Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

College football: Week 4

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

Razorback fans were able to see some light at the end of the tunnel last Saturday in Fayetteville.

After experiencing that “here we go again” feeling when Colorado State tied the score at 34-34, Arkansas scored 21 unanswered points down the stretch to move to 2-1 on the season.

If nothing else, it appears the Hogs have found a quarterback.

Nick Starkel was 20 of 35 passing in his first start for 305 yards and three touchdowns. It was the first 300-yard performance for an Arkansas quarterback in two years.

Meanwhile, Rakeem Boyd rushed for a career-high 122 yards as Arkansas had 520 yards of offense. The Razorbacks were six of 12 on first down.

We were 8-0 on the picks last week (thank you UCA for that late score) to make the record 17-3 for the season.

Here are the picks as we enter the fourth weekend of the college football season:

Arkansas 45, San Jose State 21 — The 55 points put on the board against Colorado State last week represented the most points scored by an Arkansas team against an FBS opponent since 2016. While we don’t think the Hogs will score that many points this week against San Jose State, the defense should be able to limit the Spartans to fewer than the 34 points Colorado State had against Arkansas. A win would give the Razorbacks a 3-1 record heading into the Sept. 28 game in Arlington against Texas A&M. San Jose State is 1-1 with a 35-18 victory over Northern Colorado and a 34-16 loss to Tulsa.

Arkansas State 37, Southern Illinois 27 — When the fans at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., wore pink in honor of the late Wendy Anderson, the gesture received nationwide attention that went beyond sports outlets. NBC’s Today Show, for instance, had the story on Monday morning. Unfortunately, Blake Anderson’s Red Wolves were never competitive in the actual game. Georgia won by a final score of 55-0. It was 34-0 at halftime as the Red Wolves had only 81 yards of offense (just seven yards rushing) in the first half. The score was 27-0 before ASU crossed midfield. The Red Wolves return to Jonesboro this Saturday to take on a 2-1 Southern Illinois squad. The Salukis have defeated Massachusetts and Tennessee-Martin since losing to Southeast Missouri in the season opener. The Red Wolves should have the edge against this FCS school, which was 2-9 a year ago.

Hawaii 41, UCA 25 — Bear players and coaches get a nice trip to Hawaii this week to take on the Rainbow Warriors. Hawaii started the season with victories of 45-38 over Arizona and 31-28 over Oregon State before falling 52-20 at Washington last Saturday. UCA improved to 3-0 with a 31-30 win over Abilene Christian in the Southland Conference opener at Conway. The Bears took the lead with 1:30 left in the game on a three-yard touchdown run by senior Carlos Blackman. Abilene Christian then missed a 46-yard field goal attempt with 30 seconds remaining.

Tennessee State 19, UAPB 18 — A UAPB team has won back-to-back games for the first time since 2014. The Golden Lions had a 53-15 victory last Saturday against Langston from the NAIA. UAPB goes to Nashville this week to do battle with a 1-2 Tennessee State squad that won its opener 26-20 over Mississippi Valley State before losses of 45-26 to Middle Tennessee and 49-44 to Jackson State. The slight edge goes to the home team in this one.

Ouachita 39, Northwestern Oklahoma 26 — The Tigers are ranked No. 6 nationally in NCAA Division II by the American Football Coaches Association following a 42-13 victory at Arkansas Tech last Saturday night. Brayden Brazeal, Ouachita’s sophomore quarterback from England, was 12 of 15 passing for 227 yards and three touchdowns.  The victory marked Ouachita’s 18th consecutive win in Great American Conference play. Northwestern Oklahoma brings a 1-1 record to Arkadelphia on Saturday night. We’re told that Cliff Harris will be in the house at Cliff Harris Stadium.

Henderson 40, Arkansas Tech 22 — The Reddies are off to a 2-0 start and appear to be much better than the squad that finished 5-6 a year ago. Henderson posted a 34-6 win at home over 0-2 Southern Nazarene last week. Richard Stammetti was 34 of 44 passing for the Reddies for 396 yards and three touchdowns. Arkansas Tech, which must make the road trip to Arkadelphia, is 0-2 with an overtime loss at UAM and the blowout loss against Ouachita in Russellville.

Harding 24, Southern Arkansas 23 — This is an interesting matchup in Magnolia. Harding is 1-1. The Bisons bounced back from their 16-14 loss to Ouachita in that highly touted season opener and then beat UAM 24-0 at home in Searcy last Saturday. All the points were scored in the first half. Southern Arkansas, which upset Harding in Searcy last year, is off to a 2-0 start. The Muleriders got a 48-yard field goal from sophomore Austin Wilkerson in Magnolia last Saturday on the final play of the game. That resulted in a 30-28 victory over 0-2 Oklahoma Baptist. Harding is trying to keep pace with Ouachita in the GAC race and simply can’t afford to start the season 1-2.

Southwestern Oklahoma 33, UAM 30 — Southwestern Oklahoma is off to a surprising 2-0 start following a 3-8 record in 2018. UAM, which finished 6-5 a year ago, is 1-1 following the win over Arkansas Tech and the loss to Harding. UAM is the home team, but we’ll go with the visitors in this one.

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College football: Week 3

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

Razorback fans are asking themselves when the Arkansas football program will hit rock bottom and start the slow climb back up.

It has to happen at some point, doesn’t it?

Saturday’s 31-17 loss at Oxford was the 12th consecutive Southeastern Conference defeat for the Hogs. The most recent SEC win came in Oxford two years ago by a final score of 38-37.

The Razorbacks are 1-19 in their past 20 games against teams from Power 5 conferences. For those of us who grew up in this state in the 1960s and 1970s (the three top programs in college football in the decade of the ’60s were Alabama, Texas and Arkansas), the depths to which this program has fallen defy logic.

Arkansas had just 137 yards of offense and three points in the first half at Ole Miss. At the end of the game in Oxford, the Razorbacks had been outgained 483-361.

Arkansas’ 61 rushing yards were the fewest allowed by an Ole Miss team in four years.

Arkansas saw Nick Starkel go 17 of 24 through the air for 201 yards passing in the second half after Ben Hicks had gone seven of 16 for just 98 yards in the first half. Get that slow vehicle out of the left lane! The hammer is definitely not down.

Starkel will get the start this Saturday in Fayetteville against Colorado State.

We were 7-1 on the picks last week (missing only the UAPB game) to make the record 9-3 on the year.

Here are the selections for this Saturday’s games:

Arkansas 30, Colorado State 27 — Style points don’t matter at this point. Just get a W. That should be the mantra in Fayetteville, even if it’s by a single point. Colorado State trailed Arkansas 27-9 last year before rallying for a 34-27 victory. The Rams opened this season with a 52-31 loss to a Colorado team that upset Nebraska the following week. A 38-13 victory over outclassed Western Illinois last weekend allowed Colorado State to break a six-game losing streak. With Starkel now getting the start at quarterback, we’re going to give a slight advantage to the Hogs.

Georgia 42, Arkansas State 26 — My favorite highlight of the college football season so far isn’t something that occurred on the field. It’s instead the footage of Arkansas State University head coach Blake Anderson entering a meeting room in Las Vegas with these words: “Y’all got room for one more?” Anderson had been on a leave of absence since shortly before his wife Wendy’s death on Aug. 19. The Red Wolves, who lost their opener to SMU in Jonesboro, played inspired football in a 43-17 victory over UNLV. It was the biggest margin of victory against a nonconference FBS opponent since 2011. ASU had 498 yards of offense, and the Red Wolf defense held UNLV’s starting quarterback to just 42 yards passing. This week will see the Red Wolves go between the hedges in Athens, Ga., against a Georgia team that beat Murray State 63-17 last Saturday. Jake Fromm threw for 166 yards and a score. Georgia scored 35 of its points in the second quarter before clearing the benches. ASU won’t win, but the Red Wolves should play Georgia a lot closer than Murray State did. The keys for ASU are to play decent football, avoid injuries and pick up the big check.

UCA 29, Abilene Christian 22 — The Bears improved to 2-0 on the 2019 season with a 24-16 win at Austin Peay. UCA had trailed 16-10 in the fourth quarter but rallied with two touchdowns down the stretch. UCA quarterback Breylin Smith completed 19 of 30 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns. He’s the real deal. The Bears finally get a home game at Conway as Abilene Christian rolls into town for the Southland Conference opener. The two schools played each other in the final game of the season a year ago with the Bears winning by 10 points, 16-6. This year’s Abilene Christian team comes to Conway following a 51-31 loss to North Texas and a 66-14 victory over Arizona Christian. Go with the home team.

UAPB 19, Langston 15 — One of the most pleasant surprises of the weekend was UAPB’s 52-34 victory over Alabama A&M in the SWAC opener at Huntsville, Ala. The Golden Lions, who had lost at TCU the previous week, are now 2-0. UAPB had 632 yards of offense. Keshawn Williams rushed for 206 yards for the Golden Lions. Langston comes to Pine Bluff for the home opener. Granted, UAPB is an FCS program and Langston is an NAIA program. But in recent years, victories over NAIA squads haven’t been guaranteed for the struggling UAPB program. Langston was 9-2 last year with a trip to the NAIA playoffs. The season ended with a 15-9 loss to Kansas Wesleyan in the first round. Langston won its opener last Saturday, 21-20, over McPherson. This is an improved UAPB squad. It won’t be easy, but we’re calling for a Golden Lion victory in Pine Bluff.

Ouachita 31, Arkansas Tech 25 — The Tigers are ranked No. 6 nationally in NCAA Division II by the American Football Coaches Association but might suffer somewhat of a letdown following an emotional 16-14 win at home last week over nationally ranked Harding. It was the national Division II game of the week on ESPN3. Gabe Goodman, a true freshman from Arkadelphia, hit three of his four field goal attempts for the Tigers. That included a 38-yard field goal with 1:05 left that proved the difference. Ouachita and Harding both made the Division II playoffs a year ago and could be back this season. Tech, which has had two head coaches since the end of last season, fell in overtime at UAM.

Harding 24, UAM 13 — Expect Harding to bounce back from its heartbreaking loss at Arkadelphia. The Harding program has more victories (33) the past three seasons than any college program in the state. UAM will hang around for at least three quarters, though. The Boll Weevils won their opener, 26-23, in overtime over Arkansas Tech when Josh Marini hit a 23-yard field goal. UAM went 6-5 in the regular season last year. Coach Hud Jackson should be able to lead his team to another winning record in 2019.

Henderson 40, Southern Nazarene 23 — Coach Scott Maxfield picked up his 100th victory as the Henderson head man as the Reddies opened the season with a 35-28 road win at Oklahoma Baptist. Reddie quarterback Richard Stammetti threw four touchdown passes. Look for Henderson to significantly improve upon last season’s 5-6 record. This game is at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium in Arkadelphia, and the Reddie program (which has won three GAC titles since 2012) will be anxious to show that last year’s losing record was a fluke.

Southern Arkansas 32, Oklahoma Baptist 28 — The Muleriders opened the season with a 34-14 road victory at Southern Nazarene. They’re at home in Magnolia this Saturday night against Oklahoma Baptist, which failed to defeat any of the six Arkansas GAC schools last season. The Muleriders piled up 323 yards on the ground against Southern Nazarene.

 

 

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Rex’s Rankings: After two weeks

Monday, September 9th, 2019

North Little Rock, with its quarterback suspended, laid an egg last Friday night in a 23-0 loss to Memphis Whitehaven.

We’re not used to seeing North Little Rock lose a game in the regular season. The loss snapped a 37-game regular-season winning streak for the Charging Wildcats.

We’re going to drop the team from No. 1 to No. 7 overall and let it work its way back up.

In the game of the week, Bentonville downed Conway by a final score of 17-10. We had Conway at No. 4 and Bentonville at No. 5 last week. This week, it’s Bentonville at No. 3 and Conway still at No. 4.

Greenwood is clearly the class of Class 6A again. The Bulldogs opened their season with a 38-10 win over Fort Smith Northside.

Here are the rankings after two weeks of the season:

OVERALL

  1. Bryant
  2. Greenwood
  3. Bentonville
  4. Conway
  5. Pulaski Academy
  6. Cabot
  7. North Little Rock
  8. Arkadelphia
  9. Little Rock Christian
  10. Harrison

CLASS 7A

  1. Bryant
  2. Bentonville
  3. Conway
  4. Cabot
  5. North Little Rock

CLASS 6A

  1. Greenwood
  2. Searcy
  3. Jonesboro
  4. Lake Hamilton
  5. West Memphis

CLASS 5A

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

CLASS 4A

  1. Arkadelphia
  2. Nashville
  3. Warren
  4. Shiloh Christian
  5. Joe T. Robinson

CLASS 3A

  1. Camden Harmony Grove
  2. McGehee
  3. Prescott
  4. Osceola
  5. Rison

CLASS 2A

  1. Hazen
  2. Fordyce
  3. Junction City
  4. Des Arc
  5. Gurdon

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College football: Week 2

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

A win is a win, right?

Attendance was announced at 61,055 at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium last Saturday afternoon, and you can bet that a majority of those fans left disappointed with Arkansas’ performance in a 20-13 victory over Portland State.

“There’s no such thing as a bad win,” said Razorback head coach Chad Morris.

OK, coach, we’ll play along. We won’t use the adjective “bad.”

Let’s just say that a Southeastern Conference team playing at home should never find itself hanging on for dear life at the end against an FCS squad.

It was the fifth consecutive season opener for a Razorback team to win. Arkansas finished the game with 204 yards on the ground. Rakeem Boyd gained 114 of those rushing yards, his fourth time as a Razorback to rush for more than 100 yards.

There were several bright spots on defense. An Arkansas team had three interceptions for the first time since 2014, and the Hogs also had six sacks.

It was the offense that caused the most headaches. Arkansas had the ball in Portland State territory on 11 of 12 possessions but had a hard time finishing drives with touchdowns.

And things are going to get much tougher this week with the SEC opener in Oxford against Ole Miss.

We were 2-2 on the picks last week.

We figured UCA would keep it close against Western Kentucky, but we didn’t climb out on that limb and predict the Bears to win outright. And we perhaps let emotion get the best of us in picking Arkansas State to beat SMU in Jonesboro.

So let’s move on and get to the picks for Week 2:

Ole Miss 27, Arkansas 24 — The Rebels fell to a good Memphis team, 15-10, at the Liberty Bowl on Saturday. Ole Miss had only 42 yards of offense in the first half. The Arkansas defense probably won’t be able to replicate what the Memphis defense did, but this is a winnable game for the Hogs. The key will be on the offensive side of the ball, especially at the quarterback position. Ben Hicks was just 14 of 29 passing against Portland State for 143 yards. Will we see more of Nick Starkel this week? I think so. Hicks played all but two series in the opener. The Rebels were 5-7 a year ago, and that was enough for Matt Luke to bring in two new coordinators. Both are former FBS head coaches. Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona) is the offensive coordinator. Mike MacIntyre (Colorado) is the defensive coordinator.

Arkansas State 29, UNLV 28 — In David Duggan’s first game as interim head coach, the Red Wolves fell 37-30 to SMU in Jonesboro. ASU junior quarterback Logan Bonner threw four touchdown passes to Omar Bayless, and Bayless tied the school’s single-game record. The Red Wolves make the long trip west this week to do battle with a UNLV squad that’s 1-0 following a 56-23 win last week over Southern Utah. The Rebels were 4-8 a year ago, including a 27-20 loss to ASU in Jonesboro. A UNLV team has not started a season 2-0 since John Robinson’s first year as head coach in 1999 when the Rebels had wins against North Texas and Baylor.

UCA 30, Austin Peay 22 — How about those Bears? They went on the road on Thursday of last week and returned from Bowling Green, Ky., with a 35-28 victory over Western Kentucky of Conference USA. Of course, it’s not a new thing for UCA to beat an FBS school. Don’t forget that the Bears won at Arkansas State just three years ago. UCA quarterback Breylin Smith was 20 of 28 passing for 324 yards. Austin Peay is 1-0 following its 42-10 win over North Carolina Central. The Governors were 5-6 a year ago.

Alabama A&M 19, UAPB 12 — The Golden Lions hung around for a half last Saturday night at Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth before falling 38-7 to TCU. The Horned Frogs outgained the Golden Lions 484-225. This week’s road opponent for UAPB is Alabama A&M, which opened its season on national television Sunday afternoon with a 35-30 victory over Morehouse in the Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic at Canton, Ohio. Alabama A&M was 6-5 last year (UAPB was 2-9), including a 45-14 victory over the Golden Lions in Pine Bluff. Expect for it to be closer this year.

Ouachita 17, Harding 14 — What a way to open the Great American Conference season. Ouachita and Harding both went to the NCAA Division II playoffs last year. Ouachita is No. 4 and No. 5 in the two major Division II polls. Harding is No. 16 and No. 18. Ouachita has won four of the first eight GAC titles, and Harding has won one (Henderson won the other three). The Ouachita-Harding game has been decided in the final minutes of play for six consecutive seasons. Ouachita won 7-3 in Searcy last year with a goal-line stand at the end of the game. The Tigers went on to win the conference title and go 11-0 in the regular season. It’s the biggest Division II game in the nation this week, and it kicks off at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia. We’ll give a slight edge to the home team, but this one could easily go the other way.

UAM 31, Arkansas Tech 26 — The Boll Weevils were 6-5 in the regular season a year ago, and Arkansas Tech was a disappointing 3-8. Tech fired its head coach, Raymond Monica, at the end of the season and hired Bo Atterbury away from Southeastern Oklahoma. Before spring practice was over, Atterbury had resigned for what were described publicly as health reasons. Bring in Kyle Shipp, a former Tech player who spent the past five seasons as the UAM offensive coordinator. He would love to win his head coaching debut against his former employer on Thursday night, but the Bolls Weevils appear to have the talent advantage at this point despite the loss of three-year starter Cole Sears at quarterback.

Henderson 39, Oklahoma Baptist 34 — The Reddies were an uncharacteristic 5-6 a year ago but look to be improved with the return of quarterback Richard Stammetti, who had 2,459 yards passing in 2018. Henderson also returns two good running backs in Logan Moragne and Querale Hall. Reddie head coach Scott Maxfield has been oddly quiet during the preseason. That means he’s probably prepared to surprise some folks this year as Henderson again becomes a contender. In the words of Harding head coach Paul Simmons: “It would be a lot more surprising if Henderson didn’t bounce back. He has been at the top too long.”

Southern Arkansas 40, Southern Nazarene 23 — The Muleriders thought they had the talent to win the conference a year ago but finished the regular season 8-3. What was supposed to be a showdown against Ouachita turned into a 35-10 Tiger victory. SAU had defeated Harding in the second week of the season. The Muleriders graduated their best offensive player (quarterback Barrett Renner) and their best defensive player (end DaVondrick Lison). But there’s still plenty of talent in Magnolia.

 

 

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Rex’s Rankings: After one week

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

Last week was that crazy first week of high school football when games are played on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and even Saturday.

Things return to normal this week with the vast majority of games on Friday night.

One thing we know following the first week of the season: North Little Rock and Bryant are going to be very good again.

North Little Rock rolled to a 19-0 victory over Tulsa Washington in a game played Saturday in Bentonville.

Bryant made it look easy in the Salt Bowl at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock on Friday night with a 42-14 victory over Benton.

Our top team in Class 6A, Greenwood, doesn’t open the season until this week.

For the top team in Class 5A, Pulaski Academy, the good news is that its offense scored 84 points.

The bad news is that its defense gave up 68 points to a Springdale Har-Ber team that doesn’t appear to be among the top tier of Class 7A squads.

Arkadelphia, Nashville, and Joe T. Robinson are in the same conference but again appear to be the top programs in Class 4A along with Warren and Shiloh Christian.

In Class 3A, the game of the week saw Rison outlast Prescott 42-40 in two overtimes. Those two teams flip spots. In the preseason poll, we had Prescott at No. 1 in Class 3A and Rison at No. 2.

Here are the rankings after one week of play:

OVERALL

  1. North Little Rock
  2. Bryant
  3. Greenwood
  4. Conway
  5. Bentonville
  6. Pulaski Academy
  7. Fayetteville
  8. Arkadelphia
  9. Little Rock Christian
  10. Harrison

CLASS 7A

  1. North Little Rock
  2. Bryant
  3. Conway
  4. Bentonville
  5. Fayetteville

CLASS 6A

  1. Greenwood
  2. Russellville
  3. Marion
  4. Searcy
  5. Jonesboro

CLASS 5A

  1. Pulaski Academy
  2. Little Rock Christian
  3. Harrison
  4. Little Rock McClellan
  5. Texarkana

CLASS 4A

  1. Arkadelphia
  2. Nashville
  3. Warren
  4. Shiloh Christian
  5. Joe T. Robinson

CLASS 3A

  1. Rison
  2. Prescott
  3. Camden Harmony Grove
  4. Smackover
  5. McGehee

CLASS 2A

  1. Gurdon
  2. Hazen
  3. Des Arc
  4. Fordyce
  5. Junction City

 

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College football: Week 1

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

Another college football season begins in earnest this week.

Normally, a kickoff time of 3 p.m. on an August afternoon in Fayetteville would be brutal. But it looks as if the weather is going to give University of Arkansas fans a break with temperatures and humidity levels falling late in the week.

The attitude of Razorback fans coming into the 2019 season can best be described with this word: Cautious.

Not “cautious optimism,” mind you. I sense going into this season that fans are being careful not to get too high or too low following that 2-10 debacle in the first year of the Chad Morris regime. They’re pragmatic for a change, telling themselves: “This is a team that plays in the SEC West, and there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Mark this down, however: The Razorbacks need to get to at least five or six victories this year or there will be serious questions being asked about Morris’ ability to get it done.

The Razorback fan base has been beat down. Consider that:

— Arkansas has had just one winning season since Bobby Petrino left following the 2011 season.

— The Razorbacks have the worst SEC record of any of the 14 conference teams since then — 13-43. The next worst in the SEC West is Ole Miss at 23-33. The next worst in the conference as a whole are Tennessee and Kentucky at 17-39.

The facts speak for themselves. With an overall record of 35-52 the past seven years and home losses to teams such as Louisiana-Monroe and Toledo, it’s evident that Arkansas has the worst football program in the SEC.

That doesn’t mean Arkansas — with its facilities and tradition — will stay there. The road back to respectability can begin Saturday against Portland State.

Let’s get to the picks:

Arkansas 49, Portland State 20 — Even given the current state of the program, this should be a relatively easy Hog victory over an FCS squad. Portland State was 4-7 overall and 3-5 in Big Sky Conference play a year ago. The Vikings were 0-11 the previous season. We now know that Ben Hicks will start at quarterback for the Razorbacks, though you can expect Nick Starkel to get plenty of work. The goals in this game are to iron out the first-game kinks, build a big enough lead early to allow lots of substitutions and avoid major injuries in advance of the Sept. 7 Ole Miss game in Oxford. The Rebels will have their hands full Saturday against a good Memphis team. That contest will be telecast at 11 a.m. on ABC.

Arkansas State 31, SMU 30 — It promises to be an emotional night in Jonesboro as the Red Wolves play for the first time since the death of Wendy Anderson, the wife of head coach Blake Anderson. ASU was 8-5 overall and 5-3 in Sun Belt Conference play last year, which didn’t meet the high expectations of Red Wolf fans these days. ASU won back-to-back Sun Belt championships in 2015-16. Anderson, who now has a 39-25 record at the school, cleaned house on his coaching staff following last season. With 13 returning starters, the Red Wolves should be better. SMU brings in a team that was 5-7 last year but had a quality win over Houston.

Western Kentucky 29, UCA 27 — The FCS Bears open the season on the road against against an FBS team, but it’s a winnable game on Thursday night. Western Kentucky was just 3-9 in 2019 and finished the season 2-6 in Conference USA play. In their first year under Nathan Brown, the Bears struggled to a 6-5 record. The previous two seasons under head coach Steve Campbell (now at South Alabama) had seen UCA post back-to-back 10-win seasons. Two of UCA’s losses in 2018 were by a combined five points. Brown, who is just 33, has eight starters back on offense. UCA is picked to finish second in the Southland Conference.

TCU 59, UAPB 12 — The Golden Lions go to Fort Worth to collect a check in a game that’s sure to get ugly early. TCU was 7-6 last year, which was not up to the high standards of recent seasons. The Horned Frogs won their final three games, beating Baylor and Oklahoma State in Big 12 play and then defeating California in overtime in bowl play. UAPB was 2-9 in its first season under head coach Cedric Thomas. UAPB had a combined record of 21-46 the six seasons prior to that. The school hasn’t had a winning season since 2012.

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Rex’s Rankings: The preseason

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Another high school football season has arrived.

Thank goodness.

I realize that I’m one of the lucky ones.

My father, whose first job out of college in 1948 was at Newport High School as the Greyhounds’ football coach, sold sporting goods to schools across the state when I was growing up. His big Oldsmobile was filled with footballs, helmets, shoulder pads and other samples that he would take from school to school. He sometimes would allow me to tag along on those sales calls and meet the coaches.

Those colorful characters were the legends of my youth.

Early each August, my father would take me with him to the state coaches’ clinic for several days. It marked the unofficial end of summer at our house. I would hang out in the Southwest Sporting Goods Co. hotel suite at night and listen to legendary coaches such as Curtis King of Augusta, Sonny Gordon of Holly Grove, Buddy Harding of Clarendon and Joe Hart of McCrory swap stories.

As a boy who loved high school football, I grew up in the right place at the right time.

And I still love the sport.

I plan to be at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium on Monday and Tuesday nights for the first games of the season.

Friday, Aug. 30, will mark the first of 13 consecutive Friday nights that I will spend in a radio studio, hosting a scoreboard show that runs from 10 p.m. until midnight. The show airs on more than 50 stations across the state.

That radio program allows me to stay connected to the sport I love. I’ve never met most of the correspondents who call us, but I feel as if I know them. I look forward to their calls each week. I consider them my fall family.

Here in Arkansas, high school football is the tie that binds many of us together.

Each week on that show, I come up with new rankings. We call them Rex’s Road to the Rock Rankings.

Here are the preseason rankings. There will be upsets as there always are. The rankings will change each week as they always do. In the end, the cream will rise to the top.

OVERALL

  1. North Little Rock
  2. Bryant
  3. Greenwood
  4. Conway
  5. Bentonville
  6. West Memphis
  7. Pulaski Academy
  8. Arkadelphia
  9. Fayetteville
  10. El Dorado

CLASS 7A

  1. North Little Rock
  2. Bryant
  3. Conway
  4. Bentonville
  5. Fayetteville

CLASS 6A

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

CLASS 5A

  1. Pulaski Academy
  2. Morrilton
  3. Little Rock Christian
  4. Harrison
  5. L.R. McClellan

CLASS 4A

  1. Arkadelphia
  2. Nashville
  3. Warren
  4. Shiloh Christian
  5. Joe T. Robinson

CLASS 3A

  1. Prescott
  2. Rison
  3. Osceola
  4. Booneville
  5. Camden Harmony Grove

CLASS 2A

  1. Junction City
  2. Gurdon
  3. Hazen
  4. Des Arc
  5. Fordyce

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College football: Week 13

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

And so it ends — the worst University of Arkansas football season in my lifetime.

My memories only go back to when Frank Broyles was the head coach and Arkansas was one of the three winningest programs in the country (along with Texas and Alabama) for the decade of the 1960s. Those older than me will have to tell you whether it was worse than it is now back when Otis Douglas was coach (he went 9-21 from 1950-52).

Arkansas football has received national publicity this fall for all the wrong reasons — players running over each other in the backfield, falling for trick plays and even taking photos with an opposing team’s cheerleaders before games.

It has been beyond embarrassing for those who support the program. That said, we must give Chad Morris and his staff time to try to recruit themselves out of the mess left behind by Bret Bielema and his enabler, Jeff Long. The hole was far deeper than any of us realized.

The lack of effort, teamwork and will was never more on display than was the case last Saturday at Starkville as Arkansas fell by a final score of 52-6 to a mediocre Mississippi State team. Nick Fitzgerald led six consecutive touchdown drives against a Hog defense that didn’t seem to want to be on the field. Coming into the game, Fitzgerald had only thrown two touchdown passes in SEC play this season. He threw four against Arkansas.

Mississippi State outgained the Razorbacks 287-69 on the ground, 188-150 through the air and 475-219 overall.

Arkansas failed to score touchdowns against Auburn and Mississippi State this season. The last time an Arkansas team failed to score touchdowns in two or more games was 2001.

Mississippi State used to be the whipping boy of the SEC. Want to know how far the Arkansas program has fallen? Just consider this fact: Mississippi State has won six of the past seven games against Arkansas.

No wonder Chad Morris used the word “unacceptable” nine times in a five-minute period after the game.

This is indeed unacceptable.

At least we have Arkansas State, which is headed to a bowl game for an eighth consecutive year.

And we have Ouachita, which is among the top four NCAA Division II teams in the country according to the various polls.

The only college football game in the state this week will be in Arkadelphia as Ouachita hosts the University of Indianapolis on Saturday in the second round of the Division II playoffs. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Cliff Harris Stadium for the contest between the 11-0 Tigers and 10-1 UIndy.

Plan a road trip to Arkadelphia to see this game. It should be fun to watch.

We’re 72-24 for the season as we make picks for the final time in 2018.

Missouri 42, Arkansas 20 — Missouri improved its record to 7-4 overall and 3-4 in SEC play with a 50-17 win over Tennessee (5-6, 2-5) in Knoxville last Saturday. It was the second consecutive season for the game to end with that score. It had to be particularly sweet for Missouri offensive coordinator Derek Dooley, who was 15-21 as the Tennessee head coach from 2010-12. Don’t expect many people to be in attendance in Columbia on what looks to be a cold, rainy Friday afternoon. And don’t expect many folks to be watching on CBS. Arkansas went 3-9 in 2013, which was Bielema’s first year as head coach. If the Hogs lose Friday, it will be the first 10-loss season in school history. The last time an Arkansas team had only two wins in a season was in 1952 under the aforementioned Otis Douglas.

Arkansas State 45, Texas State 27 — If ASU can beat Texas State in San Marcos on Saturday afternoon (which I think will happen) and Louisiana-Monroe can beat Louisiana-Lafayette (that might not happen), the Red Wolves will have a spot in the first Sun Belt Conference championship game. ASU improved to 7-4 overall and 4-3 in conference play with a 31-17 victory in Jonesboro last Saturday afternoon over Louisiana-Monroe (6-5, 4-3). Justice Hansen completed his first seven passes of the game and finished 21 of 27 passing for 246 yards and three touchdowns. Texas State is 3-8 with victories of 36-20 over Texas Southern, 27-20 over New Mexico State and 40-31 over Georgia State. The losses have been by scores of 35-7 to Rutgers, 41-31 to South Alabama, 25-21 to Texas-San Antonio, 42-27 to Louisiana-Lafayette, 15-13 to Georgia Southern, 20-14 to Louisiana-Monroe, 38-7 to Appalachian State and 12-7 to Troy. The school has already fired its head coach.

Ouachita 28, Indianapolis 25 — It has been an amazing run for Ouachita. When the Tigers defeated Henderson 38-10 in the Battle of the Ravine on Nov. 10, it marked the 16th consecutive conference victory for Ouachita. Tiger teams are 44-10 in Great American Conference play since the start of the 2014 season and have won four of the first eight GAC crowns. The one thing Ouachita hasn’t done is win a playoff game, having lost close contests in 2014 and 2017. Nothing will come easily this Saturday for the 11-0 Tigers against a Greyhound team that’s 10-1 following a 38-27 victory over Fort Hays State in the opening round of the Division II playoffs. Ouachita received a bye in the first round as the top-rated team in the region.

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Rex’s Rankings: Nearing the end

Monday, November 19th, 2018

There were some big games (and some big surprises) in the second round of the high school football playoffs.

Conway dropped out of the Top 10 following a 31-17 loss to Bentonville West.

Bentonville also dropped out of the Top 10 following a 30-17 loss to Fort Smith Northside.

And Fayetteville dropped out of the Top 10 after a 28-25 loss to Bryant.

These will be our final rankings of the season. Once we’re this deep into the playoffs, it’s time to let the teams do all the talking on the field. It also doesn’t make sense to rank teams who are no longer playing.

Here are the updated rankings as we near one of my favorite times of the year — those two weekends of state championship games at War Memorial Stadium:

OVERALL:

  1. North Little Rock
  2. Greenwood
  3. Bryant
  4. West Memphis
  5. Pulaski Academy
  6. Bentonville West
  7. Fort Smith Northside
  8. Benton
  9. Little Rock Christian
  10. Joe T. Robinson

CLASS 7A

  1. North Little Rock
  2. Bryant
  3. Bentonville West
  4. Fort Smith Northside
  5. Bentonville

CLASS 6A

  1. Greenwood
  2. West Memphis
  3. Benton
  4. Sylvan Hills
  5. Marion

CLASS 5A

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

CLASS 4A

  1. Joe T. Robinson
  2. Stuttgart
  3. Shiloh Christian
  4. Rivercrest
  5. Arkadelphia

CLASS 3A

  1. Booneville
  2. Smackover
  3. Prescott
  4. Rison
  5. Camden Harmony Grove

CLASS 2A

  1. Hazen
  2. Junction City
  3. Foreman
  4. Conway Christian
  5. Mount Ida

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College football: Week 12

Friday, November 16th, 2018

Another week, another Razorback loss in this lost season of 2018.

The Hogs made it interesting at the end in a 24-17 loss to LSU, but the offensive performance was beyond ugly in the first three quarters. Arkansas had just 91 yards of offense through three quarters and finished with 216 yards. The 16 yards rushing were the fewest for an Arkansas team since the Hogs gained only 11 yards in a 52-10 loss to Texas in 2008.

It marked the third consecutive win in the series for LSU (8-2, 5-2), which now leads the overall series 40-22-2. Arkansas (2-8, 0-6) is still the only Southeastern Conference team without a victory in SEC play and finishes the season 2-4 in games played at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas is on the road for its final two games.

On a brighter note for college football in the state, two Arkansas teams (Ouachita and Harding) made the NCAA Division II playoffs. Ouachita (11-0) earned a bye as the top seed in its region. The Tigers will play at 1 p.m. on the Saturday after Thanksgiving at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia. Harding (9-2) makes the long trip to Big Rapids, Mich., for a second consecutive year to take on Ferris State this Saturday.

We were 6-1 on the picks last week, making the record 70-21 for the season.

Here are the picks for this Saturday’s games:

Mississippi State 27, Arkansas 20 — It’s yet another 11 a.m. kickoff for the Razorbacks. We expect them to hang around in this one with a chance to win at the end. Mississippi State comes into the contest with a 6-4 overall mark and a 2-4 conference record. The Bulldogs are 5-1 in games played at Starkville. The six victories have come by scores of 63-6 over Stephen F. Austin, 31-10 over Kansas State, 56-10 over Louisiana-Lafayette, 23-9 over Auburn, 28-13 over Texas A&M and 45-3 over Louisiana Tech. The losses have come by scores of 28-7 to Kentucky, 13-6 to Florida, 19-3 to LSU and 24-0 to Alabama. We’ll see if the Arkansas defense has an answer for Nick Fitzgerald, the 6-5, 230-pound Bulldog senior quarterback who owns 12 school records.

Ferris State 28, Harding 26 — Harding went to Ferris last year in the playoffs and upset the Bulldogs 16-14 when Tristan Parsley hit a field goal as time expired. That Harding team finished the regular season 8-3 and then got hot in the playoffs, winning three games before falling in the semifinals. Ferris is 11-0 this season. Because the two teams met last year, the Bulldogs now know what to expect from Harding’s twin-slot option offense. Harding leads NCAA Division II in rushing (averaging 348.7 yards per game) and in time of possession (36:08). Harding finished the regular season last Saturday with a 28-0 win over Arkansas Tech. The Bisons held the Wonder Boys to just 156 yards of offense. It was the fifth consecutive victory for Harding since a 7-3 loss to Ouachita. We’ll give a slight edge to the home team on what promises to be a cold afternoon in Big Rapids.

Louisiana-Monroe 35, Arkansas State 33 — Both teams have 6-4 records going into Saturday afternoon’s game at Jonesboro. UL-M is 4-2 in Sun Belt Conference play, and ASU is 3-3 in the conference. The Red Wolves struggled early in conference games but looked much better last week in a 44-16 win at Coastal Carolina. Louisiana-Monroe’s six wins have been by scores of 34-31 over Southeastern Louisiana, 21-20 over Southern Mississippi, 45-20 over Coastal Carolina, 20-14 over Texas State, 44-25 over Georgia Southern and 38-10 over South Alabama. The Warhawks’ four losses have come by scores of 48-10 to Texas A&M, 35-27 to Troy, 46-14 to Georgia State and 70-21 to Ole Miss. The win at Coastal Carolina made ASU bowl eligible for an eighth consecutive season. Red Wolf quarterback Justice Hansen was 18 of 20 passing for 253 yards and four touchdowns. The Red Wolves led 27-6 at the half and didn’t punt until late in the third quarter.

Abilene Christian 29, UCA 25 — Abilene Christian has won four consecutive games coming into Saturday afternoon’s contest against UCA in Abilene. UCA has had a disappointing season by its standards. The Bears fell to 5-5 overall and 4-4 in conference play with a 40-27 loss in Conway last Saturday to Incarnate Word. Abilene Christian’s six victories have been by scores of 41-24 over Angelo State, 38-13 over Houston Baptist, 28-12 over Nicholls State, 48-27 over Southeastern Louisiana, 49-47 over Northwestern State of Louisiana and 17-10 over Sam Houston State. The losses have been by scores of 55-27 to Baylor, 24-21 to Stephen F. Austin, 44-34 to Incarnate Word and 24-21 to McNeese State.

Texas Southern 19, UAPB 17 — A long season for the Golden Lions will come to an end in Houston on Saturday night. UAPB is 1-9 overall and 0-6 in SWAC play in its first year under head coach Cedric Thomas. The Golden Lions certainly have a chance against a Texas Southern team (2-7, 1-5) whose only victories have been by scores of 26-16 over Texas-Permian Basin and 42-14 over Mississippi Valley State. UAPB lost 56-24 last Saturday at Southern University. Southern was led by former Pine Bluff High School quarterback Ladarius Skelton, who passed for 283 yards and four touchdowns against the Golden Lions.

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