Archive for November, 2011

College football: Week 14 (The cream rises)

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

It already should have been evident going into last week who the best two teams in college football are in 2011.

If you had doubts, though, you can look back on Thanksgiving week as the week when the cream certainly rose to the top.

No. 1 LSU 41, Arkansas 17.

No. 2 Alabama 42, Auburn 14.

Arkansas proved to be a mere pretender to the throne in its one week at the No. 3 spot in the rankings.

The second largest crowd in the long history of Tiger Stadium — 93,108 to be exact — looked on last Friday as LSU went to 12-0 for the first time in the regular season and 8-0 for the first time in the Southeastern Conference.

It was the first contest between Top 3 teams in Tiger Stadium since Billy Cannon’s Halloween night run in 1959 (I was less than two months old at the time) led to a 7-3 Tiger victory over Ole Miss.

Against Arkansas last week, LSU dominated both lines of scrimmage in the second half. Look at the Tigers’ advantage in time of possession — 37:09 to 22:51. That tells the story.

After taking a 14-0 lead in the second quarter, Arkansas only had the ball for 12:40 the rest of the game.

Domination?

Consider that:

– LSU led 494-254 in total yardage

– LSU led 286-47 in rushing yardage

– LSU led 26-11 in first downs

So now LSU has ended Arkansas winning streaks of six or more games four times.

It was a 22-game winning streak that ended on Jan. 1, 1966, in the Cotton Bowl. I cried in the cab my family took after the game from Fair Park to the Baker Hotel in downtown Dallas.

A 10-game winning streak ended in 2006 with a loss to LSU at War Memorial Stadium.

A seven-game winning streak ended this year and a six-game winning streak ended in 2001 at the hands of the Tigers.

It’s about time to give some credit to Les Miles, who is 30-13 against Top 25 teams and 12-9 against Top 5 teams since coming to LSU.

In case you’re wondering, Arkansas is 4-14 when playing No. 1 teams. The four victories came in 2007 against LSU and in 1964, 1965 and 1981 against Texas.

Meanwhile at Auburn on Saturday, Crimson Tide running back Trent Richardson staked his claim to the Heisman Trophy with a career-high 203 yards rushing. He gained 142 of those rushing yards in the second half as Alabama controlled the clock and ended Auburn’s 14-game home winning streak.

Alabama fans chanted “Heisman, Heisman” at the end of the game.

Then, they chanted “LSU, LSU,” relishing the thought of a second chance against the Bayou Bengals.

If there’s a better defense than the one at LSU this year, it is the one at Alabama. The Tide held Little Rock’s Michael Dyer to 48 yards on 13 carries.

I’m among those looking forward to that rematch at the Superdome with the national championship on the line. Two SEC teams. The game played in New Orleans. It just doesn’t get any better for those of us who love Southern football.

Yes, I think LSU will defeat Georgia this Saturday in Atlanta. The Bulldogs continue to improve, having won their 10th consecutive game last Saturday against a decent Georgia Tech team in Atlanta. Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray was 19 of 29 passing for 252 yards and four touchdowns in that game.

This is the longest winning streak at Georgia since 1982, which was Herschel Walker’s junior and final season before leaving for the New Jersey Generals of the USFL.

Murray has a school-record 32 touchdown passes on the season. And remember, he’s only a sophomore.

Georgia likely will hang around for three quarters. Then, just as was the case in its game against Arkansas, LSU will dominate both lines of scrimmage in the fourth quarter.

There were three tiers in the SEC this season.

Alabama and LSU were in the first tier.

Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina were in the second tier.

The other seven teams were in the third tier.

A South Carolina team that had been whipped in Fayetteville was impressive in going to 10-2 on the season with a 34-13 win over a 9-3 Clemson squad. It was the Gamecocks’ third consecutive victory over Clemson and the school’s first 10-win season in 27 years. Clemson was held to just 153 yards of offense.

We even saw a hint of the old, cocky Steve Spurrier when he said: “Historically, Clemson has owned this series. They don’t own us now.”

The Houston Nutt era at Ole Miss ended with the expected whimper — a 31-3 Egg Bowl loss to Mississippi State. Here are the ugly stats for Ole Miss as Archie Manning leads the search for a new head coach:

– Mississippi State has won three consecutive Egg Bowls for the first time since 1942.

– The 28-point margin was the largest for Mississippi State in an Egg Bowl since 1919.

– Ole Miss has lost 10 games in a season for the first time.

– Ole Miss lost its final three games by a combined score of 110-13.

– The Rebels were 24-26 overall under Nutt, 10-22 in the SEC and 0-14 in their past 14 conference games.

Nutt was paid $2.7 million this year. That comes to $1.35 million per victory. At that rate, Arkansas would have had to pay Bobby Petrino $13.5 million in each of the past two seasons.

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, who might just be the next coach at Penn State (Mark Hudspeth will be hired from Louisiana-Lafayette if Mullen leaves), crowed: “I hope the kids in Mississippi understand that this is where you come to win championships.”

Of course, he’s just talking about the Egg Bowl championship. Ole Miss, you see, is the only SEC West team Mullen can beat.

How about a year in the SEC when Vanderbilt is bowl eligible and Tennessee is not?

Vanderbilt went to 6-6 with its 41-7 thrashing of Wake Forest. And Tennessee saw a 26-game winning streak against Kentucky end by a score of 10-7 in Lexington. Both Tennessee and Kentucky finish the season with 5-7 records. Joker had the last laugh, shall we say.

And how about a year in the SEC when Florida was in that third tier? The Gators fell 21-7 to a mediocre Florida State team in The Swamp. Florida scored with just 4:16 left in the game to avoid its first shutout since 1988.

We have two games on the schedule to pick this week. We were 2-0 last week (yes, we were among the few in Arkansas who faced reality and picked LSU; was there anything more insipid than KTHV having all its young news girls on the air to pick the Hogs during the station’s pregame special?).

The season record is 78-19.

Here are our final picks of the 2011 season:

Arkansas State 31, Troy 20 — ASU fans hate the thought of losing their coach, but Hugh Freeze’s success could make him a one-year wonder as head coach of the Red Wolves. He’s under serious consideration at Ole Miss and Memphis. If Larry Fedora leaves Southern Mississippi for Ole Miss, Freeze will move to the top of the list in Hattiesburg. The Red Wolves should get it done in Jonesboro on Saturday afternoon and finish the regular season with a 10-2 record after beating a Troy team that comes in at 3-8. The only wins have come against Middle Tennessee, UAB and Florida Atlantic. The losses were to Clemson, Arkansas, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Florida International, Navy, North Texas and Western Kentucky.

Montana 28, UCA 24 — It has been quite a season for the Bears. They won their eighth consecutive game Saturday with a 34-14 playoff victory at Tennessee Tech. The Bears, 9-3, now must make the long trip to take on 9-2 Montana in the cold. Last Saturday, UCA held Tennessee Tech to 58 yards rushing and outgained the Ohio Valley Conference co-champion 439-349. Nathan Dick was 23 of 29 passing for 319 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first playoff road victory for a Southland Conference team since 2004. The Bears don’t go down without a fight, but the wear and tear of a long season finally catches up with them. Montana has lost only to Tennessee and Sacramento State.

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Thanksgiving, Stuttgart and ducks, ducks, ducks

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

I have vivid memories of my first time to be in Stuttgart on the weekend after Thanksgiving.

It was 1976. The high school football team for which I was the starting center, the Arkadelphia Badgers, had played for a state championship at what’s now known as Carpenter-Haygood Stadium in Arkadelphia on the day after Thanksgiving.

On the muddiest field you can imagine, we lost to Mena following a series of controversial no-touchdown calls at the end of the game.

I had no desire to go to Stuttgart after losing the game that Friday night.

My father, however, gave me no choice. We were to be the guests of Clyde Berry, a Stuttgart native and former head football coach at Henderson State University, and his son, Trey.

So I showered after a heartbreaking defeat that still haunts me 35 years later, and we drove that dark night to Stuttgart.

Trey, who is now one of the state’s best-known historians and a dean at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, will confirm that my father killed three ducks with one shot on a bitter cold Sunday morning. What’s even more amazing is that there were three types of ducks on the ground — a mallard, a green-winged teal and a pintail.

“Red, do you have a funnel on the end of that gun?” I remember Clyde Berry calling out to my father.

As the winds picked up and dropped the wind chill into single digits, we headed back into Stuttgart for breakfast. The memories of that Sunday morning will last forever.

This will be my first Thanksgiving without my dad. I’m sure I will think a great deal this week about the time we spent hunting ducks together.

Thanksgiving week and duck hunting went together at our house, you see.

I remember sleeping on mattresses filled with duck down at Trey’s grandmother’s house in 1976 and walking down Main Street on Saturday night to check out the carnival and visit the shops that were open late.

I remember driving through the countryside that Saturday afternoon listening to Dave Woodman and Jim Lindsey broadcast a Razorback football game. Dave congratulated all the high school state champions. I recall how much it hurt when he mentioned Mena.

In an article for Delta Waterfowl magazine a few years ago, Dr. Wayne Capooth of Memphis wrote about his first Wings Over the Prairie Festival, which he attended with his father at age 10 in 1955.

He wrote: “Here, after numerous carnival rides, Dad introduced me to Miss Sophie, wife of Chick Major. From her, I bought one of her calls, a Dixie Mallard, which I still own and cherish. Chick and Sophie are local legends, whose Dixie Mallard duck call established a standard of call-making excellence.

“It just so happened that their daughter, Pat, was a contestant in the world championship duck calling contest, which is held yearly in Stuttgart on the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day. Standing as close to the calling platform as I could, I saw Pat win the Arkansas title and, more importantly, the first of two straight world championships.

“In 1950, at age 12, Pat won the junior world title. In 1951, she took the first of five straight women’s world titles. Moreover, in 1960 she captured the coveted Champion of Champions crown. If that is not enough, in 1956 she won the first ever Queen Mallard beauty contest.

“Pat Peacock went on to become the director of the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie. It started out to preserve agriculture, but now it is the history of the Grand Prairie. A wing is devoted to waterfowl, whose highlights include the lights and sounds of an early morning duck hunt on the Grand Prairie. In addition, there are 500 award-winning game calls, a one-of-a-kind ‘coat of many feathers,’ antique decoy collection, market-hunter guns and waterfowl art and photographs.

“Snuggling closer to the platform, I witnessed the first-ever Champion of Champions contest, won by Art Beauchamp of Flint, Mich. Every five years since, the Champion of Champions duck calling contest is held. The winner is considered the best of the best, the Champion of Champions. Those eligible to compete are former world champions.”

The 2011 Wings Over the Prairie Festival has begun. At 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, the carnival will open on Main Street and remain open through Saturday.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, students who have attended classes conducted by famed Stuttgart duck caller Butch Richenback will hold a calling competition on the Main Street stage.

Born on July 11, 1946, as Harry Milton Richenback, Butch learned the art of making duck calls from Chick Major. Richenback was the junior duck calling champion of 1957. By 1972, he was the world champion duck caller.

Richenback won the Champion of Champions title in 1975 and then retired from calling.

He sold his first duck call in 1976, the year I went to the Wings Over the Prairie Festival with my father. Rich-N-Tone calls were born, and they have been used by more than 60 men’s, women’s, intermediate and junior world championship winners since that time.

Richenback’s youth calling clinics have been held since 1969.

By Friday, an arts and crafts fair, commercial exhibits, a sports collectibles show and displays of off-road vehicles will have been added to the Wings Over the Prairie mix.

The Main Street stage will host various duck calling contests beginning at 1 p.m. Friday.

The annual Sportsman’s Party is always held on the Friday night after Thanksgiving. It can best be described as a giant homecoming party for Grand Prairie natives. This year’s event will be at the modern Grand Prairie Center on Phillips Community College’s Stuttgart campus and feature the Little Rock band Big Stack.

Much of the day Saturday will belong to the annual World Championship Duck Gumbo Cook-Off. The world championship division of the duck calling contest will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday on the Main Street stage.

The early calling contests were part of an event known as the Rice Carnival. The first such contest was in 1936.

Here’s how the Sportsman’s Guide published by the Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce described it: “The only rules for the first contests were that contestants would demonstrate four calls — the open water call, the woods call, the mating call and the scare call. As the contest grew, the rules grew with it. Callers were later required to do three calls — the hail, feed and mating calls. Later, the comeback call was added.”

The Sportsman’s Guide went on to note that “it is only natural to expect a few ducks to show up and enjoy the contest with all the duck calling going on. Low-flying ducks passing over Main Street during the contest have only added to the festive celebration.

“Perhaps the most celebrated of those events involved the late actor Wallace Beery, then a famous movie star who served as a contest judge. A tremendous flight of ducks approached on the horizon west of town just as the finals of the contest were ending. The flight never deviated from its course but continued directly over the judges’ stand at a very low altitude.”

As a sportswriter for the Arkansas Democrat in 1982 — my first job out of college – I talked my bosses into letting me cover the Wings Over the Prairie Festival just because I wanted to be in Stuttgart on the weekend after Thanksgiving. It just seemed the place to be in Arkansas on that weekend.

The thing I’ve yet to see since 1976, though, is someone kill three ducks with one shot.

I’m glad my dad didn’t let me stay home and pout all weekend after the state championship football game.

I return to the words of Dr. Capooth: “It has never been satisfactorily explained to me why it is that scenes and incidents transpiring in one’s youth remain fresh in the memory, indelibly impressed upon one’s brain for scores of years — yes, even until death — when incidents of greater importance transpiring quite recently vanish from memory as if they had never occurred at all. Possibly, it is because ‘the morning of life is like the dawn of day, full of purity, of imagery and harmony.’

“At any rate, nearly all the scenes and incidents of me shooting my first greenhead are as fresh and well defined today as if they had occurred only yesterday.

“At the Rice and Duck Capital of the World, waterfowling has taken on a legendary status that is hard to match anywhere else in the world. The market hunters of the past two centuries may be a thing of the past but the lifestyle that they created has endured. Many of today’s natives — guides, resort owners, boat builders and call makers — trace their lineage to these colorful characters of the Grand Prairie’s past. It just doesn’t get any better than this.”

I’ll miss hunting with you this weekend, Dad.

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College football: Week 13 (Battle of Baton Rouge)

Monday, November 21st, 2011

We went from the high of Friday and Saturday when all the stars seemed to align for the University of Arkansas football team to the tragedy of Sunday.

It was a dreary Monday morning as I drove my youngest son to Little Rock Catholic High School. A pall, which mirrored the weather, seemed to permeate the school at that early hour.

Catholic High is indeed a brotherhood and even the grounds, marked by the statue of Father Tribou, seemed to mourn the loss of a member of that brotherhood.

I didn’t attend Catholic High. But my oldest son graduated from there last year, and his younger brother began the ninth grade there this year.

You won’t find bigger fans of Catholic High than members of our family.

I’ll never forget what the school’s principal, Steve Straessle, said during an orientation session we attended more than four years ago: “For the first month or so, your boys will be very uncomfortable here, having to wear ties, having to keep their hair short and all the rest. Then, for the remainder of their lives, they will be very proud of this place because it’s unlike anything else in Little Rock.”

Garrett Uekman was a proud member of that purple-and-gold brotherhood.

God bless his soul.

God bless his family.

And God bless the men and women who make such a difference in the lives of the boys who attend Catholic High.

I was deeply touched this morning when I read in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Garrett had spoken during the game with the school’s counselor, Brother Richard Sanker, who was on the sidelines for the Razorbacks’ victory over Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon.

Brother Richard is a constant presence on the sideline of Catholic High football games, but he also attends events for the school’s other athletic teams. My oldest son ran cross country and track at Catholic, and Brother Richard would show up at conference and state championships to say a prayer prior to the races.

My two sons would be among the first to tell you that Brother Richard is one of the rocks that make Catholic High so strong. And a lot of people will need strength in the days ahead.

I’m thankful that Brother Richard and Garrett were able to speak during Saturday’s game.

As I write this, a rosary for Garrett is being held at Catholic High. Say a prayer today for the Uekman family.

Driving back to work following the weekly meeting of the Little Rock Touchdown Club this afternoon, I heard Catholic’s head football coach, David Estes, interviewed on Bo Mattingly’s statewide radio show.

As anyone who knows David could have predicted, he did a masterful job at a tough time. David was an assistant on Scooter Register’s staff when Garrett played at Catholic.

Asked by Bo what he thinks Garrett would say now if he could send us a message, David answered: “Let’s get to work and beat LSU.”

So in that spirit on this sad day we will turn to college football as we have done in this space for the entire fall.

It was as if some mad scriptwriter had been employed to come up with a dream scenario for Arkansas.

Here’s how it played out:

– Late on a Friday night, quarterback Brandon Weeden has his first pass in the second overtime intercepted by Iowa State. The Cyclones, who had come in as 27-point underdogs to No. 2 Oklahoma State, score and win 37-31 in Ames. Who saw that coming for a Cyclone team that had started the season 0-4 in the Big 12?

– On a warm Saturday afternoon in Little Rock, the Razorbacks take care of business with an impressive 44-17 victory over Mississippi State.

– On Saturday night, Oregon kicker Alejandro Maldonado misses a 37-yard field goal attempt to tie the game in Eugene against USC. Oregon, which had come back from a 24-7 third-quarter deficit, loses by three points, 38-35. The loss snaps a 21-game home winning streak and a 19-game conference winning streak for the Ducks.

– In Waco a few minutes later, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III throws a 34-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams with eight seconds left as Baylor shocks No. 5 Oklahoma, 45-38. Oklahoma had tied the game with 51 seconds remaining. But the Bears go 80 yards in five plays to score. Baylor was 0-20 against Oklahoma coming into the game. The man known as RGIII, now one of my favorite quarterbacks in college football, passed for 479 yards and four touchdowns. He had 551 total yards to set a school record.

I know there are those who think the computers will say otherwise, but I don’t see how you can keep No. 3 Arkansas out of the national championship game should the Hogs beat No. 1 LSU in Baton Rouge on Friday afternoon.

Consider these facts:

– Arkansas has won its past three games by a combined score of 137-52.

– Arkansas has won seven consecutive games, has gone undefeated at home for the first time since 1999, has won 11 consecutive home games and has won 10 consecutive games in Little Rock.

– Arkansas is 10-1 for the ninth time in school history and the first time since 2006.

– This is only the sixth time in school history for Arkansas to score 40 or more more points in three consecutive games.

– Tyler Wilson is the best quarterback in the Southeastern Conference. He set a school record with 32 completions on Saturday. He was 32 of 43 passing for 365 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. The completion mark he broke had stood for four decades — Joe Ferguson had completed 31 of 51 passes for 345 yards against Texas A&M in 1971.

– Arkansas dominated Mississippi State in all categories: 539-211 in total yardage, 29-13 in first downs, 166-84 in rushing, 373-127 in passing.

– Arkansas had an advantage of 20:42 to 9:18 in time of possession in the second and third quarters, holding the Bulldogs to six consecutive three-and-out series at one point in the game.

– Chris Gragg had a career-high eight catches for 119 yards and one touchdown. The Warren trio of Gragg, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs combined for 19 catches and 247 yards.

No team is playing better right now than Arkansas. So should the Razorbacks win on the road, they deserve to play for a national title.

Winning against LSU in Baton Rouge is much easier said than done, of course. The 11-0 start is the best for a Tiger team since 1958. The 52-3 win over Ole Miss on Saturday night was so thorough that it was difficult to watch. The Tigers led 21-0 after just five minutes and led 35-3 at the half as Ole Miss lost its 13th consecutive SEC game. LSU only threw the ball eight times and completed all eight passes.

What a football season this has been for the schools I follow and write about.

Arkansas, Arkansas State and UCA are a combined 22-0 in their past 22 games.

Arkansas State secured a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship with a 45-19 win at Middle Tennessee. The Red Wolves are 9-2 overall and 7-0 in conference play with one conference game remaining in Jonesboro against Troy on Dec. 3. ASU will play Jan. 8 in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.

Just think about it: You can go to New Orleans to see Arkansas in the national championship game and make the short drive over to Mobile the day before to see Arkansas State play.

UCA didn’t play last weekend but got the good news Sunday that it has earned a playoff berth. The 8-3 Bears go to Tennessee Tech on Saturday to take on a 7-3 team coached by Watson Brown, the brother of Texas head coach Mack Brown.

Tennessee Tech shared the Ohio Valley Conference title with Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State.

UAPB rolled to a 42-6 win over Texas Southern on Saturday. At 6-5 overall and 5-4 in conference play, the Golden Lions will have a spot in the SWAC championship game at Birmingham on Dec. 10 if Grambling loses to Southern on Saturday afternoon in the New Orleans Superdome. The Grambling-Southern game will be telecast nationally by NBC.

We were 3-0 last week on picks, meaning we’re having about as good a year as the Razorbacks with an overall record of 76-19.

The picks for this week:

UCA 29, Tennessee Tech 27 — We’ll be homers and go with a Bear team that has won seven consecutive games. The Bears finished second in the Southland Conference behind 11-0 Sam Houston State. The winner of the UCA-Tennessee Tech game will play at 9-2 Montana on Dec. 3.

LSU 24, Arkansas 21 — Given all that has happened, my heart tells me to pick Arkansas. My head tells me to pick LSU. I’ll go with my head for the purposes of this blog. But remembering what David Estes said, I will be rooting with all my heart for Arkansas on Friday afternoon.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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It’s duck season!

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Duck season begins in Arkansas on Saturday.

Hunters from across the country are migrating to our state today. You see, this is the mecca of their sport.

Let’s go back more than 60 years and read what Ralph Coghlan wrote in 1949 for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Let me say that, over a hunting experience of many years, I have never seen more ducks than darkened the Arkansas skies this year. Not being a bookkeeper, an accountant, a human adding machine or a member of the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, I couldn’t come within 100,000 of figuring how many I saw.

“I watched mallards sitting in vast and solid rafts on the Arkansas reservoirs, quacking raucously and happily, and at dusk, saw them start for the rice fields. They took off in successive roars like fleets of miniature B-29s, and for half an hour or more, the whole sky was alive with ducks.

“For seven weeks in November 1949, wave after wave of mallards took off like scrambling fighter planes from their summer breeding grounds in Canada. Fanning out over four major flyways, they headed south. It was the heaviest migration of waterfowl that the U.S. had seen in years.

“Southward along the Mississippi Flyway, which in 1949 was traveled by the thickest squadrons of ducks and gunned by almost half the nation’s 2 million waterfowlers, the shooting was the best in years. Hunters from all over the U.S. converged on Stuttgart, which, at that early date, declared that its flooded woodlands and rice fields made it the Duck Capital of the World.”

As you can tell, the Arkansas reputation as a mecca for duck hunters has been decades in the making.

Bill Hope planted a small plot of rice near Stuttgart as an experiment in 1902. It yielded 139 bushels per acre despite all of the people who were pulling up stalks of this strange crop as souvenirs.

The Stuttgart Rice Mill Co. was incorporated on March 9, 1907. The mill was completed the following October and reported a profit on the first year’s crop of $16,000.

The cooperative of rice farmers that would become Riceland Foods Inc. was formed in 1921. The ducks followed the rice.

Writing for Delta Waterfowl magazine, Wayne Capooth explained: “Until the coming of drying facilities, harvested rice was left to dry in the fields, attracting southward-bound ducks and geese in indescribable numbers to feed. In addition, dotting the prairies were numerous timbered depressions known as ‘islands’ or ‘pin oak flats,’ at least two dozen of which were used as rice reservoirs or as ‘green tree’ reservoirs.

“The first rice reservoir, built by Art and Verne Tindall, was completed in 1927 near Elm Prong Mill Bayou. Verne Tindall remarked to the Stuttgart Daily Leader, ‘The first few years, it seemed as if all the ducks in the country tried to get into it.’

“By the mid-1940s, reservoirs were estimated to occupy about 10,000 acres, while the rice acreage of the Grand Prairie was about 175,000 acres. By 1950, about 200 had been built within the region and 50 were green-tree reservoirs. These reservoirs, constructed for irrigation, provided an additional attraction, resulting in the Grand Prairie becoming a nationally known venue for waterfowling.”

The first duck calling contest was held on Main Street in Stuttgart on Nov. 24, 1936, in conjunction with the annual Arkansas Rice Carnival. It was the idea of Thad McCollum and was sponsored by the American Legion. McCollum, Dr. H.V. Glenn and Arthur Shoemaker formed a committee to stage the event. Verne Tindall later replaced Shoemaker as a committee member.

There were 17 contestants in that first contest. Thomas Walsh won without using a call. Walsh, who raised ducks at his home in Greenville, Miss., produced the sounds with his throat. His prize was a hunting coat valued at $6.60 that the American Legion had purchased from the John Oberly Clothing Store.

The only other contestant to win the contest without a call was also from Greenville. Herman Callouet pulled off that feat in 1942.

By 1947, the prize was up to $1,000. Next week’s winner will receive a prize package worth more than $15,000.

Just as famous as the calling contest these days is the duck gumbo cook-off that is always held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I can only describe this as an Arkansas-grown bacchanalia that’s as close as you get in this state to Bourbon Street in New Orleans at Mardi Gras.

Cooking teams with names such as the Bud Light Rouxmasters (last year’s winner), the Flockers and Mallard Malee will wear custom shirts, work in elaborate booths and slap team stickers on the rears of women who walk by in tight jeans.

If you attend, plan on having to scream to be heard above the band Tragikly White and the hundreds of people who will be talking loudly with their friends.

The more than 50 teams are required to cook three quarts of gumbo each, and at least 50 percent of the meat must be duck. Teams begin cooking at 10 a.m., and the judging takes place at 3 p.m.

Each Thanksgiving, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones fires up his private jet following his team’s home game for a weekend of hunting at his Red Hill Duck Club near Stuttgart. Jones often can be spotted at the gumbo cook-off.

Capooth, the Delta Waterfowl writer, first attended the Wings Over the Prairie Festival in 1955 with his father. He was 10 years old.

He remembers staying at the old Riceland Hotel just down the hall from John Olin of Winchester-Western. Olin hunted at the Greebriar Club, which was known by locals as the Winchester Club.

“It was here on these famous grounds that King Buck retrieved his last greenhead,” Capooth writes. “Double national champion (1953 and 1954) King Buck was given his due when, in 1959, it was decided that the federal duck stamp for that year should commemorate the work of retrievers and their contribution to waterfowl conservation. … So it is that Maynard Reece painted a portrait of perhaps the greatest duck dog of them all.”

For all of you headed duck hunting on this opening weekend, best of luck and be safe. Know that you’re taking part in a treasured Arkansas tradition.

Take ‘em!

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College football: Week 12 (Razorbacks in the Rock)

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

It has become a November tradition in our family: The Ouachita football season has ended, meaning it’s time to attend a Razorback game at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium.

The November opponent in Little Rock has alternated in recent years between Mississippi State and LSU.

The LSU contest is the one you really look forward to, but there’s nothing wrong with playing the Bulldogs. We’ll do as we always do. We’ll park in Hillcrest, walk down Van Buren Street and head to Brenda Scisson’s tailgate party about two hours before kickoff. We’ll hit Brenda’s party again after the contest while the traffic clears. With the traffic gone, I can be home from War Memorial in less than 10 minutes. It’s great.

Normally, you would expect CBS to pick up Ole Miss-LSU as its national Southeastern Conference telecast on this weekend each year. Two years ago was the Tigers’ infamous clock-management meltdown in Oxford as Verne Lundquist exclaimed: “What are they doing?”

But the Rebels are so awful this year that there was no way CBS was going to telecast that rout nationally.

Thus the Razorbacks get a chance to show off for the national television cameras Saturday afternoon. They should take advantage of the opportunity. So should the fans.

The folks at War Memorial Stadium — who did a nice job getting those in attendance to wear alternating red and white shirts earlier in the year to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — have come up with a new idea for this Saturday. They’ve purchased more than 50,000 red-and-white pompons that will be placed in the seats.

It should make for quite a sight on national television.

The War Memorial Stadium Commission was joined by the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, Bank of America, Regions Bank, the Mitchell Williams law firm, the Friday Eldredge & Clark law firm, Ark and Nancy Monroe and Kevin and Cathy Crass in making the purchase.

These individuals and entities realize how important those two Razorback football games are each year to Little Rock.

Kevin Crass, the chairman of the stadium commission, described it as a “privilege” to host two games in an era when few schools play home games away from campus.

In the unique state that’s Arkansas, I think UA athletic director Jeff Long has come to understand how much the Little Rock games mean to fans not only in central Arkansas but also those in south and east Arkansas. Expect to see plenty of those in attendance from south and east Arkansas in hunting clothes since Saturday is the first day of duck season and the second Saturday of modern gun deer season.

Add to the football game the fact that Mike Anderson’s basketball team will take on Houston on Friday night in North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena.

Hugh McDonald of Entergy Arkansas, the current chairman of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, noted during a Wednesday news conference at War Memorial Stadium that the events will have an estimated $6 million impact on the city.

McDonald also noted that part of economic development these days is “creating an environment in which people like to live.”

Especially in the South, people like to live in a place that has some big-time college football.

Given the Razorbacks’ long history of playing Little Rock games, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola made the point at the news conference that War Memorial is also a home stadium for the university.

“The Little Rock games offer an opportunity to bring this state together,” the mayor said. “We’re proud of our partnership with the university. This is going to be a wonderful Razorback weekend with wins Friday night and Saturday afternoon.”

Stodola also correctly pointed out that the golf course in War Memorial Park provides the setting for one of the best tailgate scenes in America.

Shake those free pompons Saturday afternoon and make it look good for the CBS cameras.

As part of what’s known as RazorRock, a pep rally will be held at 4:45 p.m. Friday at Little Rock’s Park Plaza Mall. The Razorback band, cheerleaders and mascots will be in attendance.

As for the game itself, it’s important to point out that Mississippi State is not to be confused with Tennessee. Though the Bulldogs are just 5-5 overall and 1-5 in the SEC, they’re a far better team than the Vols. That’s not to say that the Hogs shouldn’t pull away in the second half. Coach Dan Mullen is just 2-11 against SEC West teams since coming to Starkville (he has defeated a fellow from Ole Miss named Nutt on two occasions). Last week, Alabama’s defense held the Bulldogs to only 131 yards of offense en route to a 24-7 victory.

This Bulldog team easily could be 7-3 rather than 5-5 had it made key plays down the stretch in losses of 41-34 to Auburn and 14-12 to South Carolina. Top-ranked LSU only beat the Bulldogs by 13 points, 19-6.

Arkansas has won 14 of the 21 meetings between these two schools, including nine of the past 10. The Razorbacks are 5-0-1 against the Bulldogs in Little Rock. Mississippi State last beat Arkansas three years ago in Starkville.

Meanwhile, Arkansas State needs a win at Middle Tennessee on Saturday afternoon to secure at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship. And UAPB ends the regular season at home against Texas Southern.

We were 7-1 on our picks last week, making the record 73-19 for the season. We not only would have gone 8-0 had Ouachita been awarded a touchdown on the final play of the Battle of the Ravine but also have had the margin correct since we had picked the Tigers by one. Oh well.

On to the picks for Week 12:

Arkansas 35, Mississippi State 19 — Razorback fans couldn’t find much to complain about in the wake of that 49-7 win over Tennessee in Fayetteville last Saturday night. The Hogs have now won six consecutive games and 10 in a row at home. It was their largest winning margin in an SEC game since beating Mississippi State in Fayetteville in 2003 by a score of 52-6. I attended that game. Arkansas has now won seven consecutive games against SEC East teams, dating back to the narrow 2009 loss at Florida. At 4-6 overall and 0-6 in the SEC, Tennessee will have six or more conference losses for the first time since 1962. How long ago was that? Tulane was still in the conference. It was the largest margin of defeat for a Tennessee team since a 44-0 loss to Georgia in 1981. It’s fair to say the Hogs are rolling now. With Joe Adams’ remarkable punt return, Arkansas has now scored seven nonoffensive touchdowns this season, including one in each of the past four games. Tyler Wilson was 16 of 26 passing against Tennessee for 224 yards while Dennis Johnson rushed for 97 yards. My thinking is this: A similar performance against Mississippi State in Little Rock on Saturday afternoon results in a margin of victory between 14 and 21 points.

Arkansas State 31, Middle Tennessee State 24 — Last Saturday’s 30-21 win in Jonesboro over a good Louisiana-Lafayette squad was huge for Red Wolves. In the first year of the Hugh Freeze era, ASU is 8-2 overall and 6-0 in conference play. The Red Wolves converted five turnovers into 17 points against Louisiana-Lafayette. Ryan Aplin was 20 of 32 passing and added 80 yards rushing. Middle Tennessee is 2-7 overall and 1-4 in conference play. The wins came by scores of 38-31 over Memphis and 38-14 over Florida Atlantic. The losses have been by scores of 27-24 to Purdue, 49-21 to Georgia Tech, 38-35 to Troy, 36-33 to Western Kentucky, 45-20 to Louisiana-Lafayette, 24-0 to Tennessee and 42-14 to Louisiana-Monroe.

UAPB  21, Texas Southern 12 — The Golden Lions can give Monte Coleman his first winning season in four years as head coach. They evened their record last Saturday at 5-5 overall and 4-4 in the SWAC with a 15-3 victory over Mississippi Valley State. Texas Southern comes to town with records of 4-6 overall and 2-6 in the SWAC. The wins came by scores of 49-6 over Texas College, 14-7 over Alcorn State, 42-11 over Central State of Ohio and 29-15 over Southern University. The losses were by scores of 37-34 to Prairie View A&M, 58-13 to Jackson State, 43-29 to Alabama State, 24-21 to Alabama A&M, 12-9 to Mississippi Valley State and 29-25 to Grambling. The good news for UAPB is that all of those suspensions that resulted from the brawl at the end of the Oct. 15 win over Southern have now been served.

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A classic Battle of the Ravine

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

At the end of three quarters, it was a rout.

Henderson 41, Ouachita 17.

There had been a full house at the start of the game on a cloudy, warm, windy afternoon in Arkadelphia. But as the final 15 minutes of action began, Ouachita fans were streaming out of A.U. Williams Field by the hundreds.

I was broadcasting the game on the seven radio stations that make up the Ouachita Football Network — one of the largest radio networks in NCAA Division II, I’m proud to say — and remember thinking that the Tigers had simply run out of gas after a grueling season.

This was, after all, their 10th consecutive week to play without an open date. It was only their fourth game at home. They had played six road games in an eight-week period, going 5-1 in those road games with the only loss coming to what eventually would become the top-ranked team in Division II, Delta State.

They had won six consecutive Great American Conference games to secure the first football championship in the history of the conference. They had overachieved, and they were tired.

I didn’t mention any of these thoughts on the air because I never like to sound as if I’m making excuses. Henderson was playing well and deserved the credit. With Ouachita trailing by 24 points, I was determined to plug on through the fourth quarter and be happy with the Tigers’ 7-3 season.

This was my 41st Battle of the Ravine to attend and my 24th to broadcast on the radio. So I should have known that strange things can happen when the two Arkadelphia schools play.

With the game seemingly out of reach, Ouachita begins a drive at its 20 following a punt into the end zone. There’s 2:47 remaining in the third quarter.

By the time the fourth quarter begins, the Tigers have a first-and-10 at the Henderson 13. A nine-play drive ends with a six-yard touchdown pass from Casey Cooper to Brett Reece. A two-point conversion attempt fails.

Henderson still leads comfortably, 41-23, with 13:00 remaining.

The Reddies pick up one first down before being forced to punt.

Ouachita starts 70 yards away this time and covers those 70 yards in just four plays. The touchdown comes on a Cooper pass of seven yards to his talented senior tight end, Phillip Supernaw. The point after attempt is good.

Henderson 41, Ouachita 30. The clock shows 9:49. It’s getting a bit more interesting, though the Reddies still have a two-possession lead and an offense that has moved the ball easily for most of the afternoon.

Henderson drives to the Ouachita 28, but quarterback Kevin Rodgers is sacked for a loss of 12 yards on fourth-and-12.

The Tigers thus begin their next drive 60 yards away from the promised land.

The A.U. Williams Field clock is down to 6:25.

Ouachita moves 60 yards in eight plays with sophomore tailback Chris Rycraw from Bryant scoring from 12 yards out. The Tigers go for two in an attempt to pull within a field goal of tying the game, but Cooper’s pass into the end zone is incomplete.

It’s now Henderson 41, Ouachita 36.

There’s 3:47 on the clock.

Things really begin to get tense at this point. Ouachita kicks deep. Elliot Hebert returns the kick. He is hit by Jackson Guerra and fumbles. Ouachita’s freshman kicker, Ryan Newsom, recovers the fumble.

Trailing by only five points with plenty of time left, Ouachita has the ball 29 yards away.

Cooper passes to Travis Anderson for two yards, and then the quarterback keeps it to the 19.

First down in the red zone.

Cooper passes incomplete on first down.

On second down, he passes to Anderson for five yards. It’s third-and-five.

Cooper’s third-down pass is incomplete. His fourth-down pass is also incomplete with Jeremy Williams defending for Henderson.

Ball back to Henderson. Only 2:15 remains. One first down will do it.

Not so fast, my friend.

Kevin Nichols loses a yard on first down. Ouachita calls a timeout with 2:09 remaining.

Turell Williams loses another yard on second down. It’s third-and-12.

Quarterback Kevin Rodgers rushes for six yards. It’s fourth-and-six.

Christian Latoof comes on to punt, and his kick goes out of bounds at the Ouachita 47. 

The Tigers are 53 yards away. They have 43 seconds to work.

Cooper passes to Rycraw for 13 yards and then spikes the ball to stop the clock. They’re 40 yards away.

Cooper’s pass to Brett Reece is incomplete. It’s third-and-10. But then Cooper finds Reece across the middle for a 29-yard gain.

Ouachita is 11 yards away. A penalty on Henderson moves the ball to the six.

Two incompletions follow.

On third-and-five from the six, Cooper hits Reece at the one. The tension in the stadium is almost palpable.

Cooper’s first-and-goal pass to Reece in the end zone is broken up by Chuck Obi.

Wait. There’s half a second left. Ouachita will have one more play from a yard away to win or lose the 85th Battle of the Ravine.

Henderson uses a timeout to get its defense set.

I’m looking at the written play-by-play sheet as I compose this post. Much of those final few minutes of action are now a blur in my mind. I was concentrating so intently on the broadcast that there are things I just don’t remember. I do remember silently telling myself to remain composed, to calmly relay to listeners what was setting up to be among the classic endings of any college football game ever played in Arkansas.

Let me just say it: This is the greatest small college football rivalry in America. They had played 84 previous games, dating back to 1895. Amazingly, the series was tied 39-39-6 after all those decades.

The next play will determine which school leads the series.

I’ve been fortunate enough to cover everything from the Super Bowl to the Kentucky Derby in my newspaper career, and I can tell you that this is as intense a sports moment as I can remember.

Everyone in the stadium is standing (I wonder how those people who left at the end of the third quarter feel now).

Cooper gives the ball to Rycraw, and he goes right. The running back puts his head down, and a collision occurs at the goal line.

Watching through my binoculars, it appears to me that the ball has crossed the goal.

The touchdown signal never comes.

Henderson holds on to win a classic by five points. The Reddie players and their supporters storm the field as those on the Ouachita side stand in stunned disbelief.

Ouachita had almost come from 24 down in the fourth quarter to win 42-41. Yes, the Ouachita faithful long will claim that Rycraw scored on that last play.

Sour grapes, the Reddies will respond. Whiners, they’ll say.

There are no television replays at the Division II level, you see. And in a weird way, the controversy that surrounds that final play will only add to the mystique of this treasured Arkansas tradition.

In Arkadelphia, where they talk about past Battles of the Ravine for 365 days a year, that play will be debated over dinner tables for decades to come.

On Sunday night, still a bit numb from the game I had called on the radio the previous day, I watched the excellent ESPN documentary on the Alabama-Auburn rivalry. Having attended the Iron Bowl four times through the years, I’ve always believed Alabama-Auburn to be the top major college football rivalry in the country. It’s a gridiron civil war, an event that divides families.

Having grown up in Arkadelphia, I can tell you that Ouachita vs. Henderson is our state’s mini version of Alabama-Auburn. Just as in Alabama, families are split. The interim president at Henderson, for example, is married to the registrar at Ouachita.

That’s the thing that makes it so fun.

I was glad to be in Arkadelphia on Saturday as the national media continued to focus on the child sex abuse scandal that has engulfed the once proud football program at Penn State. There’s just something more pure about football at the Division II level.

Here’s how a feature article in Touchdown Illustrated, a publication distributed during football games at colleges and universities across the country, put it last year: “There is a small town in southern Arkansas where two rivers meet, with a highly traveled scenic highway and two institutions of higher learning within a stone’s throw of one another. This town is Arkadelphia, Ark., and one day each year it plays host to the most unique sporting event in intercollegiate athletics.”

Yes, a national publication called the Battle of the Ravine “the most unique sporting event” in all of college sports.

Growing up a block from A.U. Williams Field with a father who had been a football star at Ouachita, the day of the Battle of the Ravine was as big as Christmas at my house.

Harvard began playing Yale in 1875 in what’s known simply as The Game.

Amherst has been playing Williams since 1884 in what’s called the Biggest Little Game in America.

Army has been playing Navy since 1890.

Alabama has been playing Auburn since 1893.

Ouachita has been playing Henderson since 1895.

The Battle of the Ravine is older than rivalries such as Clemson vs. South Carolina, Ohio State vs. Michigan and Oklahoma vs. Texas.

Last year’s Touchdown Illustrated article ended this way: “The game won’t draw 100,000 fans, but rather 10,000, and each and every one will come away knowing they have been part of one of the most storied events in all of college football.”

It just doesn’t get any better in sports than what I witnessed in the fourth quarter Saturday.

In a state that’s painted Razorback red this time each year, the Battle of the Ravine has never received the attention it deserves. It’s a rivalry all Arkansans should be proud to call their own.

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College football: Week 11 (Battle of the Ravine)

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

It’s the week of the Battle of the Ravine, the most unique rivalry in all of college football.

Ouachita Baptist University vs. Henderson State University.

The game will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday at Ouachita’s A.U. Williams Field in Arkadelphia.

If you’ve never been to one of these games, you owe it to yourself to attend.

Remember, it was on my Arkansas bucket list.

Larry Lacewell told me recently, “That was among the things I always wanted to go to. I never did it because I was coaching all those years. Last year, I picked up the paper, saw that it was Battle of the Ravine day and drove to Arkadelphia. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.”

The weather should be nice Saturday. And the 1 p.m. kickoff allows even those who live in Little Rock to be back home in time to watch the 5 p.m. Arkansas-Tennessee game on television.

Get there early. There will be a large tailgate party with all kinds of food available. The party will begin at 10 a.m. on the Henderson side of U.S. Highway 67.

You can park on either the Henderson side or the Ouachita side and walk to the game.

At about 11:45 a.m., the Henderson Reddies will walk to a road game.

Think about that for a moment.

Not fly. Not bus.

This is a college football rivalry in which the visiting team simply walks across the street.

It’s something every college football fan should see.

Also consider that the two schools have played each other in football 84 times through the years and the series is dead even at 39-39-6.

Dead even for a series that began in 1895: Isn’t that amazing?

The game has been decided by a touchdown or less 37 times through the years with Ouachita holding a 19-12-6 advantage in the close games.

Add to all of the tradition the fact that these are the two best Division II football teams in Arkansas this year.

Ouachita has already wrapped up the first Great American Conference title with records of 7-2 overall and 6-0 in conference play. Henderson would love nothing more than to cost the Tigers a trip to the NCAA Division II playoffs.

The series was suspended due to excessive vandalism from 1951 until 1963. I grew up about a block from A.U. Williams Field. I lived in Washington, D.C., for a few years in the 1980s, but I’ve only missed three of these games since the series resumed in 1963 when I was 4 years old. The teams didn’t play in 1993-95 when the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference disbanded and they went their separate ways. They also didn’t play in 2004-05 because of ridiculous scheduling by the Gulf South Conference (so glad to be out of that league). That means this will be my 41st Battle of the Ravine.

I hope you’ll join me in Arkadelphia on Saturday. You won’t regret it.

We were 7-2 on picks last week, making the record 66-18 for the season.

On to the picks for Week 11:

Arkansas 44, Tennessee 21 — The Hogs looked much better at home against South Carolina than they had looked in victories on the road at Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. Poor Tennessee. This once-proud program finds itself without a victory in Southeastern Conference play. How bad has it gotten in Knoxville? Consider this: The starting kicker injured his leg in practice on Thursday of last week. The backup kicker pulled a muscle while warming up Saturday. Coach Derek Dooley had a nose guard practicing kicks while he made a call on his cell phone to the campus police. He asked the police to escort a redshirt freshman kicker named Derrick Brodus from his fraternity house to Neyland Stadium. That led to this great quote from Dooley: “It’s a good thing he wasn’t having too much fun on a Saturday afternoon. I told the coaches an intoxicated Brodus is better than nobody. Just get him here.”

Ouachita 31, Henderson 30 — This game should be close. This will only be Ouachita’s fourth home game of the season. The Tigers went on the road six times in an eight-week period and compiled a record of 5-1 in those six road games. They only lost at Delta State, the No. 1 team in NCAA Division II. Ouachita is the only college program at any level in the state to have compiled four consecutive winning seasons. The Tigers defeated Southeastern Oklahoma, 21-18, in Durant, Okla., last Saturday to secure the GAC crown. Henderson, meanwhile, posted a 16-10 nonconference victory over McKendree.

Arkansas State 32, Louisiana-Lafayette 28 — This is a huge game for the Red Wolves as they seek to win a Sun Belt Conference championship in the first year of the Hugh Freeze era. ASU is still alone atop the conference standings following a 39-21 win at Florida Atlantic. The Red Wolves are 7-2 overall and 5-0 in conference play. That’s the best start for an Arkansas State team since 1986. Louisiana-Lafayette comes to Jonesboro with records of 8-2 overall and 6-1 in conference play. ASU quarterback Ryan Aplin was 24 of 27 passing last Saturday for 244 yards and one touchdown. Meanwhile, the Ragin’ Cajuns scored two touchdowns in the final minutes of Saturday’s home finale for a 36-35 win over Louisiana-Monroe. Louisiana-Lafayette scored a touchdown with 2:05 left, recovered an onside kick and then scored again. The home crowd in Jonesboro (Hugh has them believing in northeast Arkansas) on Saturday afternoon should help the Red Wolves.

UCA 27, Texas State 24 — The Bears end the regular season with an important nonconference game against Texas State, a former Southland Conference opponent that’s moving up to the WAC. The game is important because the Bears need to win Saturday to be eligible for the playoffs. It would have to be an at-large berth, though, since Sam Houston State clinched the Southland Conference’s automatic berth last Saturday. Sam Houston would need to lose to Northwestern State this weekend for the Bears to win a share of the conference title. UCA won its sixth consecutive game last Saturday, 45-20 over Northwestern State. Texas State is 6-4. The wins have come by scores of 38-28 over Tarleton State, 35-26 over Stephen F. Austin, 38-12 over Nicholls, 21-14 over McNeese State, 46-21 over Lamar and 34-26 over Prairie View A&M. The losses have come by scores of 50-10 to Texas Tech, 45-10 to Wyoming, 38-28 to Southeastern Louisiana and 23-10 to Northwestern State.

UAPB 21, Mississippi Valley State 19 — The Golden Lions are still hurting from the many suspensions that came as a result of the brawl that followed the Oct. 15 win over Southern University. UAPB fell 28-12 to Alabama State last Saturday before a big homecoming crowd in Pine Bluff. UAPB is now 4-5 overall and 3-4 in the SWAC. Even with more suspensions that must be served this week, the Golden Lions should be able to overcome a dreadful Mississippi Valley State team that’s 1-9 The Delta Devils snapped a 19-game losing streak with a 12-9 win over Texas Southern two weeks ago but lost last weekend by a score of 35-3 to South Alabama.

East Central Oklahoma 44, Southern Arkansas 40 — The Muleriders are 3-6 overall and 2-3 in GAC play, but they’re playing better down the stretch. Last week, they defeated UAM, 53-28, in Magnolia while gaining 522 yards of offense. They should be competitive against an East Central team that’s 7-3 overall and 5-2 in GAC play.

Harding 37, Southeastern Oklahoma 28 — Harding fell to 3-7 overall and 2-3 in the GAC with a 23-16 overtime loss to East Central. Eddy Carmona did have a Harding school-record field goal of 62 yards in that game. A disappointing season for the Bisons should end on an upbeat note in Searcy with a win over a Southeastern Oklahoma team that started the season with two consecutive victories but has since lost seven straight games.

UAM 29, Southwestern Oklahoma 20 — The first year of the Hud Jackson era ends in Monticello with a victory over Southwestern Oklahoma. Both teams have been up and down this year in the highly balanced GAC. UAM fell to 4-6 overall and 2-3 in the conference action with its loss to Southern Arkansas. Southwestern Oklahoma is 5-5 overall and 3-4 in conference play.

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More on the Hall of Fame Class of 2012

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

No one who knows Arkansas can dispute that one of the most recognizable voices in our state is that of Terry Wallace, who retired from the track announcer’s booth at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs this past spring after 37 consecutive seasons of calling the races there.

Terry is part of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2012, which will be inducted during the organization’s annual banquet at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock on the evening of Friday, Feb. 3.

Terry was known for trademark lines such as “here they come into the short stretch of the mile run” and “picking ‘em up and laying ‘em down.”

He set a record for consecutive race calls at a single track that may never be broken. Terry hit the 20,000 race mark with his call of the third race on March 25, 2010. He ended his streak at 20,191 calls following the fourth race on Jan. 28 of this year.

Through the years, Terry called the races of such greats as Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Curlin, Azeri, Cigar, Afleet Alex, Smarty Jones, Sunny’s Halo and Temperence Hill.

Larry Collmus, the track announcer at Gulfstream Park and Monmouth Park, said: “When someone says Oaklawn, the first thing that comes to mind is Terry Wallace.”

In addition to Wallace, those being inducted from the regular category are former University of Arkansas basketball star Lee Mayberry, former Newport High School head football coach Bill Keedy, former Razorback basketball star U.S. Reed, former Razorback football standout “Light Horse” Harry Jones and Little Rock native and former Oklahoma State University head football coach Pat Jones.

The Hall of Fame also will induct the 1994 Razorback national championship basketball team.

Last week, we briefly profiled the other inductees from the regular category.

This week, let’s take a look at the three inductees from the senior category and the two inductees from the posthumous category:

Senior category:

Margaret Downing — Downing, among the true pioneers in the history of women’s basketball in Arkansas, was the head coach at Southern Arkansas University from 1965-84. Her Riderettes won eight Arkansas Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Association titles. She also coached teams to several state Amateur Athletic Union championships in the years before AWISA.

The Waldo native was an innovator and a promoter of women’s basketball, serving on committees and associations at the state and national levels. She was associated with the U.S. Olympic Committee, the U.S. Girls Basketball League and the U.S. Junior Olympic Basketball Committee through the years.

Bob Ford — As a center and linebacker, Ford helped guide Wynne to the state championship in 1950. He was awarded a football scholarship to what’s now the University of Memphis and was the team’s most valuable player as an end in 1954.

After serving in the U.S. Army from 1956-58, Ford joined the staff of fellow Arkansas native Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama and served on Bryant’s staff for three seasons. Ford coached at the University of Georgia during the 1961 season and was the defensive coordinator for the University of Kentucky in 1962.

After spending the 1963 season as a player personnel employee for the Dallas Cowboys, Ford coached in 1964-65 at Kentucky, in 1966 at Mississippi State University and in 1967-69 as the freshman coach under Frank Broyles at Arkansas while also obtaining his law degree.

Ford began practicing law in Wynne in 1970 and also spent 25 years as a part-time player scout for the Dallas Cowboys.

Elmer “B” Lindsey — Old-timers in east Arkansas will tell you that perhaps the best high school backfield in the state’s history was the one in 1957 at Forrest City that included “B” Lindsey, Sonny Holmes, Dan Wilford and Clinton Gore.

Forrest City was a powerhouse in high school football in those days, going 77-36-7 from 1954-64. Lindsey played on an undefeated team in 1957, scoring 22 touchdowns as a halfback despite a broken hand.

Lindsey scored 44 touchdowns in a high school career that saw the three teams on which he played post a combined 30-2 record. He also starred in basketball, baseball and track at Forrest City.

Lindsey was Frank Broyles’ first football signee at Arkansas but chose instead to sign a baseball contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. His signing bonus was believed to have been more than $50,000, the most ever offered to an Arkansas player to that point.

Lindsey played in the Cardinal organization for six seasons. After those six years in the minor leagues, he returned to St. Francis County to operate his family’s farming interests.

Posthumous category:

Raymond Bright — He excelled as a football and track coach at Conway High School and the University of Central Arkansas. After playing on UCA’s 1947 championship football team, Bright began his coaching career in 1949 at Conway Junior High School and was later the athletic director, head football coach and head track coach at Conway High School.

Bright went to work at what’s now UCA in 1958. He was the head football coach at the school from 1965-71. His 1965 and 1966 teams earned shares of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference championship.

Bright left coaching following the 1971 season. He later served as UCA’s director of housing. Bright previously was inducted into the Arkansas Track and Field Hall of Fame and the UCA Sports Hall of Fame.

Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton — Born in 1876, Clayton moved with his family to Pulaski County when he was 10. He attended school while working as an errand boy to earn extra money for the large family.

Clayton left home at age 12 in 1888 to live with his older brother, Albertus, a jockey in Chicago.

“Lonnie” Clayton was soon working as an exercise rider at stables owned by racing legend E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin. Clayton became one of only two 15-year-old jockeys to ever win the Kentucky Derby. Aboard Azra, he came from behind in the stretch to win the Kentucky Derby by a nose in May 1892.

Clayton was second in the Kentucky Derby in 1893, third in 1895 and second in 1897. To provide for a family that included eight siblings in Arkansas, Clayton bought property and built a home in what’s now North Little Rock in 1892. The home, located at 2105 Maple St., still stands.

At the peak of his career in 1895, Clayton posted 144 wins and was in the money in 403 of 688 races.

The Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 1959. Andrew Meadors of Little Rock is the organization’s president, and Ray Tucker serves as the executive director.

The Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame Museum on the west side of Verizon Arena is open each Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. It includes an 88-seat theater with a video highlighting the careers of Arkansas sports greats along with a touch-screen kiosk with a database of all Hall of Fame inductees.

Members of the Hall of Fame vote each year on inductees. Membership dues are $50 annually. Membership forms can be obtained by going to the organization’s website at www.arksportshalloffame.com.

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College football: Week 10

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

The record was 8-0 last week.

Perfection.

That makes us 59-16 on the season.

Not that there weren’t some scares along the way.

Once again, the Razorbacks tried their best to lose a Southeastern Conference road game, but the opponent refused to cooperate for a second consecutive week.

My Ouachita team, which plays them all close even though the Tigers are now 5-0 in the Great American Conference, allowed Harding to drive inside the Tiger 20 in the final minute before hanging on for a four-point victory before a large homecoming crowd in Searcy.

UAM scored with 1:36 left in the game to defeat Southeastern Oklahoma, 24-20.

You can see how easy it would have been to be 5-3 rather than 8-0.

So no gloating.

Meanwhile, how about those Arkansas State Red Wolves?

They’re off to the school’s best start in a quarter of a century after a 37-14 win over North Texas in Jonesboro. The Red Wolves are still alone atop the Sun Belt Conference with records of 6-2 overall and 4-0 in league play. Arkansas State led 31-0 at the half, outgaining North Texas 365-82 in the first half. The Red Wolves finished with a lead of 540-283 in total yardage. Ryan Aplin was 28 of 42 passing for 332 yards and three touchdowns. Hugh Freeze just might have a bowl team in his first year as head coach.

And how about those UCA Bears?

The Bears won their fifth consecutive game with a 55-29 romp over Southeastern Louisiana in Conway last Saturday night. UCA is now 6-3 overall and 5-1 in the Southland Conference with a huge game coming up this week against Northwestern State. The UCA defense forced nine turnovers last Saturday — four interceptions and five fumbles. On offense, the Bears had a season-high 586 yards. Nathan Dick completed 20 of 28 passes for 299 yards and five touchdowns. It was the first five-touchdown game for a UCA quarterback since Nathan Brown did it in 2007.

An afternoon radio broadcast in Searcy (followed by dinner at Who Dat’s in Bald Knob) allowed me to be home in time to watch the three 10 p.m. newscasts on the Little Rock television stations.

The verdict?

KTHV-TV, Channel 11, smoked everyone. Channel 11 had video from the Razorback game, the Red Wolf game, the UAPB game and the Ouachita-Harding game.

You might remember that we called for a boycott of Channel 11 two years ago because the station refused to give scores for all of the college teams in Arkansas.

They’ve come a long way.

At least KATV-TV, Channel 7, gave all the state scores. But you guys might try having highlights from someone other than the Razorbacks. There are, after all, 10 college football programs at four-year schools in this state.

Poor KARK-TV, Channel 4.

We’ll give them credit for trying to give all the in-state scores. But they had Southern Arkansas beating Harding. I hate to tell you, but the Muleriders had an open date Saturday.

The blue ribbon goes to Channel 11. One suggestion: Get someone who can spell to type in those statistics. The abbreviations didn’t even match from one slide at the bottom of the screen to the next. And the Arkansas offensive coordinator was listed as the defensive coordinator.

For Razorback fans, I passed out a few ”thank yous” on your behalf during Monday’s meeting of the Little Rock Touchdown Club.

Thank you Carey Spear for not being able to kick a 27-yard field goal.

Thank you Zach Hocker for being able to kick field goals of 36, 50 and 42 yards.

Thank you Jerry Franklin for being able to run 94 yards without giving out.

Thank you Vanderbilt secondary for dropping what should have been several interceptions.

Vanderbilt outgained Arkansas 222-72 on the ground. It was a 462-388 Vanderbilt advantage in total yardage, the most yards for Vanderbilt in a conference game since a 2006 win over Kentucky. Arkansas has allowed a 100-yard rusher in four of the past five games.

Hats off to Vanderbilt’s James Franklin for his bold approach — going for it on fourth-and-one from his 28 and calling a fake punt. Both gambles paid off.

Let’s move to the picks for Week 10:

Arkansas 34, South Carolina 27 — So what’s up with these 7-1 Hogs? Are we simply expecting too much and not being as grateful as we should be for where they stand? Thankfully, the game starts at 6:15 p.m. this Saturday, though I doubt anyone outside Arkansas and South Carolina will be watching ESPN despite the fact this is a Top 10 matchup. In the three Hog games that kicked off before noon, the Razorbacks were outscored 73-38 in the first half. South Carolina is 7-1 and also won ugly last Saturday with a 14-3 victory against a Tennessee team that’s 3-5 overall and 0-5 in the SEC. Brandon Wilds, the freshman who replaced Marcus Lattimore after Lattimore was injured back on Oct. 15, had 137 yards rushing against Tennessee. But let’s face it: This isn’t a very good Gamecock offense. We’ll go with the Hogs at home, though nothing seems to come easy these days.

Arkansas State 41, Florida Atlantic 29 — Florida Atlantic is 0-7 with losses of 41-3 to Florida, 44-0 to Michigan State, 30-14 to Auburn, 37-34 to Louisiana-Lafayette, 31-17 to North Texas, 20-0 to Western Kentucky and 38-14 to Middle Tennessee. Howard Schnellenberger’s long final season gets a little longer Saturday as the Red Wolves make it three consecutive road wins in the Sun Belt.

Northwestern State 24, UCA 22 — This should be an exciting football game down in Natchitoches, La., on Saturday afternoon. The Demons are 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the Southland Conference. The wins have come by scores of 24-23 over Delta State (No. 1 nationally in Division II), 34-0 over Nicholls State, 37-17 over Lamar, 51-17 over Southeastern Louisiana and 23-10 over Texas State. The losses were to LSU, SMU and McNeese State. UCA has won five consecutive games. Northwestern has won three consecutive games. Something has to give.

Alabama State 28, UAPB 23 — It’s homecoming in Pine Bluff, which means there will be a big crowd on hand. The Golden Lions fell to 4-4 overall and 3-3 in the SWAC with a 27-20 loss in Pine Bluff last Saturday to Grambling. UAPB was missing 12 players who were serving suspensions for their role in the Oct. 15 brawl following the win over Southern University. The Golden Lions were held to just 100 rushing yards, their lowest total since the season-opening loss to Langston. More players will be serving suspensions this Saturday. That will prove the difference against an Alabama State team that is 6-2 overall and 6-1 in conference play. Alabama State lost a 20-19 heartbreaker last Saturday to Alabama A&M at Legion Field in Birmingham. The only other loss was to Eastern Michigan. The wins have come against Mississippi Valley State, Grambling, Jackson State, Alcorn State, Texas Southern and Prairie View A&M.

Ouachita 35, Southeastern Oklahoma 30 — Ouachita can wrap up the first Great American Conference championship with a win Saturday afternoon in Durant, Okla., against a Southeastern Oklahoma team that has lost six consecutive games. As stated, though, this is not a Ouachita team that blows anyone out. The Tigers score a lot of points, but they also give up quite a few points. In last Saturday’s 31-27 win against Harding in Searcy, the Tigers rushed for 356 yards. Harding, which came into the game as the leading rushing team in NCAA Division II, had 330 yards rushing. Ouachita quarterback Casey Cooper, a junior from Conway, rushed for 161 yards on 16 keepers. Chris Rycraw, a sophomore from Bryant, added 111 yards rushing on 17 carries. Southeastern Oklahoma started the season with two consecutive victories before going on its six-game slide.

Henderson 49, McKendree 20 — Who’s McKendree? It’s a Methodist school in Lebanon, Ill., not far from St. Louis. The football program is making the move from NAIA to NCAA Division II. The Bearcats lost their first six games before finally getting a win against Trinity International University. Henderson is 4-4 after going to Mobile, Ala., to collect a check against South Alabama. The Reddies fell 28-3 to a team that soon will be playing football in the Sun Belt Conference. This week’s game in Arkadelphia should provide the Reddies an easy warm-up for the Nov. 12 Battle of the Ravine against Ouachita.

Southern Arkansas 40, UAM 38 — Southern Arkansas is 2-6 overall and 2-3 in conference. UAM is 4-5 overall and 2-2 in conference. Don’t let the records fool you. This should be a fun, high-scoring game to watch. Southern Arkansas quarterback Tyler Sykora set a school record for passing yards two weeks ago in a 53-43 loss to Ouachita. The sophomore from Jessieville has been getting better with each passing week. In the Boll Weevils’ win against Southeastern Oklahoma, Nakita Myles had a career-high 191 yards on 19 carries for UAM.

Southwestern Oklahoma 33, Arkansas Tech 32 — A long season for the Wonder Boys ends with a long trip to Weatherford, Okla. Tech is 2-7 overall and 1-3 in conference play following a 31-16 loss in Russellville last Saturday to East Central Oklahoma. Tech did not have an offensive touchdown in that game. Southwestern Oklahoma is 4-5 overall and 2-4 in conference play. The Bulldogs lost a nonconference affair to Northeastern Oklahoma last weekend, 42-13.

Harding 29, East Central Oklahoma 25 — Don’t let the Bisons’ 3-6 record fool you, either. This is a team that easily could be 6-3 without a number of costly fumbles out of its option offense earlier in the season. Harding took league-leading Ouachita to the wire last Saturday. We think Harding will pull the upset on the road in Ada, Okla., this Saturday afternoon.

 Oh, that little game in Tuscaloosa?

This won’t count on our record since we only pick Arkansas schools. But since you asked: Alabama by four.

 

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