good Washington State team that finished the regular season 8-4 and 34-30 against Northern Iowa from the Missouri Valley Conference. The Eagles then went 8-0 in the Big Sky Conference with victories of 50-35 over Northern Arizona, 63-30 over California-Davis, 49-31 over Northern Colorado, 41-17 over Montana State, 35-16 over Montana, 42-21 over Cal Poly, 48-17 over Idaho State and 35-28 over Portland State.

Northwest Missouri State 31, Harding 21 — It has been a remarkable final campaign for Harding head coach Ronnie Huckeba, who announced before the season that he would retire at the end of this year. The Bisons appeared down and out against Sioux Falls in South Dakota last Saturday afternoon, trailing by 10 points with less than five minutes remaining. Harding scored a touchdown with 4:17 left. A 47-yard field goal by Tristan Parsley with 12 seconds remaining in regulation (11 yards longer than anything he had kicked during the regular season) sent the game to overtime. The Harding defense then came up with an interception in overtime, and Parsley won it with a 35-yard field goal. The 13-0 Bisons became the first Great American Conference team to win a second-round game in the NCAA Division II playoffs. The bad news is that they now must visit the No. 1 team in the country, the defending national champions from Northwest Missouri State. Northwest Missouri, which is 12-0, defeated No. 9 Emporia State, 44-13, in last week’s playoff game. Last year, Northwest Missouri routed Shepherd by a final score of 34-7 in the national championship game to cap a 15-0 campaign. The Bearcats went 15-0 in 2013 to win the national title and also won titles in 2009 with a 14-1 record, in 1999 with a 14-1 record and in 1998 with a 15-0 record. Northwest Missouri advanced to the championship game in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 and lost each time. But it’s pretty impressive that this program has had teams in nine of the past 18 title games.

 

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