Archive for the ‘College football’ Category

College football: Week 13

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

What could I possibly say about last Saturday’s 51-50 Mississippi State victory over Arkansas that hasn’t already been said?

For the first time in school history, Arkansas lost after scoring 50 or more points.

Brandon Allen’s seven touchdown passes set a school record and tied the Southeastern Conference record, and his team still lost.

Arkansas’ defense allowed the most passing yards in school history, 508. The previous high for a Razorback opponent was 499 yards passing by Kentucky’s Tim Couch in 1998.

So the Razorbacks enter the final game of the regular season with a mediocre record of 6-5. Most Hog fans were expecting better, at least eight or nine wins.

What a strange season this has been.

Back in the preseason, no one was expecting losses to Toledo and Texas Tech.

And only the most optimistic Arkansas fans were expecting the Hogs to beat Ole Miss and LSU on the road in back-to-back games.

The regular season will end at Fayetteville on what looks to be a rainy, chilly Friday afternoon against a bad Missouri team that’s 5-6 overall and 1-6 in the SEC. There likely will be as many empty seats as seats with people in them at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. It’s a Black Friday clunker of a game for CBS, though the “reported attendance” will be much higher than the actual attendance, as is usually the case.

This is the final week to pick college football games on the Southern Fried blog. The record after 12 weeks is 72-23.

Here are the picks for Week 13:

Arkansas 39, Missouri 30 — Expect Arkansas to score its share of points, but no lead is safe with this Razorback defense. The defense gave up 51 points to Mississippi State, 52 points to Ole Miss and 46 points to Auburn. Razorback fans should hope that the defense that only surrendered 14 points at LSU chooses to show up. Coach Gary Pinkel, who led his Tigers to SEC East titles the previous two seasons, is going out with a whimper. Missouri’s lone SEC victory was by a score of 24-10 to an awful South Carolina team, which lost last Saturday to The Citadel. The last time The Citadel had won against an SEC team was in the 1992 season opener. Anyone out there remember that game? The Tigers’ six SEC losses have been by scores of 21-13 to Kentucky, 21-3 to Florida, 9-6 to Georgia, 10-3 to Vanderbilt, 31-13 to Mississippi State and 19-8 to Tennessee. Advantage Razorbacks with a bowl appearance in Nashville or Memphis to follow.

Arkansas State 29, New Mexico State 21 — The Red Wolves have had two weeks to prepare for Saturday afternoon’s game at New Mexico State. They’re 7-3 overall and 6-0 in the Sun Belt Conference with two games remaining in the regular season. New Mexico State lost 10 of its first 11 games against Sun Belt opponents after rejoining the conference in 2014. After an 0-7 start this season, the Aggies have won three consecutive games and don’t figure to be a pushover on Saturday. New Mexico State started the season with losses of 61-13 to Florida, 34-32 to Georgia State, 50-47 to UTEP, 38-29 to New Mexico, 52-3 to Ole Miss, 56-26 to Georgia Southern and 52-7 to Troy. The wins the past three games have been by scores of 55-48 over Idaho, 31-21 over Texas State and 37-34 over Louisiana-Lafayette. The Red Wolves will earn at least a share of the conference title with a victory Saturday. Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are right behind ASU at 5-1 in conference play. ASU ends the regular season in Jonesboro on Dec. 5 against a Texas State team that’s 3-7 overall and 2-4 in conference play.

Emporia State 28, Henderson 24 — The Reddies came up with an interception in the end zone with 10 seconds remaining on a cold afternoon in Arkadelphia en route to a 23-16 victory over Sioux Falls of South Dakota last Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs. The Reddies, the Great American Conference champions, recorded their first playoff win since moving to NCAA Division II in 1993. The GAC had been 0-5 in the playoffs since being formed in 2011. Henderson has won 10 consecutive games, and seven of them have been by eight points or less. Emporia State shocked Minnesota State-Mankato, 51-49, to earn this week’s trip to Arkadelphia. Emporia is 10-2, having lost to Fort Hays State and the powerhouse Northwest Missouri State team. The Hornets have an offense that has scored 45 or more points six times this season. Does Henderson’s ability to win the close games finally end in the second round? This should be a fun one to watch.

Post to Twitter

College football: Week 12

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

What a night in Baton Rouge.

Back when Arkansas was sitting at 1-3, who would have thought that the Razorbacks would become bowl eligible with two games still remaining in the regular season?

Not me.

The 31-14 win over LSU was convincing, to say the least. This is, mind you, a Tiger team that was No. 2 in the country when Jeff Long’s committee released its first rankings of the season. Arkansas made the Tigers look like UTEP, and the vast majority of the 101,699 people in Tiger Stadium had headed back outside to their gumbo pots long before this one was over.

Arkansas outrushed LSU 299-57, had a season-high five sacks and saw Alex Collins move past Dickey Morton into third on the school’s career rushing list with 3,335 yards. Collins topped 100 yards for the eighth time this season and the 15th time in his college career.

Coach Les Miles, who is 48-6 in night games at Tiger Stadium, has only seen a team lose two consecutive games on three occasions during his tenure in Baton Rouge. The second loss each time was to Arkansas. This was the first time for the Tigers to lose back-to-back games by double digits since 1999.

We were 5-2 on the picks last week to make the record 70-21 for the season. Here are the picks for Week 12:

Arkansas 34, Mississippi State 26: This should be an interesting game on what promises to be a cold night in Fayetteville. Alabama had no problem with Mississippi State in Starkville last Saturday, beating the Bulldogs by a final score of 31-6. It marked the eighth consecutive season for Mississippi State to lose to Alabama. Derrick Henry rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns against the Bulldogs. Collins must be licking his chops after having seen that on film. Mississippi State’s three losses have come by scores of 21-19 to LSU, 30-17 to Texas A&M and the aforementioned 31-6 loss to Alabama. The victories have been over Southern Mississippi, Northwestern State of Louisiana, Auburn, Troy, Louisiana Tech, Kentucky and Missouri. In other words, not a big-time win in the bunch; certainly nothing to compared with the Arkansas road victories over Ole Miss and LSU the past two Saturdays. We picked against the Razorbacks in both of those games. We won’t make that mistake again.

Sam Houston State 29, UCA 27 — The Bears need a victory to have a chance of getting into the FCS playoffs. UCA improved to 7-3 overall and 7-1 in the Southland Conference with a 34-31 win last Saturday night at Nicholls State. It was the seventh victory in the past eight games for the Bears as Blake Veasley rushed for 139 yards on 30 carries. McNeese State, which edged UCA in Conway last month, continues to lead the conference. Sam Houston comes into Conway with an identical 7-3 record. Just like UCA, Sam Houston lost back-to-back games to start the season (Sam Houston lost to Texas Tech and Lamar while UCA lost to Samford and Oklahoma State) and then lost later in the season to McNeese. The Bearkats’ victories have been by scores of 63-14 over Houston Baptist, 34-28 over Stephen F. Austin, 59-7 over Incarnate Word, 49-21 over Abilene Christian, 37-7 over Nicholls State, 38-24 over Texas A&M-Commerce and 59-21 over Northwestern State. The two teams appear to be evenly matched. It should be a fun game, and I plan to be there.

Henderson 24, Sioux Falls 21 — The Reddies won the Battle of the Ravine, 21-17, in front of a crowd of 9,868 at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia last Saturday afternoon. Henderson finished the regular season 10-1, and Ouachita finished 7-4. It was a well-played game with no turnovers. Neither defense gave up a long scoring play. Henderson had already wrapped up the Great American Conference title, but the win ensured that the first game of the NCAA Division II playoffs would be at home at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium. The opponent from South Dakota, the University of Sioux Falls, is a small Baptist school (smaller than Ouachita) that’s making its first appearance in the Division II playoffs since moving up from the NAIA. The Cougars are 9-2 and have won 21 of their past 24 games. The winner of Saturday’s game in Arkadelphia (noon kickoff) will play the winner of the game between Minnesota State and Emporia State. The Cougars were 36-12 with four national titles when they played in the NAIA. A year ago, they went 10-1 in the regular season and then beat Central Oklahoma in the Mineral Water Bowl. Henderson’s offense is not as good as last year. But the defense is much better. Give a slight advantage to the Reddies since Sioux Falls is the one making the long trip.

Mississippi Valley State 17, UAPB 15 — Well, somebody has to win this final game of the regular season. Both teams are 1-9. The Golden Lions fell by a final score of 49-31 to Grambling in the homecoming game at Pine Bluff last Saturday afternoon. Grambling, which is now 8-2 overall and 8-0 in the SWAC, led 35-3 at one point in the game. We’ll give a slight advantage to the home team. Both schools will be glad to see the season end.


Post to Twitter

College football: Battle of the Ravine

Monday, November 9th, 2015

It’s the week of the Battle of the Ravine, one of the great college football rivalries (at any level) in America.

As I always point out to out-of-state reporters who call to ask questions about the rivalry, it’s the only college contest in which the road team doesn’t fly or bus to a game. It walks.

I’ve already done my annual story on the game here on the Southern Fried blog. So I won’t repeat that.

Here’s what I will say: Attending a Battle of the Ravine should be on every Arkansan’s bucket list. As I write this, the weather forecast for Arkadelphia on Saturday shows sunny skies and a high of 60. That’s what I call football weather.

And here’s the beauty of it for Razorback fans: The kickoff at Cliff Harris Stadium is at 1 p.m. The game should end by 4 p.m., giving most Arkansans time to be home for the Arkansas-LSU kickoff on ESPN at 6:15 p.m. So treat yourself to a fun day of college football: Ouachita vs. Henderson on a beautiful November afternoon followed by the Hogs’ game in Baton Rouge on television that night.

I finished my broadcast of Ouachita’s 58-7 victory over Southern Nazarene in Oklahoma City on Saturday afternoon in time to hear the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter and the overtime of the Razorback victory on satellite radio. Sirius/XM used the Ole Miss broadcast since the Rebels were the home team, and it was interesting to hear the wild finish from that perspective.

Here’s how Rebel analyst Harry Harrison described a fourth-down play that will live in Razorback history for as long as any of us are breathing: “That was luck to the Nth degree.”


But strange things can happen in college football (you might ask Alabama head coach Nick Saban about the final play against Auburn a couple of years ago). Arkansas still had to score the touchdown, and the Razorbacks still had to execute the two-point conversion.

The question now is whether the Hogs can come back down to earth after a truly epic football game and spring another road upset, this time in Baton Rouge.

It goes without saying that Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night isn’t the easiest place to win a football game. With back-to-back Southeastern Conference victories in overtime for the Hogs, and the fact that LSU looked vulnerable at Tuscaloosa, there’s now reason for hope for Arkansas.

We were 6-4 on the picks last week, our worst week of the season. However, the overall record is still a good 65-19.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 11 of the college football season:

LSU 30, Arkansas 28 — Yes, I expect Arkansas to play well. Alabama certainly looked liked a team primed to win the national championship in its 30-16 victory over LSU in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night. The Tide’s Derrick Henry moved ahead of LSU’s Leonard Fournette in the Heisman watch with 210 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. Fournette came into the game as the leading rusher at the FBS level but was held to 31 yards on 19 carries. Expect him to gain a lot more yards than that this week against Arkansas. Yet if Brandon Allen came have another performance like the one he had in Oxford (33 of 45 passing for 442 yards and six touchdowns), Arkansas will be in this game until the end. In its 122 years of football, Arkansas has won only five games in which it allowed 45 or more points. All five were overtime contests. Two of the five have come this season. Could we see another such game in Baton Rouge? It’s possible. It’s more likely, however, that this one will end in regulation, providing entertaining Saturday evening viewing for the ESPN audience.

Henderson 29, Ouachita 24 — There have been five football seasons in the short history of the Great American Conference, counting this one. And the championship trophy still has yet to leave Arkadelphia. Henderson has wrapped up the 2015 title to go along with the championships it won in 2012 and 2013. Ouachita won conference championships in 2011 and 2014. It has been an amazing run for the Arkadelphia schools (Henderson had undefeated regular seasons in 2012 and 2013, and Ouachita was undefeated last year in the regular season). Both teams are good again this year. Henderson comes into Saturday’s game at 9-1, and Ouachita is 7-3. The Reddies struggled on the road Saturday against a 2-8 Oklahoma Baptist team but did enough in the end to win by eight, 22-14. The Reddies then got a gift when Southwestern Oklahoma defeated second-place Arkansas Tech in Russellville, 28-14, to drop the Wonder Boys to 7-3 and ensure Henderson the crown regardless of what happens Saturday afternoon at Cliff Harris Stadium. Ouachita, meanwhile, warmed up for the game with that 58-7 victory over 0-10 Southern Nazarene. Having the conference’s last-place team on the schedule in the 10th game allowed the Tigers to rest most of their starters for a half coming into the Battle of the Ravine. Henderson leads NCAA Division II in interceptions with 24. Its defense is better than last year, but its offense isn’t nearly as good as it was under the leadership of quarterback Kevin Rodgers in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Ouachita’s young defense has given up big plays at inopportune times throughout the season. Blown coverages in the secondary have been commonplace. Advantage Henderson on defense. Advantage Ouachita on offense. Both teams have strong kicking games.

Arkansas State 35, Louisiana Monroe 22 — The Red Wolves went on the road to Boone, N.C., last Thursday and came home with an impressive 40-27 victory over an Appalachian State team that had entered the contest with a 7-1 overall record. ASU is now alone atop the Sun Belt Conference at 5-0 (6-3 overall), followed by Appalachian State at 4-1, Georgia Southern at 4-1 and Louisiana-Lafayette at 3-1. ASU has won five consecutive games. The Red Wolves trailed in the second half of three of those games. ASU had a 39-point fourth quarter against South Alabama, a 21-point fourth quarter against Georgia State and a 17-point third quarter against Appalachian State. The Red Wolves pay a visit to north Louisiana this Saturday to take on a weak Louisiana-Monroe team. The Warhawks are 1-8 and have lost seven consecutive games. The only victory was by a score of 47-0 over an FCS team, Nicholls State. The losses have been by scores of 51-14 to Georgia, 34-0 to Alabama, 51-31 to Georgia Southern, 34-24 to Tulsa, 59-14 to Appalachian State, 27-13 to Idaho, 30-24 to Louisiana-Lafayette and 51-14 to Troy.

UCA 31, Nicholls State 19 — The Bears moved to 6-3 overall and 6-1 in Southland Conference play with a 36-24 victory in Conway on Saturday night over a Stephen F. Austin team coached by former UCA head coach Clint Conque and quarterbacked by his son, Little Rock Catholic graduate Zach Conque. Stephen F. Austin fell to 3-4 in conference and 3-6 overall. UCA trailed 24-17 late in the third quarter before scoring the game’s final 19 points. Conque, who coached the Bears from 2000-13, was on the visitors’ sideline at Estes Stadium for the first time. McNeese State remains alone atop the Southland Conference standings at 8-0 following a 27-10 victory over Sam Houston State. UCA travels to far south Louisiana this Saturday to take on a Nicholls State team that’s only 2-5 in conference and 2-7 overall. The two victories were by scores of 38-17 over Houston Baptist and 30-28 over Lamar. The losses have been by scores of 47-0 to Louisiana-Monroe, 20-10 to Incarnate Word, 48-0 to Colorado, 37-7 to McNeese, 28-24 to Stephen F. Austin, 37-7 to Sam Houston State and 37-21 to Northwestern State. The Bears should be able to take care of business in Thibodaux on Saturday night and remain in the hunt for an FCS playoff spot.

Grambling 40, UAPB 20 — The long season just keeps getting longer for UAPB, which is 1-8 overall and 0-7 in the SWAC following a 57-24 loss to Southern University in Pine Bluff on Saturday. Southern jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. The Jaguars led 57-8 after three quarters before clearing the bench. The Grambling team that comes to Pine Bluff on Saturday afternoon leads the SWAC at 7-0 and is 7-2 overall. After starting the season with nonconference losses to California and Bethune-Cookman, the Tigers have run off seven consecutive conference victories by scores of 34-10 over Alabama State, 70-54 over Prairie View A&M, 59-27 over Jackson State, 37-14 over Alabama A&M, 35-34 over Alcorn State, 49-14 over Mississippi Valley State and 41-15 over Texas Southern. There’s no reason to believe that UAPB can be competitive in this game.

Harding 34, Arkansas Tech 27 — Harding and Arkansas Tech are both 7-3. The winner has a chance to be invited to serve as the GAC representative in the Live United Bowl at Texarkana on Dec. 5. Tech has exceeded the expectations its fans had early in the season, while Harding has fallen off since having started the season 4-0 and being ranked as high as No. 9 in NCAA Division II. The Bisons trailed 3-7 Northwestern Oklahoma by nine points in the fourth quarter at Searcy on Saturday before getting three touchdowns on the ground from Michael Latu in the final seven minutes to post a 42-30 victory. Tech, meanwhile, suffered that disappointing loss to Southwestern Oklahoma in Russellville. This should be a close game between two of the conference’s upper-tier teams.

Southern Arkansas 18, UAM 16 — A disappointing season for UAM comes to a merciful end on Saturday. The Boll Weevils are 1-9, having lost Saturday by a final score of 37-0 to 5-5 Southeastern Oklahoma. Southern Arkansas improved its record to 6-4 with a 35-26 victory over East Central Oklahoma, which is also now 6-4.


Post to Twitter

Ravine time

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Those who know me well know that my favorite day of the year is the Saturday of the Battle of the Ravine.

There have been four Great American Conference championship trophies awarded in football since the GAC came into existence, and all four trophies reside in Arkadelphia — two at Ouachita Baptist University and two at Henderson State University.

Because both football programs have been good in recent years, this unique rivalry has received increased national attention.

Last month, Champion, the official magazine of the NCAA, featured the Battle of the Ravine in a story titled “The short walk.”

Jared Thompson wrote: “One college’s water turned purple. Across the road, red marshmallows rained from the sky. A future state governor set the other school’s party ablaze. One time, a homecoming queen was kidnapped. And no one recalls where the drag queens buried the tiger’s tail.

“This fall marks the 89th edition of the Battle of the Ravine. The pranks defining Division II’s oldest football series have been legendary. The football games have been extraordinary, too. The rivalry pits two schools separated by two lanes of U.S. Highway 67, over which the visiting team walks to its opponent’s field on game day in the shortest road trip in football. The ancestries supporting either side are entwined tighter than the kudzu that suffocates the nearby ravine from which the rivalry’s namesake was found. In Arkadelphia, you grow up cheering either for red or for purple. Yet credits transfer freely between the two schools, and students from one often take classes at the other. Where else might you see the starting quarterback sit next to an opposing lineman in biology class?”

When the writer called me for a quote, I told him that this is the small college version of Alabama-Auburn, a rivalry that divides families. As an Arkadelphia native, I also pointed out that it’s Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day all rolled into one for that town.

“Tiger fans still express zeal about the 1975 matchup,” Thompson wrote. “Ouachita converted a fourth-and-25 play by one inch and scored on its final drive to upset a previously undefeated Henderson team, 21-20. Reddies, meanwhile, point to as recently as 2013, when they emerged victorious after a triple-overtime affair to complete a second consecutive undefeated season. Henderson leads the series 42-40-6. The first game was played in 1895; the matchup was resurrected in 1907 and interrupted for World Wars I and II. Then the pranks and vandalism escalated, and officials suspended the game for 12 years after the 1951 contest. Nowadays, when game week arrives, school signs are wrapped in protective plastic, garbage bags or tarps.”

In the late 1940s, the game was promoted as the Biggest Little Football Game in America, a moniker initially used on the East Coast for the NCAA Division III rivalry between Williams College and Amherst College, who first played in 1884. The Nov. 10, 2007, game between Williams and Amherst in Williamstown, Mass., was selected as the location for ESPN’s popular “College GameDay” program. One of these days, the folks at ESPN will make the wise decision to bring that program to Arkadelphia and show the only time in college football in which the visiting team walks to a road game.

Yes, early on the afternoon of Nov. 14, state troopers will stop traffic on Highway 67, and the Reddies will walk across to play at Ouachita’s Cliff Harris Stadium after having put on their uniforms in their own dressing room. Shortly after 4 p.m., the troopers will stop traffic again, and the Reddies will trudge back across the highway. Of the 88 battles between the two schools, the game has been decided by a touchdown or less 39 times with Ouachita holding a 19-14-6 advantage in those games. Last year’s game was a bit of an anomaly in that there was a 21-point final margin. Ouachita won 41-20 in 39-degree weather at Henderson’s Carpenter-Haygood Stadium en route to an undefeated regular season.

Some of the best national publicity ever received by the Battle of the Ravine came two years ago, a few days before that triple-overtime game. Gregg Doyel, then of, wrote a lengthy piece titled “Battle of Ravine: Can’t sum up D-II’s oldest rivalry in a football game.”

Doyel wrote: “It’s not easy to make a mark with a prank because the best ones have been done. So have the worst. There’s the tiger on campus at Ouachita, for example. For years it was missing a tail because kids at Henderson would sneak over and clip it off and bury it somewhere. Ouachita would replace it. The kids at Henderson would clip the new tail and bury it somewhere else. Ouachita eventually built a fence around its signature statue, but it had a smaller one at the school library. A young man dressed in drag — everyone swears that’s what happened — talked the Ouachita security officer into giving him the tiger for its ‘regular cleaning.’ The statue came back clean. And without a tail.”

Doyel went on to tell the famous (famous in Arkadelphia at least) story of Ann Strickland, the Ouachita homecoming queen: “Ann Strickland grew up in the shadow of both schools. She attended Ouachita but knew lots of kids at Henderson, which is why she got in the car with a few of them in late November 1946, shortly after being named the Ouachita homecoming queen. The Battle of the Ravine was in two days. Ouachita’s homecoming queen had just been kidnapped by Henderson.

“The kidnapped Ouachita homecoming queen was dating Ouachita star defensive back Bill Vining, so it wasn’t just the town that was looking for Ann Strickland — it was the team, too. Vining and teammate Ike Sharp got word that Strickland was being held in Arkadelphia at the Caddo Hotel, and they pounded on doors looking for her. Good thing they didn’t find her. According to legend, Ike Sharp was wearing overalls. According to legend, he was hiding a shotgun under his clothes.”

The “friendly” kidnapping had seen Strickland entertained at a house on Lake Hamilton. She was returned before the game, which Ouachita won, 26-16.

Following a scoreless tie in 1947, Ouachita won again in 1948. In 1949, Henderson led 14-0 in the fourth quarter.

Doyel wrote: “Enter Ike Sharp. The guy with the overalls and the shotgun. Sharp successfully booted three onside kicks — the last one just for spite — as the Tigers scored three times in the final 10 minutes to win, 17-14.

“Move ahead to 1975, to a game many consider the greatest in series history. By then Bill Vining — boyfriend of the kindnapped homecoming queen — was the basketball coach at Ouachita, which now plays in Bill Vining Arena. Well, by 1975, Bill and Ann Vining’s son was the quarterback on the Ouachita football team. That year Henderson came in at 9-0, a game ahead of Ouachita at 8-1. In the final minute, Ouachita trailed 20-14 and faced fourth-and-25 when Bill Vining Jr. completed a 25-yard pass to Gary Reese. Two plays later, he threw a touchdown to Ken Stuckey, and Ouachita won 21-20 to take Henderson’s spot in the national playoffs.

“Ann Strickland Vining died in August 2009. Over the years the homecoming queen’s house up on a hill had become a hangout spot for kids in Arkadelphia. They learned to swim in the Vining pool. On snow days they trooped up the Vining hill with sleds. Some of those kids went to Ouachita. Some went to Henderson.”

I was one of those kids, having grown up a block from the Vining home in the neighborhood known as Ouachita Hills.

How deep are the family ties at these schools?

David Sharp, one of my closest friends and the Ouachita athletic director since 1999, is the son of the aforementioned Ike Sharp. Our fathers played football together at Ouachita in the 1940s. When my dad accepted the job of head football coach at Newport High School following his graduation from Ouachita in the spring of 1948, it was Ike Sharp who drove my parents to Jackson County since they didn’t own a car.

David and his older brother, Paul, played in the Battle of the Ravine and later coached in the series as Ouachita assistants. Each year when Ouachita and Southwestern Oklahoma meet on the gridiron, they’re playing for the Paul Sharp Trophy, named in honor of the late coach who led Southwestern Oklahoma to an NAIA national championship.

During his first year as athletic director in 1999, David had to deal with an incident that became known as Trashcam. A Henderson graduate assistant coach took a video camera into Arkadelphia’s Central Park, which overlooks the Ouachita practice fields. As he was taping the Tiger practice, the graduate assistant was seen by a Ouachita player. The cameraman, realizing he had been spotted, sped away in his car, leaving the camera in a nearby trash can. When the camera was found with a Henderson identification tag on it, David removed the tape and returned the camera to Henderson. It was the proper thing to do. Though the rivalry is intense, these folks have to live with each other all year. They sit in the same pews at church and find themselves next to each other in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.

To illustrate how families are divided by this rivalry, I give you none other than Cliff Harris, the former Dallas Cowboy star for whom Ouachita’s new stadium is named. Both Cliff and his father played for Ouachita. But his mother was a graduate of Henderson.

Though the stands and press box are new, the field at Ouachita is where it has been since the early 1960s. Even though the team for which I broadcast lost both times, two of the finest football games I’ve ever seen were the previous two Battles of the Ravine on that field.

Two years ago was the aforementioned three-overtime game as Henderson went undefeated in the regular season and Ouachita finished 7-3. The Reddies came in ranked fourth nationally in NCAA Division II by the American Football Coaches Association. Ouachita was only three or four plays away from being undefeated after close losses to Harding and Southern Arkansas.

This was a battle between two teams that simply refused to lose. Ouachita had Henderson down to fourth down twice in the second overtime — one play from victory — and both times the talented Reddie quarterback Kevin Rodgers completed passes that few other players in Division II could have completed. Even in defeat, Ouachita quarterback Benson Jordan (the grandson of former Ouachita head coach and Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee Buddy Benson) played the best game of his career. It was a pleasure just to say you attended that game.

Four years ago, Ouachita had already wrapped up the first Great American Conference championship. The Reddies roared to a 41-17 lead in the third quarter behind the play of Rodgers, who was a freshman at the time. People began heading for the exits at that point.

Then, Ouachita quarterback Casey Cooper hit wide receiver Brett Reece for a six-yard touchdown. Next, Cooper found tight end Phillip Supernaw for an eight-yard touchdown. Finally, sophomore tailback Chris Rycraw scored on a 12-yard run with 3:47 left to make it a one-possession game, 41-36.

On the kickoff, Henderson fumbled, and Ouachita’s Ryan Newsom recovered at the Reddie 29. Henderson held on downs, and the Reddies got the ball back with 2:15 remaining. Henderson needed just one first down to be able to run out the clock. That first down never came. Christian Latoof’s punt carried 35 yards, and Ouachita took over at its 47 with 43 seconds on the A.U. Williams Field clock.

Cooper completed a 13-yard pass to Rycraw. Then, a 29-yard pass to Reece gave the Tigers the ball at the Henderson 11. On third-and-five from the Reddie six, Cooper completed a pass to Reece, who was pulled down a yard away from the end zone. A Cooper pass on first-and-goal was broken up by Chuck Obi.

The clock showed six-tenths of a second remaining. There was time for one play.

Rycraw got the ball on a dive up the middle. There was a huge pile at the goal line. None of the officials signaled touchdown, though fans on the home side thought Rycraw had scored. Henderson had held on, 41-36.

That played will be debated as long as anyone is still alive who attended the game. Henderson fans will tell you it rates among the greatest games in the history of the series. Ouachita fans will insist that Rycraw scored.

I’m a Ouachita man so, of course, I’ll tell you that the 1975 game was the best. In fact, it’s the best college football game I’ve ever seen, at any level.

I usually arrive at the stadium three hours in advance of a Battle of the Ravine to prepare for the broadcast. It was brutally cold as I got out of the car at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium last year, and the skies were cloudy. All I could think was: “It feels just like 1975.”

You see, the Battle of the Ravine and I go way back.

I was a high school student in 1975 and was on the Ouachita sideline that day.

I’m 56 now and still feel like a kid on Christmas morning when Battle of the Ravine day arrives.

It all started on Thanksgiving Day in 1895 as Ouachita defeated what was then known as Arkansas Methodist College by a final score of 8-0 on the Ouachita side of the ravine.

Long may it continue.

Post to Twitter

College football: Week 10

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Arkansas, Arkansas State and UCA all won on the same Saturday.

It was, in other words, a good Saturday for most college football fans in the state.

Alex Collins stole the show before a sparse homecoming crowd in Fayetteville as he rushed for 173 yards and a career-best five touchdowns in Arkansas’ 63-28 victory over Tennessee-Martin. Collins averaged 10.8 yards per carry and became only the third Razorback to score five touchdowns in a game. He became the fifth Hog to reach 3,000 career rushing yards. And apparently he wasn’t in hot water with his coach for being late to breakfast this time around. Maybe he borrowed an alarm clock from Ryan Mallett.

Quarterback Brandon Allen moved past Casey Dick and Matt Jones into fourth on the school’s career passing list. Allen now how 6,057 passing yards. He received the Crip Hall Award as the outstanding senior in the homecoming game as he went 14 of 19 through the air for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Little brother Austin Allen threw his first college touchdown pass, which went for 35 yards to Jeremy Sprinkle.

One cause for concern going into Saturday’s game against Ole Miss at Oxford is that the Hogs gave up 519 yards to the FCS opponent.

We were 8-2 on the picks last week. The record for the season is now 59-15.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 10:

Ole Miss 35, Arkansas 31 — The Rebels improved to 7-2 overall and 4-1 in the Southeastern Conference with a 27-19 victory at Auburn. The Gus Bus has a flat. The Tigers fell to 4-4 overall and 1-4 in the SEC. Ole Miss, the only team to beat Alabama thus far this season, can still capture the SEC West by winning out. If you’re wondering, Ole Miss and LSU play in Oxford on Nov. 21. The Hogs’ game at Oxford is the CBS afternoon game, the appetizer for LSU’s visit to Alabama that will be shown in prime time on the network. Ole Miss started the season 4-0, including that 43-37 victory in Tuscaloosa on Sept. 19. Reality hit with a 38-10 loss at Florida on Oct. 3 and a 37-24 loss at Memphis on Oct. 17 (an easy victory over New Mexico State was sandwiched between those two games). After the nonconference loss to Memphis, the Rebels have bounced back with SEC wins over Texas A&M (23-3) and Auburn. Expect this to be a close game. We’ll give the slight edge to the home team.

Appalachian State 30, Arkansas State 28 — The Red Wolves get more national television exposure — this time on ESPNU — with a Thursday night game at Appalachian State. It’s a battle for the Sun Belt Conference lead. Both teams are 4-0 in conference play. ASU improved to 5-3 overall in Jonesboro on Saturday night with a 48-34 victory over a Georgia State team that has won just one conference game in three seasons. Georgia State came into the game at 2-4 but led 27-20 at the half. The Red Wolves woke up in the second half and outscored their opponent 21-0 in the fourth quarter. Fredi Knighten was 21 of 29 passing for ASU for a season-high 224 yards. The Mountaineers beat Troy in triple overtime Saturday, 44-41, for their 10th consecutive Sun Belt win. They are 10-2 in conference play since joining the Sun Belt last season. Appalachian State is 7-1 overall this season.

UCA 27, Stephen F. Austin 24 — The Bears stayed alive in the Southland Conference race with a 21-16 homecoming victory over Southeastern Louisiana to go to 5-3 overall and 5-1 in conference play. Unfortunately for UCA, McNeese survived a scare against Abilene Christian and won 15-13 to stay alone atop the conference standings at 7-0. Blake Veasley and Dominique Thomas combined for 272 rushing yards for the Bears. Veasley, who has emerged as a star for UCA the past two weeks, had 192 of those yards. This Saturday afternoon sees the Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin come to Conway. The visitors, led by former Bear head coach Clint Conque, are 3-5 overall and 3-3 in conference play. UCA needs to win its final three games to have a chance at making the FCS playoffs.

Southern University 23, UAPB 10 — Things are going from bad to worse for the Golden Lions. UAPB fell to 1-7 overall and 0-6 in the SWAC last Saturday with a 54-29 loss at Prairie View A&M. The Golden Lions jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but the score was tied at 14-14 by halftime. Prairie View then ran off 26 consecutive points coming out of the break. UAPB, which has three conference games remaining, has not gone winless in conference play since 1997. Southern University comes into Pine Bluff this Saturday afternoon with a record of 4-4. Southern’s victories have come by scores of 50-13 over Mississippi Valley State, 50-31 over Jackson State, 45-34 over Alabama State and 40-21 over Texas Southern. The losses have been by scores of 62-15 to Louisiana Tech, 48-6 to Georgia, 47-42 to Prairie View and 48-7 to Alcorn State.

Henderson 29, Oklahoma Baptist 18 — The Reddies remain alone atop the Great American Conference with an 8-1 record following a 76-7 victory last Saturday in Arkadelphia over Southern Nazarene, which has lost 31 consecutive games. Henderson led 63-0 at halftime as junior quarterback Dallas Hardison out of Bentonville completed 10 of 13 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns. The Reddies had 408 yards of offense in the first half, and Southern Nazarene had 31. Henderson defenders came up with three interceptions during the game. The Reddies lead NCAA Division II with 22 interceptions on the season. Oklahoma Baptist, in its first year in the conference, is 2-7 but has been competitive at times. The Bison took Harding into overtime, in fact, before losing the first game of the season.

Ouachita 48, Southern Nazarene 22 — Ouachita went to 6-3 on the season Saturday with a 31-20 victory at home against Oklahoma Baptist. The Tigers are 10-0 in conference games at Cliff Harris Stadium since the stadium opened last year and will use this week’s road trip to Oklahoma to warm up for the Nov. 14 Battle of the Ravine at the stadium students like to call The Cliff. Against Oklahoma Baptist, redshirt freshman Kris Oliver from Arkadelphia had 193 rushing yards and 84 yards receiving. He was named the GAC offensive player of the week.

East Central Oklahoma 26, Southern Arkansas 25 — On Oct. 24, Southern Arkansas came within a play of beating Henderson (the Reddies scored on the final play of the game) and being tied for the conference lead. On Halloween, the Muleriders lost their second consecutive game to fall to 5-4 on the season. It was a listless performance as SAU fell by a score of 35-13 to 4-5 Southeastern Oklahoma. The Savage Storm held the Muleriders to a negative two rushing yards. SAU quarterback Barrett Renner was sacked eight times. East Central comes to Magnolia with a 6-3 record after a 21-18 win over UAM. East Central handed Henderson its only loss in September.

Harding 40, Northwestern Oklahoma 19 — The Bisons fell to 6-3 with a 21-13 loss at Southwestern Oklahoma. Southwestern became the first team to outrush Harding in more than four years. The Bisons are usually strong at home and should roll against a Northwestern Oklahoma team that fell to 3-6 with a loss at home last week to Arkansas Tech.

Arkansas Tech 34, Southwestern Oklahoma 33 — The Wonder Boys are alone in second in the GAC at 7-2 following their 53-21 victory at Northwestern Oklahoma. Tech was led on the ground last week by Brayden Stringer and Bryan Allen, who had 155 and 148 yards respectively. The Wonders Boys finished the game with 535 yards of offense. Southwestern is 6-3 and has its best team in a number of years. This should be a fun game with the edge going to the home team.

Southeastern Oklahoma 32, UAM 17 — The Savage Storm has its confidence back following the impressive victory over SAU. UAM, meanwhile, is 1-8 after its loss at East Central. The Boll Weevils scored 15 consecutive points in the fourth quarter to put a scare into East Central, but Jamie McGee missed a 51-yard field goal attempt at the end that would have sent the game to overtime.

Post to Twitter

College football: Week 9

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Razorback fans finally had a reason to celebrate.

Granted, this is a bad Auburn team. But it was a victory that had to occur if Arkansas was to have any hope of getting to six victories and making it to a minor bowl game.

Razorback teams have now played in four games of four overtimes or more. It was shades of the Houston Nutt era. Arkansas won in seven overtimes at Ole Miss in 2001, lost in six overtimes at Tennessee in 2002, won in seven overtimes at Kentucky in 2003 and won in three overtimes at LSU in 2007 in Nutt’s last game as Arkansas’ coach.

The previous overtime win at Fayetteville prior to last Saturday was against Alabama in 2006. Arkansas defeated Mississippi State in two overtimes at Starkville in 2010. In the Bielema era, the Hogs had lost twice to Texas A&M and once to Mississippi State in overtime.

Brandon Allen moved past Barry Lunney Jr. into sixth on the school’s career passing list as the Arkansas offense went 11 of 18 on third and fourth downs. Kody Walker and Drew Morgan scored two touchdowns each in overtime,

Now, it’s on to Tennessee-Martin. The recipe for Saturday afternoon in Fayetteville: Get the starters some good repetitions and don’t get anyone hurt.

We were 7-1 on the picks last week, going 7-0 on Saturday. The record for the season is now 51-13.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 9:

Arkansas 49, Tennessee-Martin 17 — Martin started its season with a 76-3 loss at Ole Miss. It won’t be that bad for the Skyhawks this week. The goal for them is to make sure Jeff Long hands over that big check. Martin is 5-2. Its other loss was 48-41 to Jacksonville State (which took Auburn to overtime). The victories were by scores of 72-10 over Bethel (an NAIA school), 31-17 over Tennessee Tech, 28-14 over Tennessee State, 44-14 over Austin Peay and 52-45 over Murray State. There’s not much more to say about this one as the Razorbacks tune up for the final stretch of four Southeastern Conference games.

Arkansas State 38, Georgia State 19 — The Red Wolves will have had 11 days to prepare for Saturday’s game in Jonesboro. They remained undefeated in conference play on Tuesday night of last week with a 37-27 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette at Jonesboro. ASU improved to 4-3 overall and 3-0 in the Sun Belt Conference, jumping out to a 27-0 lead in the second quarter against Louisiana-Lafayette. Georgia State has won only one game against a Sun Belt Conference opponent since joining the conference in 2013. Of the 16 losses, 10 have come by two touchdowns or more. This year the Panthers are 2-4 overall and 1-1 in Sun Belt play. The wins were by scores of 34-32 over New Mexico State and 31-19 over Ball State. The losses were by scores of 23-20 to Charlotte, 61-28 to Oregon, 41-33 to Liberty and 37-3 to Appalachian State.

UCA 28, Southeastern Louisiana 24 — It’s a Halloween homecoming at Conway as the Bears host Southeastern Louisiana. UCA improved its record to 4-3 overall and 4-1 in the Southland Conference last Saturday with a 35-17 win at Lamar. Blake Veasley rushed 49 times for 292 yards for the Bears, both single-game school records. He scored four touchdowns. The 49 rushes were the most for a player in an FCS game this season and the third most for any NCAA player in 2015. No. 1 on the list is a player from another Conway school — Dayton Winn of Division III Hendrix College with 52 carries. Southeastern has been up and down, bringing records of 4-3 overall and 3-2 in conference to Conway. The victories were by scores of 34-20 over Northwestern State, 28-17 over the Florida Institute of Technology, 30-27 over Lamar and 22-7 over Houston Baptist. The losses were by scores of 35-14 to Ohio, 21-7 to McNeese State and 28-27 to Stephen F. Austin.

Prairie View A&M 29, UAPB 6 — Things just keep getting worse for the Golden Lions, who are 1-6 overall and 0-5 in the SWAC. UAPB was listless last Saturday in a 37-3 loss at Jackson State. The Golden Lions were limited to 175 yards of offense in that one. The leading rusher for UAPB had only 27 yards. There’s not much hope against a Prairie View A&M team that is 4-2 overall and 4-1 in conference play.

Henderson 51, Southern Nazarene 13 — The Reddies remain alone atop the Great American Conference at 7-1 following a 29-28 win over Southern Arkansas last Saturday at Arkadelphia. Reddie quarterback Dallas Hardison from Bentonville ran six yards and dived into the end zone as time expired for the homecoming victory. The Reddies drove 94 yards for that score after stopping the Muleriders on fourth down. SAU decided not to kick the short field goal that would have given the visitors an eight-point lead. Hardison was 21 of 36 passing for 229 yards. This week, the Reddies will be able to toy with an 0-8 Southern Nazarene team as Henderson plays a second consecutive home game.

Ouachita 30, Oklahoma Baptist 23 — Ouachita is 9-0 in GAC play at Cliff Harris Stadium since the facility opened at the start of the 2014 season. The defending conference champions have struggled on the road this year, though. They’re 1-3 on the road and 5-3 overall. The good news for Ouachita is that Saturday’s game is at the place students like to call The Cliff. Ouachita won at home last week over UAM, 20-17, as freshman tailback Kris Oliver from Arkadelphia rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Junior running back Brandon Marks of Prescott is out for the season, but Ouachita counters with two talented freshmen in Oliver and Donelle Hoof out of Texas. It’s OBU vs. OBU this week as Oklahoma Baptist has made the move up to NCAA Division II from the NAIA and joined the GAC. Oklahoma Baptist is 2-6 in its first year in the conference. The two schools last played each other in football in 1940.

Arkansas Tech 31, Northwestern Oklahoma 26 — The Wonder Boys have won six games for the first time since 2009. Tech went to 6-2 last Saturday with a 57-37 victory in Russellville over 3-5 Southeastern Oklahoma. The  Wonder Boys scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions. Northwestern is 3-5 but has the talent to pull the upset at home. Tech will try to remain one game behind Henderson while hoping that one of the two OBUs upsets Henderson in the final two weeks of the season.

Harding 37, Southwestern Oklahoma 27 — Harding is also 6-2 following an impressive 62-20 victory over East Central Oklahoma. The Bisons, with their double-slot offense, scored touchdowns on their first five possessions. Harding had 557 rushing yards, just 10 short of a school record. Harding has lost only to the two Arkadelphia schools, Ouachita and Henderson. Southwestern is 5-3 and capable of beating Harding at home. The Bulldogs upset Ouachita in Weatherford when the Tigers were ranked No. 9 nationally and later beat a good East Central Oklahoma team at home.

Southern Arkansas 22, Southeastern Oklahoma 16 — The 5-3 Muleriders are just one play away from being tied for the conference lead. Of course, they’re also only a couple of plays away from being 3-5 after narrow victories over Ouachita and Southwestern Oklahoma. Southeastern’s season has been one of streaks. It started with close losses to Henderson and Ouachita. That was followed by victories over Oklahoma Baptist, Southern Nazarene and Southwestern Oklahoma. The Savage Storm has lost the past three games to Northwestern Oklahoma, Harding and Arkansas Tech. Expect Saturday’s game in Durant to be close.

East Central Oklahoma 32, UAM 21 — The Boll Weevils travel to Ada, Okla., with a 1-8 record, having only defeated winless Southern Nazarene. East Central is 5-3, having given Henderson its only loss and Arkansas Tech one of its two losses.


Post to Twitter

College football: Week 8

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Razorback football fans finally got a Saturday off, allowing them to sit down in front of the television set and watch two Southeastern Conference showdowns.

On Saturday afternoon on CBS, Alabama returned three interceptions for touchdowns in a 41-23 victory at Texas A&M. A crowd of 105,733 looked on in College Station as Alabama’s Derrick Henry ran for a career-high 236 yards and two touchdowns. The three interceptions returned for touchdowns marked the first time that had happened in the long, glorious history of Alabama football. Alabama moved to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the SEC while the Aggies fell to 5-1 and 2-1.

On Saturday night on ESPN, the Mad Hatter was back to his mad ways at LSU. A fake field goal with 10:40 left in the game broke a 28-28 tie, and LSU held on for a 35-28 victory over Florida. The play was executed perfectly and was LSU’s only touchdown in the second half. LSU is now 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the SEC. Florida fell to 6-1 and 4-1. Leonard Fournette remained atop the Heisman watch as he ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers. In 2010, LSU also beat Florida on a fake field goal. Someone should have warned the Gators’ new coach about the grass-eating Mad Hatter.

And who knew they played football at the University of Memphis (if you want to make a Tiger fan mad, just continue to call it Memphis State)? Good football. The Tigers’ 37-24 victory over Ole Miss was no fluke. Memphis is 6-0, has won 13 consecutive games and has the nation’s third-longest winning streak. It was the Tigers’ first victory over a ranked opponent since 1996. Ole Miss jumped to a 14-0 lead in the game’s first six minutes, but Memphis then scored 31 unanswered points. The crowd of 60,241 was the most for a game at the Liberty Bowl since 2006.

We were 6-1 on the picks last week to make the season record 44-12.

We have to get the picks out early for Week 8 since Arkansas State has another one of those silly Tuesday night games. So here goes:

Arkansas 27, Auburn 24 — Both teams have failed to live up to expectations. Auburn opened with a 31-24 victory in Atlanta over a Louisville team that has turned out to be weaker than most (certainly Bobby Petrino) were expecting and then struggled to beat Jacksonville State in overtime. That was followed by back-to-back losses of 45-21 to LSU and 17-9 to Mississippi State. The Tigers have improved their overall record to 4-2 since then with wins of 35-21 over San Jose State and 30-27 over Kentucky. Arkansas is the final SEC team to play a conference game at home. With the Hogs having had two weeks to prepare for Auburn, we’ll go with a hunch and give a slight advantage to the home team.

Louisiana-Lafayette 30, Arkansas State 28 — The Red Wolves are 3-3 overall, but they’re 2-0 in Sun Belt Conference play. They rallied at South Alabama last Tuesday night with a 29-point fourth quarter en route to a 49-31 victory. The Red Wolves trailed 31-20 with 13:12 remaining before scoring four touchdowns — including two by the defense — in a 5:17 span. What worries us about the Red Wolves is a lack of consistency. Louisiana-Lafayette is 2-3 overall and 1-0 in conference play. The Ragin’ Cajuns used a 28-point third quarter on Oct. 10 to break away from a halftime tie and beat Texas State, 49-27. The nonconference win was by a score of 44-17 over Northwestern State from the Southland Conference. The nonconference losses were by scores of 40-33 to Kentucky, 35-14 to Akron and 43-14 to Louisiana Tech. We’ll give the edge to Louisiana-Lafayette since it has won the past two meetings (both on Tuesday night) between the two schools, including a 55-40 victory last year.

Jackson State 19, UAPB 17 — The Golden Lions continue to struggle. They fell to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the SWAC with a 31-24 loss in Pine Bluff last Thursday night to Alabama State. Jackson State isn’t much better — 1-5 overall and 1-3 in the in the SWAC. Jackson State’s lone victory came by a score of 34-20 over Texas Southern in Jackson. The losses have come at the hands of Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee State, Southern University, Grambling State and Alabama A&M. We’ll give Jackson State the nod since it’s the homecoming game in Jackson.

UCA 31, Lamar 22 — The Bears had a chance to be alone in first place in the Southland Conference and played well for three quarters before a crowd of more than 10,000 people in Conway last Saturday night. With UCA leading in the fourth quarter, an errant snap hit a Bear receiver who was in motion. McNeese State scooped the ball up and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown that gave the Cowboys a 14-13 lead that they never relinquished. McNeese went on to win by a final score of 28-13, improving its record to 6-0 overall and 5-0 in conference. UCA is 3-3 overall and 3-1 in conference. The Bears travel this week to Beaumont, Texas, to take on a Lamar team that’s 3-3 overall and 2-2 in conference. Lamar’s wins have come by scores of 66-3 over tiny Bacone College, 49-46 over Sam Houston State and 44-28 over Abilene Christian. The losses have been by scores of 66-31 to Baylor, 30-27 to Southeastern Louisiana and 48-35 to Northwestern State.

Henderson 25, Southern Arkansas 21 — Two weeks ago, there were five teams tied for the Great American Conference lead. They were Henderson, Ouachita, Arkansas Tech, Harding and East Central Oklahoma. Now, Henderson (which won conference titles in 2012 and 2013) stands alone atop the GAC at 6-1. The Reddies, whose defense gets better each week, won 41-3 at 1-6 UAM last Saturday afternoon. Jaquan Cole rushed 16 times for 157 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown run. Henderson had 420 yards of offense and limited UAM to 254 yards. Southern Arkansas, which has its best team in a number of years, improved to 5-2 with a 32-28 win over the defending conference champions from Ouachita in the Murphy USA Classic at El Dorado. The Muleriders have a talented redshirt freshman quarterback named Barrett Renner, who was 23 of 27 passing for 383 yards against Ouachita. Renner threw a 16-yard touchdown pass as the Muleriders took their first lead of the day with just 37 seconds remaining in the game. Southern Arkansas has the talent to beat Henderson. But we’ve been impressed by the Reddie defense, and this game is at home in Arkadelphia. We’re starting to think Henderson will finish the regular season 10-1 and capture its third outright title in four years.

Ouachita 42, UAM 29 — Two weeks ago, the defending champions appeared to be on their way to at least a share of their third GAC title since 2011. Ouachita had just defeated a Harding team that was No. 12 in the country at the time, and the Tigers were 4-1. But the Ouachita defense has been bad the past two weeks in losses to Arkansas Tech and Southern Arkansas. After Southern Arkansas scored with 37 seconds left last week, the Ouachita offense drove to the Mulerider 12 in six plays. A pass into the end zone on the final play of the game fell incomplete. It was the kind of close game Ouachita would have won a year ago when it went undefeated in the regular season. The welcome news for the Tigers, who are 1-3 on the road this season, is that the next two games are at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia. Ouachita is 8-0 in regular-season games at The Cliff since the stadium opened at the start of the 2014 season.

Harding 35, East Central Oklahoma 33 — This should be an outstanding game between two 5-2 teams that are trying to stay alive in the conference race. East Central knocked Arkansas Tech out of a share of the conference lead with a 20-19 victory over the Wonder Boys in Ada last Saturday afternoon. Harding started 4-0 before back-to-back losses to the two Arkadelphia schools, Ouachita and Henderson. It was almost a third consecutive loss last Saturday, but the Bisons held on to defeat Southeastern Oklahoma in four overtimes at Durant, 63-60. Harding lost a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter and Southeastern (3-4) tied the game with 12 seconds left in overtime. We’ll give the advantage to the home team. The game is in Searcy.

Arkansas Tech 26, Southeastern Oklahoma 20 — The Wonder Boys started the season 4-0 but have come back to earth a bit with losses in two of their past three games. Southeastern is 3-4 but could just as easily be 5-2 like the Wonder Boys. The Savage Storm is capable of winning in Russellville on Saturday afternoon, but we’ll go with Tech due to a stout defense that’s the best in the GAC along with Henderson.

Post to Twitter

College football: Week 7

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

It’s the most anticipated weekend of the season for Razorback fans — the open date.

The Hog faithful can go about their business this Saturday without the frustration of following a team that has won just three Southeastern Conference games since the start of the 2013 season.

As predicted in this space last week, Arkansas hung around for three quarters in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. A Jake Coker to Calvin Ridley touchdown pass that covered 81 yards combined with a failed Arkansas fake punt attempt to propel the Tide to a 13-point victory.

Alabama outgained the Hogs, 396-220.

Bright spots?

Well, Alabama’s lowest previous point total this season had been 34 points.

The Tide ended Alex Collins’ streak of three 150-yard rushing games. Collins finished with just 26 yards on 12 carries. Alabama outrushed Arkansas, 134-44.

We must post the predictions early this week since Arkansas State has one of those strange Tuesday night games. The Red Wolves have another one next week.

College football games should NOT be played on Tuesday nights.

Yes, I’m a traditionalist.

Last Saturday in the Great American Conference started with five teams tied for the conference lead. Henderson, Arkansas Tech, Harding, Ouachita and East Central Oklahoma all had 4-1 records.

Now there are just two teams tied for the conference lead — Henderson and Tech.

Henderson beat Harding in Searcy.

Tech beat Ouachita in Russellville.

East Central lost at Southwestern Oklahoma.

We were 4-2 for the week, making the record 38-11 for the season.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 7 of the college football season:

Arkansas State 30, South Alabama 29 — The two teams appear evenly matched for this Tuesday night game. Arkansas State opened the season with losses to USC and Missouri. A 30-point loss to Toledo was sandwiched between victories over bad Missouri State and Idaho teams. So the Red Wolves are 2-3 overall. South Alabama is 3-2 with wins of 33-23 over Gardner-Webb, 34-27 over San Diego State and 24-18 over Troy. The losses came by scores of 48-9 to Nebraska and 63-13 to North Carolina. We’ll give a slight edge to the Red Wolves since quarterback Fredi Knighten, who hasn’t played since the third quarter of the loss to Missouri on Sept. 12, is expected to start tonight.

Alabama State 17, UAPB 15 — In a Thursday night game at Pine Bluff, a 2-4 Alabama State team takes on a 1-4 UAPB squad. Both schools obviously need a victory. Alabama State’s wins have been by scores of 45-15 over Mississippi Valley State and 41-23 over Texas Southern. The losses have come to Tennessee State, Alcorn State, Grambling State and Southern University. UAPB has struggled all season with losses to South Carolina State, Texas Southern, Alabama A&M and Alcorn State. The only victory has come against an NCAA Division II team, Morehouse College, and even that wasn’t easy.

McNeese State 28, UCA 18 — There will be a Southland Conference showdown in Conway on Saturday night as UCA (3-2, 3-0) hosts McNeese State (5-0, 3-0). McNeese likely wouldn’t be undefeated had its opener at LSU not been called off due to persistent thunderstorms. The Cowboys have been impressive since then with victories of 43-6 over Incarnate Word, 28-14 over Stephen F. Austin, 37-0 over Mississippi College, 37-7 over Nicholls and 21-7 over Southeastern Louisiana. UCA stayed undefeated in conference play last Saturday afternoon with a 43-7 victory at Houston Baptist. In his second start at quarterback for the Bears, Hayden Hildebrand threw four touchdown passes and had 274 yards through the air. He’s filling in for senior Taylor Reed from El Dorado, who has a shoulder injury.

Ouachita 32, Southern Arkansas 31 — This is a tossup. Both teams are 4-2 and in need of a victory to stay alive in the Great American Conference race. And the game is at a neutral location in El Dorado as the annual Murphy USA Classic is played at old Memorial Stadium. Southern Arkansas posted a 38-20 victory last Saturday over Oklahoma Baptist. The Muleriders had 378 yards of offense and limited Oklahoma Baptist to 151 yards. Ouachita was coming off an emotional victory over Harding (which was ranked No. 12 nationally at the time) but laid an egg in Russellville. An Arkansas Tech freshman named Bryan Allen from Forrest City rushed for 279 yards against the Tigers. It was Tech’s first win over Ouachita since 2007 and its first victory over a nationally ranked opponent (Ouachita came in at No. 20) since the 2009 Division II playoffs.

Henderson 39, UAM 13 — Based on their schedule, the 5-1 Reddies have a good chance of coming into the Battle of the Ravine at 9-1 with a share of the GAC title already secured. Henderson scored with less than eight minutes remaining to come from behind and beat Harding in Searcy, 22-17. The road game will be much easier this Saturday afternoon. UAM started the season 0-5 but got homecoming relief in Monticello last Saturday in the form of a Southern Nazarene team that has now lost 28 consecutive games. UAM won by a score of 51-10 as quarterback Hunter Leppert passed for 398 yards. Reality will return for Leppert this week against a stout Henderson defense.

Harding 27, Southeastern Oklahoma 24 — Harding started the year 4-0 and was climbing each week in the national rankings before running into the teams from Arkadelphia, Ouachita and Henderson. Now the 4-2 Bisons are fighting to stay alive in the GAC race and must go on the road to play a decent Southeastern Oklahoma team. Southeastern is 3-3 following a surprise 31-16 loss at Northwestern Oklahoma last Saturday.

East Central Oklahoma 19, Arkansas Tech 16 — Tech has been the surprise of the conference thus far, rolling to a 5-1 record with the only defeat being at Henderson. The Wonder Boys’ defense ranks alongside Henderson as one of the two best defenses in the GAC. And quarterback Arsenio Favor, a transfer from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has given the offense a spark that was missing last year. The Wonder Boys, though, are due a letdown following their homecoming victory over Ouachita. East Central was upset at Southwestern Oklahoma, 38-31, but remains in the top tier of GAC teams.

Post to Twitter

College football: Week 6

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

It took until October, but we finally had a weekend when the University of Arkansas, Arkansas State University and the University of Central Arkansas all won.

Our record for the year is 34-9, which is not bad. But the percentage would be so much better if we could figure out the Hogs.

We picked them to beat both Toledo and Texas Tech. They lost, of course.

We picked them to lose to Tennessee. You know what happened in Knoxville.

And as far as undefeated college football teams in Arkansas, “then there were none.”

Arkansas Tech and Harding went to Arkadelphia last Saturday with 4-0 records.

Ouachita dealt Harding a 26-21 defeat at Cliff Harris Stadium. Harding is now 16-2 in its previous 18 Great American Conference games with the only two losses having come at the hands of the team it wants to beat most, the Baptists from Ouachita.

A few hours later on the other side of U.S. Highway 67, Henderson beat Tech, 17-7.

Of course, I picked both Harding and Tech last week, leading to a 5-3 record overall.

So we now have five teams from the 12-team GAC tied for the conference lead with 4-1 records — Ouachita, Henderson, Harding, Arkansas Tech and East Central Oklahoma.

At the end of the day Saturday, there will be three teams at most at the top.

There are two huge games: Ouachita at Tech and Henderson at Harding. I expect both games to be close.

With that said, let’s get to the picks for Week 6:

Alabama 35, Arkansas 24 — Something tells me that Arkansas will hang around for at least three quarters in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night now that the SEC road game monkey is off the Razorbacks’ back. The 24-20 victory at Tennessee was the first SEC road win in the Bielema era. It was also the first time Arkansas had won a game decided by seven points or less in the Bielema era. Arkansas is now 1-9 in such games under its head coach. Alex Collins and Drew Morgan were impressive. Collins rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He has topped 150 yards rushing in three consecutive games. Morgan had five catches for 110 yards, his second consecutive 100-yard game. Brandon Allen was 11 of 24 passing for 219 yards. The Arkansas defense held Tennessee to 133 rushing yards (115 less than the season average coming into the game), and Arkansas led in second-half time of possession 21:57 to 8:03. That said, Bama looked like the Bama championship teams of old between the hedges in Athens on Saturday afternoon en route to a 38-10 spanking of previously undefeated Georgia. The Bulldog coaches even yanked starting quarterback Greyson Lambert late in the first half. The Tide led 24-3 at halftime and then returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown to start the second half. Alabama looked like a team that belongs in college football’s final four.

UCA 39, Houston Baptist 20 — The Bears finally got to play at home and responded with a 42-14 victory over Abilene Christian to even their season record at 2-2. The most important thing, though, is that they’re now 2-0 in the Southland Conference. UCA led 32-0 in the second quarter and never looked back. Houston Baptist opened the season with a 51-7 victory over tiny Bethany College from Kansas and then lost 34-10 to Northern Colorado, 49-21 to Abilene Christian and 63-14 to Sam Houston State. Those three losses were followed last Saturday by a 65-0 victory over College of Faith, which (best as I can determine) is a correspondence school in West Memphis that happens to field a football team. It’s at best a club team. I’m not sure why the NCAA allows games against the school to count. At any rate, Houston Baptist must face a real team in Houston this Saturday afternoon.

Ouachita 28, Arkansas Tech 21 — Ouachita trailed Harding 14-3 early but scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:40 left in the game on a pass from Malvern’s Austin Warford to Searcy’s Johnathan Powell. The Tigers then added a safety for the 26-21 victory. Last year after an overtime victory over Harding, the Tigers struggled to beat Tech at home. The Wonder Boys started the season 4-0 under the leadership of a transfer quarterback named Arsenio Favor, who came to Tech from the University of Alabama at Birmingham when UAB dropped football. Favor is 6-3, 240 pounds. He struggled last week against a Henderson defense that has only allowed seven points in the previous eight quarters. This is a tough one to pick. It will probably come down to which team has the fewest turnovers.

Harding 30, Henderson 27 — Another GAC showdown, and another tough pick. We’ll give the slight edge to Harding since the Bisons are home. Harding gave Henderson its first of two losses last year (the other was to Ouachita), and its double-slot offense remains dangerous. Henderson, which was a passing team when Kevin Rodgers was quarterback from 2012-14, is now more of a running team. Jaquan Cole rushed for 245 yards on 27 carries for the Reddies in the win over Tech. Henderson had 390 yards of offense, and 305 yards of it came on the ground. Henderson’s defense is vastly improved from last year. Tech had 323 yards of offense, far below its average of 482.5 yards in the first four games.

UAM 41, Southern Nazarene 38 — The Boll Weevils are 0-5 following a 56-28 loss to 1-4 Oklahoma Baptist, the conference’s newest member. Southern Nazarene, meanwhile, has lost 27 consecutive games. Somebody has to win. We’ll give the Weevils the edge since it’s their homecoming game.

Southern Arkansas 34, Oklahoma Baptist 25 — The Muleriders are 3-2 following their 55-20 win at Southern Nazarene. Oklahoma Baptist will provide a bit more of a challenge for SAU, which began the season with victories over Southwestern Oklahoma and Northwestern Oklahoma before falling to Harding (giving up 70 points in that one) and Arkansas Tech.

Post to Twitter

College football: Week 3

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

I was thinking about Jack Crowe early Saturday afternoon.

I was keeping an eye on a television monitor during a late lunch in west Little Rock, and it appeared that Jacksonville State was about to upset Auburn on the Plains.

Jacksonville State, you see, was Crowe’s last stop as a head coach. He’s no longer there, but he was on my mind as Auburn was forced to score in the final minute of play just to get the game to overtime. The two schools, which are only 108 miles apart, were playing for the first time.

Crowe was still the coach back on Labor Day weekend of 2010 when Jacksonville State went to Oxford, Miss., and stunned Ole Miss with a two-point conversion in the second overtime for a 49-48 win over a Rebel team that had led 31-10 at the half.

And, of course, it was Labor Day weekend in 1992 when Crowe’s University of Arkansas team fell to the Citadel. Crowe was axed the next day by Frank Broyles, the UA athletic director. I remember getting into my father’s pickup following a successful dove hunt in a field across the Ouachita River from Arkadelphia and being stunned when we turned on the radio and learned that Arkansas was trailing late.

I was the political editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette at the time. The next day, I was in Hot Springs to cover the welcome-home rally the city was throwing for Gov. Bill Clinton. It already was becoming evident that Clinton was going to be elected the next president of the United States. I was certain my story from Hot Springs would be at the top of the front page the next morning. That was not to be the case. When I called the newspaper to ask how much room I had for the next day’s story, I was told: “Keep it tight. Frank Broyles just fired Jack Crowe.”

It was interesting that I was thinking about Crowe last Saturday afternoon since the Razorbacks would lose a game later in the day that was Citadelesque in nature.

I knew there were problems for the Hogs at about 6 p.m. when I glanced down at my phone while preparing for the broadcast of Ouachita’s home game against Southeastern Oklahoma. I noticed that numerous people were posting messages that began: “Holy Toledo!”

What was most depressing in the hours that followed was seeing the social media crowd blame the loss on a stadium rather than a lack of preparation and a lack of execution.

I hate excuses.

It was the stadium’s fault?

Arkansas fans have always been good at whining about officiating, but blaming a stadium for a loss was a new one for me.

Here are a few of the lowlights:

— Toledo limited Arkansas to three points on three second-half drives that went inside the 10.

— Toledo broke Arkansas’ streak of having held seven consecutive opponents scoreless in the first quarter.

— It was Toledo’s first victory ever over a ranked team on the road and its first victory against a Southeastern Conference team.

— The Razorbacks are 1-5 in Little Rock since 2012.

— It was Bret Bielmea’s first nonconference home loss in 10 seasons as a head coach.

Obviously, I missed my pick for that game. But the record was still 8-2 in Week 2, making the Southern Fried blog 18-2 for the season.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 3:

Arkansas 40, Texas Tech 35 — The Red Raiders can score a lot of points quickly, and you can expect them to put points on the board again in Fayetteville on Saturday. Last Saturday, Patrick Mahomes threw for four touchdowns and rushed for a couple of more as Tech cruised past UTEP, 69-20. Mahomes, just a sophomore, was 18 of 33 passing for 361 yards. Last year, Tech was forced to come from behind to beat the Miners, 30-26, in El Paso. This appears to be a much better Tech team than the 2014 edition. The Red Raiders struggled on defense in a 59-45 victory over Sam Houston State but improved between the first and second weeks of the season. Tech gave up 637 yards against Sam Houston and 414 yards against UTEP. Look for a high-scoring game in which both teams gain plenty of yardage. Arkansas wins by doing something it was unable to do last week — scoring touchdowns at the end of drives.

Arkansas State 37, Missouri State 24 — After a thrashing to start the season at the hands of USC, Arkansas State came home last Saturday and gave Missouri all it could handle before losing, 27-20, in front of almost 30,000 people at Jonesboro. The Red Wolves actually led at the half of that game, 17-10. ASU was held to 37 yards in the second half and just 217 yards for the game. This is the first time since 2010 that an ASU team has started the season 0-2. The Red Wolves should right the ship this week against a Missouri State team that lost 63-7 to Memphis to start the season (this might be the best football team at Memphis in a long time) before edging Chadron State by a score of 21-13 last Saturday in Springfield.

Texas Southern 17, UAPB 14 — South Carolina State thumped UAPB, 35-7, in the season opener on ESPN. The Golden Lions came home from that game in Orlando ready to feast on an NCAA Division II team, Morehouse College, but the score was tied 7-7 at the end of regulation. UAPB finally prevailed in three overtimes, 29-27. Texas Southern is 1-1, having lost 38-11 in the Labor Day Classic at Houston to Prairie View A&M before coming home to down tiny Bacone College, 63-0, in the season’s second game. I will simply end with the same sentence I ended with last week: You get the feeling that this is going to be one of those years when nothing comes easily for the Golden Lions.

Ouachita 39, Southwestern Oklahoma 32 — The defending Great American Conference champions from Ouachita have now won 12 consecutive regular-season games and are 19-3 in their past 22 regular-season games. Ouachita was cruising at home in Arkadelphia last week against Southeastern Oklahoma with a 22-point lead and the ball in the Savage Storm red zone with less than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Then a nightmare scenario of events (a fumble returned for a touchdown, two onside kicks recovered by Southeastern, breakdowns in the Ouachita secondary) almost caused the Tigers to lose. They hung on, 42-40, to go to 2-0. It’s the longest road trip of the season this week as Ouachita takes on a Southwestern Oklahoma team that is improved from last year. Southwestern gave Southern Arkansas all it could handle in Magnolia in the season opener before falling by four points, 28-24. Last Saturday, the Bulldogs hung half a hundred on UAM to win by 30 points, 50-20. This should be a close, high-scoring game.

Southern Arkansas 28, Harding 27 — As we’ve been saying each week, this might be Bill Keopple’s best team yet at Southern Arkansas. The Muleriders followed up the win against Southwestern Oklahoma with a 49-14 victory at Northwestern Oklahoma. Seven players scored for the Muleriders. Southern Arkansas outgained Northwestern by more than 300 yards (595-210). Harding struggled in its season opener, beating Oklahoma Baptist in overtime, and then got on track last week with a 42-0 victory over a woeful Southern Nazarene team that has now lost 24 consecutive games. Harding is nationally ranked, but we’ll go with the home team in an upset.

Arkansas Tech 42, UAM 25 — The Wonder Boys have been impressive in their first two games. A 62-14 victory over Southern Nazarene to start the season was followed with a 50-7 victory over Oklahoma Baptist. That’s 112 points in eight quarters if you’re counting. Tech scored on each of its first seven drives against Oklahoma Baptist and held the conference’s newest member to just 160 yards of offense. The Wonder Boys had 460 yards rushing against Southern Nazarene and 219 yards rushing against Oklahoma Baptist. UAM has struggled in losses of 52-31 to Northwestern Oklahoma and 50-20 to Southwestern Oklahoma. So Tech has scored 112 points in its first two games, and UAM has given up 102 points. You can figure out the rest.

Henderson 38, Northwestern Oklahoma 19 — A good East Central Oklahoma team came into Arkadelphia on Thursday of last week and shocked the Reddies, 35-28. So it will be a Henderson team with plenty of question marks that makes the long trip to Alva, Okla., to take on a Northwestern Oklahoma team that started the 2015 season with a win over UAM and then fell hard to Southern Arkansas. Both teams are 1-1, but don’t let that fool you. Henderson has far more talent.

Post to Twitter