Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

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.

 

 

Post to Twitter

Rex’s Rankings: After three weeks

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Arkansas high school teams did well against out-of-state competition last Friday.

Springdale Har-Ber shut out Jenks, Okla.

Pulaski Academy demolished Bossier City Parkway.

Bentonville West defeated Muskogee, Okla.

Fayetteville took Bishop Dunne out of Dallas to overtime.

Junction City beat traditional north Louisiana powerhouse Haynesville by four touchdowns.

Things get serious this week as conference play cranks up.

Here are the rankings after three weeks of the 2017 season:

OVERALL

  1. Bryant
  2. Springdale Har-Ber
  3. North Little Rock
  4. Greenwood
  5. Pulaski Academy
  6. Bentonville West
  7. Cabot
  8. El Dorado
  9. Little Rock Christian
  10. Wynne

CLASS 7A

  1. Bryant
  2. Springdale Har-Ber
  3. North Little Rock
  4. Bentonville West
  5. Cabot

CLASS 6A

  1. Greenwood
  2. El Dorado
  3. Benton
  4. West Memphis
  5. Jonesboro

CLASS 5A

  1. Pulaski Academy
  2. Little Rock Christian
  3. Wynne
  4. Nettleton
  5. White Hall

CLASS 4A

  1. Prairie Grove
  2. Pea Ridge
  3. Arkadelphia
  4. Ashdown
  5. Joe T. Robinson

CLASS 3A

  1. Prescott
  2. Charleston
  3. Junction City
  4. Newport
  5. Mayflower

CLASS 2A

  1. Rison
  2. Mount Ida
  3. Foreman
  4. McCrory
  5. Danville

Post to Twitter

The remarkable Roaf family

Friday, September 15th, 2017

Dr. Clifton Roaf of Pine Bluff died last week.

If you’re a sports fan, you probably know more about his son than you know about Dr. Roaf. After all, Willie Roaf was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

I can tell you this: Dr. Roaf was one of the most inspiring men I’ve ever met. I came to know him when I worked as the director of corporate communications for Simmons Bank. He served on the bank’s board and also on the board of the Simmons Foundation.

His prayers before foundation board luncheons at the Simmons Building in downtown Pine Bluff were legendary, as were the pep talks he would give when things weren’t going as well as he thought they should be going in southeast Arkansas.

No one ever loved Pine Bluff more than Dr. Roaf. In a town where race relations have long been an issue, he was the consistent voice of reason.

He was just one part of the amazing Roaf family.

His wife, the late Andree Layton Roaf, became the first black woman to serve on the Arkansas Supreme Court when she was appointed by Gov. Jim Guy Tucker to succeed retiring Justice Steele Hays in January 1995. She wasn’t eligible to run for a full term on the high court but was appointed by Gov. Mike Huckabee to the Arkansas Court of Appeals, where she served for almost a decade. Andree Roaf died in 2009.

Sports Illustrated has had a number of talented writers through the years, and Gary Smith rates near the top of that list. In 1993, Smith wrote about the Roaf family.

“She carries a book with her,” Smith wrote of Andree Roaf. “She always does. Tonight it’s ‘The Fountainhead’ by Ayn Rand. She walks to the framed photographs that cover the top of the piano. Heads. Suits. Ties. Smiles. They are the prologue to her tale. They must be revealed first.

“She points to her grandfather, who won a scholarship to Yale in the early 1900s, graduated and became a teacher and the executive director of the Norfolk, Va., YMCA. Then to her other grandfather, a college graduate, superintendent of a school for orphans and wayward children.

“There’s her mother, Phoebe. Top five in her high school class, scholarship to Talladega College, honors graduate, master’s degree from Michigan State.

“And her father, William. Master’s degree from Fisk, director of equal employment opportunity for the Federal Reserve System, local executive director in the Urban League, poet, thespian, community leader.

“Here’s her sister, Mary. Honor student, master’s degree from New York University, former assistant postmaster general, now director of communications for the Child Welfare League of America. Next, her late sister, Serena. Honor student, Michigan State grad, clarinet player, advertising copywriter.

“Over here is Andree’s husband, Cliff, co-valedictorian of his high school class, degree in dentistry from Howard, member of the school board in Pine Bluff for 21 years. … Next to him there’s Andree herself. Honor student, Michigan State grad, law review, second in her law class at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a 3.78 grade point average. … Look, there’s Andree’s oldest child, Phoebe. Presidential scholar, cum laude graduate of Harvard, master’s degree from Princeton, research officer for a nonprofit organization designing programs for disadvantaged youths. And Andree’s second child, Mary. Honor student, winner of two state oratory contests, graduate of Georgetown, seventh-grade teacher at an inner-city school in Washington, D.C.”

And then there was Willie, one of the greatest offensive tackles to ever play the game.

Willie has often told reporters that his mother would have preferred that he become a doctor or an attorney. He was attracting so little interest from college recruiters as a football player at Pine Bluff High School that he considered switching to basketball.

Finally, Willie decided to play football at Louisiana Tech University. He was 6-4, 220 pounds when he went to Tech, small for a college offensive lineman. By his sophomore season, he was 6-5, 300 pounds.

Louisiana Tech played Alabama, Baylor, South Carolina, Ole Miss and West Virginia, allowing professional scouts plenty of opportunities to watch him by his senior season. Willie was picked in the first round of the 1993 NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints. He was the eighth selection overall and the first offensive lineman to be drafted that year. Willie spent the first nine years of a 13-year NFL career with the Saints. He started 131 games for New Orleans and helped the franchise to its first playoff win, a 2000 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams.

A torn ligament in his right knee forced Willie to miss the second half of the 2001 season. He was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, where he made the Pro Bowl in each of his four seasons. Roaf was voted to the Pro Bowl 11 times in 13 seasons. He earned a spot on the NFL All-Decade teams for the 1990s and 2000s.

Clifton Roaf was one of nine children who grew up in a four-room house at Pine Bluff. Smith described Dr. Roaf’s father as a man who “loaded railroad freight, worked fields, sawed wood and pushed mops to survive.”

Pine Bluff was among the most segregated cities in the South in those days. Dr. Roaf would later say that one could “look at an address and tell whether the person was white or black.”

“Sure he had been his high school’s co-valedictorian, but sports had always been his true love,” Smith wrote. “He had spent Friday nights playing football and Saturday mornings picking cotton, and he had become an all-state defensive lineman talented enough to do what was virtually unheard of for a black teenager in Arkansas in the 1950s — win a scholarship to a Big Ten school. But here he was (at Michigan State), hobbling through his senior year on a kneeful of mush, teaching freshman lineman how to pass rush, no longer even on the roster.”

Dr. Roaf had attended all-black Merrill High School at Pine Bluff.

In 1958, one of the city’s largest employers, International Paper Co., paid a Michigan State education professor named Raymond Hatch to evaluate the city’s schools. Dr. Roaf told the Pine Bluff Commercial years later: “What he found, of course, was a big discrepancy between the educational facilities at Pine Bluff High School and those at Merrill. They told him that they perhaps had someone who could go from this small segregated school in Pine Bluff and matriculate through a major white university, and that someone was I. Dr. Hatch was instrumental in me getting the scholarship to go there.”

Dr. Roaf boarded a train in 1959 and vowed that he would never return to the South. He had his train ticket, a copy of his financial aid agreement with Michigan State, a bag of clothes and $30.

Clifton Roaf was the first of several dozen black players from the South who were recruited during the tenure of legendary Coach Duffy Daugherty. Football success eluded Dr. Roaf at Michigan State, though.

“When I got hurt again in the Green and White game my second year, it ended for all practical purposes my athletic career,” he told the Commercial.

He met Andree, however.

She had been born in Nashville, Tenn., in a family where academics were stressed.

“To think how innocent it all seemed,” Smith wrote. “How benignly it began. A lovely spring Saturday in 1961 at Michigan State. A blind date for Cliff Roaf and Andree Layton, arranged by the girlfriend of Cliff’s teammate, Herb Adderly. Andree, a knockout — that was the scouting report. A little quirky perhaps. Rarely went to parties. Never had a boyfriend. Burned a hole clean through her sheet and mattress pad at age 11 with a hot light bulb while reading under the blanket at midnight so her parents wouldn’t know.

“A knockout bookworm, a wonderful anomaly. Cliff was intrigued. Never mind his right knee, which burned like dripping candle wax from his collision with another player that afternoon in the annual Green-White intrasquad game. Never mind the assistant coach’s order that Cliff, a sophomore backup defensive lineman for the Spartans, go to the campus hospital that night. A knockout bookworm. Besides, if they said the knee needed surgery, it would mean weeks of missed classes, certain failure in physics and chemistry, no college degree for a young man whose family had no money, none, to pay for an extra semester once his four-year academic-athletic scholarship ran out. Cliff was going to get a college degree. He found a cane. He hobbled through the date with Andree. They talked ideas. They talked books. His eyes kept growing bigger. So did his knee. It was a mango in the morning.

“The knee would never recover. Duffy Daugherty made the pain worse, burying Cliff in the depth chart for insubordination. All in one day Cliff lost a football career and gained a wife.

“‘They went into my living room at home and read — that’s how they dated,’ recalls Andree’s father, William Layton, a Renaissance man who loved writing and reading and acting and dancing and singing.”

Though she was born in Nashville, Andree later grew up in Ohio and Michigan. She wanted to pursue a career in biological sciences and graduated in 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in zoology. Cliff and Andree were married in July 1963. She was a bacteriologist for the Michigan Department of Health in Lansing from 1963-65. Andree then worked as a research biologist for the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in Washington, D.C., while her husband was training at Howard to be a dentist.

The couple moved to Pine Bluff in 1969 so Dr. Roaf could begin his practice. Andree was a staff assistant for the Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency from 1971-75 and then worked as a biologist with the National Center for Toxicological Research. She began driving to Little Rock for law school in 1975 and graduated in 1978. She taught at the law school for a year before joining the Pine Bluff firm Walker Roaf Campbell Ivory & Dunklin in 1979.

“I had to get another degree of some kind,” Andree Roaf said of her decision to attend law school. “In my family, if you only have a B.A., you feel like a dropout.”

In addition to being in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame, Willie Roaf was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2007, the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.

“It’s amazing to think a kid like me from Pine Bluff, barely recruited to college and signing with a program just entering NCAA Division I, could end up one of the best to play the game at my position,” he said. “It shows young football players from Arkansas that with a lot of hard work and great character you can achieve anything. I had great coaches and teammates along the way to help guide me. I always competed hard and strived to be the best.”

It didn’t hurt a bit to have Clifton Roaf and Andree Layton Roaf as parents.

They were a remarkable Arkansas couple.

Post to Twitter

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.

 

Post to Twitter

Rex’s Rankings: After two weeks

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Our No. 1 team overall — Bryant — survived in overtime with a one-point victory at Fayetteville as the Purple Dogs’ two-point conversion attempt failed.

But our No. 1 team in Class 6A — Jonesboro — went down to Conway.

Our No. 1 team in Class 4A — Nashville — went down to De Queen.

So the rankings are different as we head into Week 3. Here goes:

OVERALL

  1. Bryant
  2. Springdale Har-Ber
  3. North Little Rock
  4. Greenwood
  5. Pulaski Academy
  6. Fayetteville
  7. Bentonville West
  8. El Dorado
  9. Little Rock Christian
  10. Wynne

CLASS 7A

  1. Bryant
  2. Springdale Har-Ber
  3. North Little Rock
  4. Fayetteville
  5. Bentonville West

CLASS 6A

  1. Greenwood
  2. El Dorado
  3. Benton
  4. West Memphis
  5. Jonesboro

CLASS 5A

  1. Pulaski Academy
  2. Little Rock Christian
  3. Wynne
  4. Morrilton
  5. Harrison

CLASS 4A

  1. Prairie Grove
  2. Pea Ridge
  3. Arkadelphia
  4. Ashdown
  5. Joe. T. Robinson

CLASS 3A

  1. Prescott
  2. Harding Academy
  3. Charleston
  4. Junction City
  5. Newport

CLASS 2A

  1. Rison
  2. Mount Ida
  3. Foreman
  4. McCrory
  5. Danville

Post to Twitter

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.

Post to Twitter

Rex’s Rankings: After one week

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

The first week of the high school football season is in the books.

Benton came close yet again in the Salt Bowl in front of a crowd of more than 30,000 at War Memorial Stadium. But Bryant again got the victory.

Fayetteville is off to a 1-0 start in the Coach Billy Dawson era while his former team at Russellville was upset by Morrilton in the opener.

Some of the most impressive performances of the week belonged to Jonesboro, Greenwood, Bentonville West, El Dorado and Little Rock Christian.

Here are the rankings:

OVERALL

  1. Bryant
  2. Springdale Har-Ber
  3. North Little Rock
  4. Jonesboro
  5. Fayetteville
  6. Greenwood
  7. Pulaski Academy
  8. Bentonville West
  9. El Dorado
  10. Little Rock Christian

CLASS 7A

  1. Bryant
  2. Springdale Har-Ber
  3. North Little Rock
  4. Fayetteville
  5. Bentonville West

CLASS 6A

  1. Jonesboro
  2. Greenwood
  3. El Dorado
  4. Benton
  5. West Memphis

CLASS 5A

  1. Pulaski Academy
  2. Little Rock Christian
  3. Wynne
  4. Morrilton
  5. Alma

CLASS 4A

  1. Nashville
  2. Prairie Grove
  3. Pea Ridge
  4. Arkadelphia
  5. Ashdown

CLASS 3A

  1. Prescott
  2. Harding Academy
  3. Charleston
  4. Glen Rose
  5. Junction City

CLASS 2A

  1. Rison
  2. Mount Ida
  3. Foreman
  4. Hector
  5. McCrory

Post to Twitter

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.

Post to Twitter

Rex’s Rankings: The preseason

Friday, August 25th, 2017

It’s high school football season in Arkansas.

I hope to be at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium for doubleheaders on Monday and Tuesday nights. It’s always fun to start the season with a dose of four games in two days.

On Friday nights, I’ll again be hosting a high school scoreboard show that’s heard on more than 50 radio stations across the state. We’ll be on from 10 p.m. until midnight for 12 consecutive Fridays (the regular season and the first two weeks of the playoffs). Each Friday night, I’ll have updated rankings before we’re off the air. Those rankings will later be posted here on the blog.

You’ll notice a lot of familiar names in our preseason rankings. Here’s goes:

OVERALL

  1. Bryant
  2. Springdale Har-Ber
  3. North Little Rock
  4. Jonesboro
  5. Pine Bluff
  6. Fayetteville
  7. Greenwood
  8. Pulaski Academy
  9. Bentonville
  10. El Dorado

CLASS 7A

  1. Bryant
  2. Springdale Har-Ber
  3. North Little Rock
  4. Fayetteville
  5. Bentonville

CLASS 6A

  1. Jonesboro
  2. Pine Bluff
  3. Greenwood
  4. El Dorado
  5. Benton

CLASS 5A

  1. Pulaski Academy
  2. Batesville
  3. Wynne
  4. Morrilton
  5. Alma

CLASS 4A

  1. Nashville
  2. Warren
  3. Stuttgart
  4. Prairie Grove
  5. Pea Ridge

CLASS 3A

  1. Prescott
  2. Harding Academy
  3. Charleston
  4. Glen Rose
  5. Junction City

CLASS 2A

  1. Rison
  2. Mount Ida
  3. Des Arc
  4. Danville
  5. Camden Harmony Grove

Post to Twitter

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.

Post to Twitter