Archive for October, 2012

College football: Week 10 (after a weekend to forget)

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

I spoke to the Helena Rotary Club today.

In far east Arkansas — the land that produced Ken Hatfield, Dick Hatfield and so many other past Razorback greats; a land the university seems to be forgetting with all this talk about moving games out of Little Rock — nothing is more important for Razorback fans than beating Ole Miss.

You can imagine how frustrated those folks are this week.

At least the guy who wore the Ole Miss cap to the Rotary Club meeting was happy, as he should be since it seems that Hugh Freeze has at least put some life back into that previously moribund program.

The record had been good on our picks this year, but last week started badly (as far as the picks) and ended badly.

I picked Arkansas State to lose in a Tuesday night game against Louisiana-Lafayette.

I picked Arkansas to win against Ole Miss at War Memorial Stadium.

Then I made the long drive to Ada, Okla., on Saturday to watch my Ouachita Tigers lay an egg against East Central Oklahoma.

Oh well.

It was a college football weekend to forget.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad ASU beat Louisiana-Lafayette to start the week. It’s just that I wish I had picked it correctly. Playing their best game in the young Gus Malzahn era, the Red Wolves rolled to an impressive 50-28 victory in Lafayette with an ESPN2 national television audience looking on.

The ASU victory ended an eight-game losing streak for the school at Cajun Stadium as the Red Wolves improved to 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the Sun Belt Conference. The defense came up with four turnovers, and the offense turned those turnovers into 20 points.

It was the third consecutive victory for ASU as quarterback Ryan Aplin completed 21 of 31 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown. The Red Wolves finished with 526 yards of offense while scoring on their first six possessions.

Arkansas’ 30-27 loss to Ole Miss on that 31-yard Bryson Rose field goal as time expired is best forgotten.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette headline the next morning said it best: “Adding to anguish.”

Remember Hog fans what I said back in September: This is not a season to savor. It is a season to survive.

You allowed yourselves to get excited again after big wins over Auburn and Kentucky, didn’t you? You forgot that those are two of the worst teams in college football this fall.

So now we’ll have four SEC schools — Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee — looking for new head coaches at the end of the season.

Just to our southwest, Texas may also be looking for a new head coach.

It’s going to be an interesting December.

We were 5-3 on the picks last week, making the record 57-15 for the season.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 10:

Arkansas 31, Tulsa 30 — I’m not sure why I’m doing this. If Tulsa comes in and spoils the Arkansas homecoming, I won’t be the least bit surprised. Tulsa lost its first game at Iowa State, 38-23, and has since run off seven consecutive victories. The scores have been 45-10 over Tulane, 66-16 over Nicholls State, 27-26 over Fresno State, 49-42 over UAB, 45-38 over Marshall, 33-11 over UTEP and 28-24 over Rice. The game starts early, and there likely will be plenty of empty seats. At least the leaves should be pretty for those driving to Fayeteville.

Arkansas State 34, North Texas 28 — The Red Wolves must go on the road to battle North Texas, a team that has struggled to a 3-5 record but remains capable of beating anybody in the conference. The North Texas wins have come by scores of 34-7 over Texas Southern, 20-14 over Florida Atlantic and 30-23 over Louisiana-Lafayette. The losses have come by scores of 41-14 to LSU, 35-21 to Kansas State, 14-7 to Troy, 44-21 to Houston and 38-21 to Middle Tennessee State. It sure would be nice to see Malzahn run the table and make a bowl game in his first year as a head coach.

UCA 24, Northwestern State 21 — The Bears, who are 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the Southland Conference, can lock up the Southland’s automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs with a win. UCA has run off four consecutive victories against Nicholls State, McNeese State, Lamar and Louisiana-Lafayette. UCA is one of three one-loss teams in Southland play along with Sam Houston State and Southeastern Louisiana. The Bears are playing well, averaging 35.4 points and 391.9 yards of offense per game. Quarterback Wynrick Smothers is completing 67.1 percent of his passes. He has 2,292 yards passing and 23 touchdowns. Jesse Grandy has 44 receptions for 628 yards. The game is the Southland Conference television game of the week and can be seen in central Arkansas on KARZ-TV. Northwestern State is 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the Southland Conference with wins over UAM, Mississippi Valley State, Lamar and Nicholls State. The losses have come at the hands of Texas Tech, Nevada, McNeese State and Southeastern Louisiana.

UAPB 17, Texas Southern 10 — The Golden Lions appear on their way to the SWAC championship game at Legion Field in Birmingham. They still sit alone atop the conference’s Western Division following a 10-0 shutout of Mississippi Valley State last Saturday that gave the Golden Lions records of 6-2 overall and 5-1 in conference. Texas Southern is 2-6 overall and 2-4 in the SWAC. The wins have come by scores of 44-41 over Prairie View A&M and 23-20 over Grambling. The losses have been by scores of 34-7 to North Texas, 45-25 to Jackson State, 42-13 to Alabama A&M, 50-6 to Sam Houston State, 45-0 to Alabama State and 34-7 to Southern University.

Southern Arkansas 32, Ouachita 27 — This should be an excellent game between two 6-2 teams at Arkadelphia’s A.U. Williams Field. Ouachita started the season 6-0 and soared to No. 10 in the NCAA Division II rankings before the injuries took their toll and the Tigers ran out of gas. Back-to-back losses have come at the hands of Harding and East Central Oklahoma. Southern Arkansas lost earlier in the year on a last-second field goal to 7-1 Harding and played 9-0 Henderson closer last week than anyone has done so far. The Reddies hung on, 44-36. The Muleriders are led by talented quarterback Tyler Sykora, who completed 33 of 55 passes for 411 yards and three touchdowns against Henderson. SAU easily could be 8-0.

Harding 45, Southeastern Oklahoma 23 — Harding is trying to finish the regular season with a 9-1 record, earn a berth in the Division II playoffs and perhaps get a rematch against Henderson down the line. The Bisons destroyed Arkansas Tech last week, 76-23. Harding had 505 yards rushing in its homecoming victory at Searcy. Seven Bisons had rushing touchdowns while the Harding defense forced six turnovers and had five sacks. Southeastern Oklahoma is 4-4 overall and 2-4 in the Great American Conference.

East Central Oklahoma 38, Arkansas Tech 26 — East Central looked good in its 37-27 win over Ouachita, and Tech looked bad in its loss to Harding. We’ll go with the visitors from Oklahoma this week even though Tech has the better record. The Wonder Boys are 5-4 overall and 3-3 in GAC play. East Central is 4-5 overall and 2-4 in conference action but seems to have the hotter hand coming out of last weekend.

Southwestern Oklahoma 19, UAM 18 — This is a battle between the two teams at the bottom of the GAC standings. Southwestern Oklahoma is 2-6 overall and 1-5 in league play. UAM is 1-8 overall and and 0-7 in conference play. UAM fell 41-35 last week to Southeastern Oklahoma despite a season-high 237 rushing yards. We’ll give the slight edge to the home team in this one.

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Rex’s Rankings (after nine weeks)

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Nine weeks of the regular season are in the books with only one week left before the playoffs begin.

Bentonville continues to roll.

So do North Little Rock, Greenwood and Camden Fairview.

There were some surprises last week, at least in the margins of victory.

I didn’t think Fort Smith Southside would beat Russellville by 42 points.

I didn’t think Bryant would beat Lake Hamilton by 35 points.

Who could have seen Cabot’s 38-12 destruction of Jonesboro coming? The Cabot radio announcers described it as the best game a Panther team has played in three years.

Malvern lost to Nashville and Stuttgart lost to Lonoke, shaking up the 4A rankings.

Here are the rankings going into the final week of the regular season:

Overall

1. Bentonville

2. North Little Rock

3. Greenwood

4. Camden Fairview

5. Pine Bluff

6. Fayetteville

7. El Dorado

8. Fort Smith Southside

9. Greenbrier

10. Bryant

7A

1. Bentonville

2. North Little Rock

3. Fayetteville

4. Fort Smith Southside

5. Bryant

6A

1. Greenwood

2. Pine Bluff

3. El Dorado

4. Jonesboro

5. Searcy

5A

1. Camden Fairview

2. Greenbrier

3. Wynne

4. Pulaski Academy

5. White Hall

4A

1. Arkadelphia

2. Nashville

3. Pine Bluff Dollarway

4. Malvern

5. Stuttgart

3A

1. Glen Rose

2. McGehee

3. Harding Academy

4. Prescott

5. Barton

2A

1. Junction City

2. Bearden

3. Carlisle

4. Gurdon

5. Salem

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College football: Week 9 (Rebels invade the Rock)

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

With the disappointment surrounding the University of Arkansas’ football season thus far, what has been ignored somewhat is what a great year of college football this has been overall for Arkansas teams.

For three consecutive weeks, no Arkansas team has lost to an out-of-state opponent. Teams from Arkansas are 15-0 against out-of-state foes during that period.

Of the 10 college programs in the state, eight have winning records as we move into late October. Only the Razorbacks and the University of Arkansas at Monticello Boll Weevils have losing records.

Four of the eight teams with winning records have a combined mark of 26-3 with the losses coming to each other.

Henderson is 8-0 for the first time since 1975 and ranked No. 9 in NCAA Division II.

Harding is 6-1 and ranked No. 19 in NCAA Division II.

Ouachita is 6-1 and ranked No. 20 in NCAA Division II.

Southern Arkansas is 6-1 and receiving votes in the NCAA Division II poll.

UCA is 6-2.

UAPB  is 5-2.

Yes, it’s a very good year. Too many Arkansans don’t know or appreciate that fact due to a media (print and broadcast) that’s now obsessed with every ingrown toenail at Fayetteville.

Believe me, I understand the place of the Razorbacks in the Arkansas culture and have written about it extensively. But the coverage of these minute details (for the television stations that brand their sportscasts Razorback Nation, do you not think we’re sophisticated enough here in Arkansas to follow multiple teams?) and the talk radio listeners who drone on and on about the Hogs are tiresome.

Whenever I head east, I prefer talk radio shows out of Memphis. At least you will get callers discussing multiple SEC teams and subjects such as Cardinal baseball.

I miss the days when Jim Bailey covered the old AIC for the Arkansas Gazette and his stories were run on the front of the sports section.

Oh well.

I’m a relic for keeping up with all 10 of this state’s college football programs. I suppose I should instead be trolling the message boards and reading every detail about that 17-year-old kid from Texas who might or might not sign a letter of intent with the Hogs.

We were 4-2 on the picks last week, making the record 52-12 for the season.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 9:

Louisiana-Lafayette 28, Arkansas State 25 — I hate the idea of a college football game on a Tuesday night. I just hate it, almost as much as I hate those new Razorback uniforms. Like I said, I’m a relic. I realize that the Sun Belt schools need the national television exposure. And this should be a pretty decent game tonight on ESPN2 (Joe Tessitore and Desmond Howard have the call). ASU is 4-3 overall and 2-1 in conference play. Louisiana-Lafayette is 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Sun Belt. The Cajun wins have come by scores of 40-0 over Lamar, 37-24 over Troy, 48-20 over Florida International and 41-13 over Tulane. The losses have been by scores of 65-24 to Oklahoma State and 30-23 to North Texas. It’s Gus Malzahn’s biggest game to date in his first year as a college head coach. We’ll give the advantage to the home team in what should be a close game.

Arkansas 34, Ole Miss 31 — They’ll be having brunch on the War Memorial golf course Saturday morning with that early start. Arkansas has played much better the past two games, but Hugh Freeze also has the Rebels playing well. It should be a close, fun game between two mediocre college football teams. Ole Miss opened the season with wins of 49-27 over UCA and 28-10 over UTEP. Since then, the Rebels have lost 66-31 to Texas, won 39-0 against Tulane, lost 33-14 to Alabama, lost 30-27 to Texas A&M and routed Auburn by a score of 41-20.

UCA 30, Southeastern Louisiana 21 — The Bears are 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Southland Conference after a somewhat lethargic performance in Conway that resulted in a 24-14 win over Lamar. Expect a better effort this week as the Bears play at Strawberry Stadium in Hammond, La. Southeastern Louisiana is 3-4 overall but has a 3-0 conference rercord with wins of 25-24 over McNeese State, 31-21 over Lamar and 27-22 over Northwestern State. The nonconference losses have been by scores of 62-10 to Missouri, 31-14 to South Dakota State, 23-6 to Tennessee-Martin and 52-3 to UAB.

UAPB 15, Mississippi Valley State 12 — The Golden Lions have a two-game lead in the Western Division of the SWAC following an impressive 50-21 victory over Southern University in Baton Rouge. UAPB scored 41 points in the first half, a school record for points scored in a half of football. Monte Coleman has his team playing well with records of 5-2 overall and 4-1 in the SWAC. Sophomore quarterback Ben Anderson was 15 of 20 passing against Southern for 296 yards while also rushing for 75 yards. UAPB had a season-high 510 yards of offense. Mississippi Valley State brings a 2-5 record to Pine Bluff on Saturday. The wins have been by scores of 6-0 over Southern University and 45-21 over Grambling. The losses have been by scores of 20-19 to Concordia, 29-7 to Alabama State, 45-14 to Northwestern State of Louisiana, 35-0 to Alabama A&M and 14-7 in two overtimes to Jackson State.

Henderson 44, Southern Arkansas 30 — It’s another huge game in the GAC after big games the previous two weekends between Henderson and Harding (won by Henderson) and Harding and Ouachita (won by Harding). Following Ouachita’s loss last Saturday, Henderson is the only undefeated team left in the state. The Reddies beat East Central Oklahoma by a score of 49-14 Saturday afternoon in Arkadelphia. Sophomore sensation Kevin Rodgers was 29 of 41 passing for 378 yards. He already has set a school record for career touchdown passes as a sophomore with 44. Henderson outgained East Central, 464 yards to 257 yards. Southern Arkansas’ only loss has been to Harding on a last-second field goal in the Boomtown Classic at El Dorado. The Muleriders improved to 6-1 last Saturday with a 47-14 win over Southern Nazarene. SAU also has a quality quarterback in Tyler Sykora. He was 25 of 44 passing for 337 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s game. The Muleriders will score some points at home but won’t be able to slow the Henderson offensive juggernaut, which I’m beginning to think has enough talent to win a national championship.

Ouachita 20, East Central Oklahoma 17 — Ouachita was 6-0 and ranked No. 10 nationally coming into its game against Harding but did not play well. Harding went 70 yards in 13 running plays to score on its first drive and never looked back. Nothing will come easy this Saturday for Ouachita. East Central is 3-5 but usually plays well at home in Ada.

Harding 35, Arkansas Tech 29 — Looking at the schedule, I think the Bisons will finish 9-1 and earn a spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs. They were most impressive in the win at Ouachita and get the Wonder Boys this week in Searcy. Tech started the season slowly but is now 5-3 after four consecutive victories.

Southeastern Oklahoma 28, UAM 21 — The Bolls Weevils are 1-7 and can’t catch a break this season. Quarterback Damon Wicker was going in for what would have been the winning touchdown last Saturday at Arkansas Tech with 15 seconds left in the game but fumbled the football just before reaching the end zone. Tech held on, 24-21. Southeastern Oklahoma brings a 3-4 record to Monticello.

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Rex’s Rankings (after eight weeks)

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Eight weeks of the regular season down, two to go until the playoffs.

Make sure to join Grant Merrill, Nate Olson and me again this Friday night from 10 p.m. until midnight on more than 60 radio stations across the state. Those of you in central Arkansas can find us at KARN-FM, 102.9.

Here are the rankings after Week 8:

Overall

1. Bentonville

2. North Little Rock

3. Greenwood

4. Camden Fairview

5. Pine Bluff

6. Fayetteville

7. Jonesboro

8. Springdale Har-Ber

9. Conway

10. Greenbrier

7A

1. Bentonville

2. North Little Rock

3. Fayetteville

4. Springdale Har-Ber

5. Conway

6A

1. Greenwood

2. Pine Bluff

3. Jonesboro

4. Russellville

5. Lake Hamilton

5A

1. Camden Fairview

2. Greenbrier

3. Wynne

4. Pulaski Academy

5. White Hall

4A

1. Malvern

2. Stuttgart

3. Arkadelphia

4. Nashville

5. Pine Bluff Dollarway

3A

1. Glen Rose

2. McGehee

3. Harding Academy

4. Fordyce

5. Prescott

2A

1. Gurdon

2. East Poinsett County

3. Junction City

4. Bearden

5. Carlisle

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College football: Week 8 (eyes on Arkadelphia)

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

It’s an open date for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks.

My suggestion for college football fans in Arkansas is this: Head to Arkadelphia on Saturday for a unique college football experience.

No. 10 Ouachita plays No. 25 Harding at 1 p.m. at A.U. Williams Field.

On the other side of U.S. Highway 67, No. 11 Henderson takes on East Central Oklahoma at 3 p.m.

You can attend the Ouachita-Harding game and then cross the street for the second half of the Henderson game.

Or you can attend the first half of the Ouachita-Harding game and see all of the Henderson game.

Either way, you will see three ranked college football teams in one afternoon. You can have dinner in Arkadelphia and still be on your way home by 7 p.m. The forecast looks perfect: Clear skies with temperatures in the 70s.

Parking won’t be a problem. Ticket prices are reasonable. The quality of football is good, the bands are first class, the cheerleaders are pretty and the atmosphere is fun.

Give it a try.

My friend Kane Webb, the former Arkansas newspaperman and magazine editor, shares my love of college football and thoroughbred racing. His love of racing is so great that he was pulled to Louisville, home of the Kentucky Derby, where he’s now the editor of Louisville magazine.

Before we get to the picks for Week 8, I must share the analogy he sent me after watching the first seven Razorback games of the 2012 season:

“Consider the highly touted young racehorse, precocious at 2, who may have been sold or, for whatever reason, experienced a trainer change during the winter. Either way, he finds himself in a new barn heading into his much-anticipated 3-year-old season. Despite the offseason shakeup, big things are expected. After all, we had all seen that impressive campaign the previous year. But perhaps he hasn’t developed the way many predicted he would; perhaps, like some flashy juveniles, he simply wasn’t as good as we thought.

“He wins an easy prep but then is upset when challenged late in a tough outing. His next race, against the stiffest of opposition in a stakes-caliber field, is a disaster. Unable to get the lead or compete early, he spits the bit and finishes far back. Another tough stakes race follows — and so does his demise. Not quite up to the caliber of competition and absent any lasting confidence, he eases when unable to stay with the leaders, again finishing well back.

“At long last, the once-promising star is dropped in class, placed in, say, an allowance race for non-winners of two. A decent enough field but not championship caliber. Against easier competition, he trounces the field. He faces similar talent in his next race and now, full of himself and finding his stride, he speeds to the lead and never looks back, winning with such ease that new trainer and old fans suddenly think he has realized his potential.

“Maybe. A step back up in class is inevitable, and here is where horse racing provides another valuable lesson. Horses, like all athletes, hold their best form for only a short amount of time. Lou Holtz had a saying that applies to any sport: You either get better or you get worse, but you don’t stay the same. The questions for our still-young runner and for this year’s Hogs are these: Have they now reached their peak form or are they continuing to improve? Were their embarrassing early-season defeats a case of too much, too soon or that of an average athlete up against superior competition and paying for it?

“Of course, there’s also the case of the horse that isn’t really as good as his competition but being so sharp and in such top form that he beats them anyway. It happens. That’s why they call them upsets.

“The Razorbacks went into a kind of paralytic shock when they lost so suddenly to Louisiana-Monroe. The devastation was so thorough and unexpected that all seemed lost. No surprise then that the shock lasted awhile, magnified by the six-quarter absence of the concussed Tyler Wilson. Not even his rusty return could shake the team from its collective fog. And the trainer/coach was no help. What Arkansas needed desperately was what it got: Lesser competition.

“Confidence now at least semi-restored — and that includes the confidence of the coaching staff as well as the players — Arkansas steps back up in class, a little, when it faces Ole Miss after a week’s break.

“The thinking here is that the Hogs will remain in good form — indeed, they may improve some thanks to the emergence of younger players like Jonathan Williams and a defense that seems to be less confused and thus much more aggressive. But their confidence remains fragile and a bad break here or there could restart the tailspin.

“They may be in the hands of a veteran trainer — to put it generously, the colorful old-schooler — but they’re used to the subtle manipulations of a contemporary master. Without that, this team is largely on its own, playing at the moment on raw talent, muscle memory and a sudden wave of renewed spirit. Typically, that’s not a formula for long-term success. But it’s fun for now and beats the hell out of the alternative we witnessed earlier in the season.”

Well said, Mr. Webb.

We were 6-1 on the picks last week, making the record 48-10 for the season.

On to the picks for Week 8. We’ll start with the two Arkadelphia games since that’s where you’re road tripping on Saturday, right?

Ouachita 24, Harding 23 — This should be a great football game. Ouachita has made its way into the Top 10 for the first time since the school moved from the NAIA to NCAA Division II. Harding dropped two spots to No. 25 after its 38-10 loss to the offensive juggernaut that is Henderson. Ouachita went to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the Great American Conference with a 58-7 win over 1-6 UAM in Monticello last Saturday afternoon. Junior tailback Chris Rycraw from Bryant had 242 yards rushing on 22 carries in just three quarters of action for the Tigers. Overall, Ouachita had 396 rushing yards, two interceptions returned for touchdowns and a punt returned for a touchdown. Harding is 5-1 and still a force to be reckoned with in the GAC. These are the only two church-related schools in the conference, so I call this the Battle for the Old Wooden Collection Plate. Last year’s game in Searcy was memorable with Ouachita winning 31-27 en route to the first GAC championship.

Henderson 41, East Central Oklahoma 19 — The 7-0 Reddies went on the road to Searcy and held Harding to 269 yards of offense. That was 142 yards below the Bisons’ season average. Harding had been averaging 35.8 points per game before being held to just 10 points against Henderson. The Reddies’ sensational sophomore quarterback, Kevin Rodgers, was 30 of 44 passing for 466 yards and five touchdowns. Rodgers, after just seven games, has already broken the school record for touchdown passes in a season. He has 33. He will add more Saturday against an East Central team that was expected to compete for a conference crown but has been a disappointment so far with records of 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the GAC.

Arkansas Tech 35, UAM 20 — After a slow start, Tech is getting better by the week. The Wonder Boys went to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the GAC with a 45-37 win at 1-5 Southwestern Oklahoma. Tech overcame a 17-point deficit as Tanner Marsh was 25 of 37 passing for 424 yards and four touchdowns. The senior added 30 yards rushing and even caught the go-ahead touchdown pass with less than four minutes remaining in the game.

Southern Arkansas 34, Southern Nazarene 0 — The Muleriders will have no problem at home against a Southern Nazarene team that is 1-6. Southern Arkansas improved to 5-1 overall and 4-1 in the GAC last Saturday with a 19-0 victory at East Central Oklahoma. East Central was limited to 123 yards of offense in that game. For the Muleriders, Mark Johnson had 132 yards rushing on 30 carries, and Tyler Sykora was 21 of 26 passing for 253 yards and a touchdown. Southern Arkansas, Harding, Henderson and Ouachita are all quality teams. Henderson and Ouachita still must play the Muleriders. The stretch run in the GAC should be fun to behold this season.

UCA 29, Lamar 12 — It was a victory to remember last Saturday for UCA in Lake Charles, La. McNeese State, which had never lost to the Bears in Lake Charles, led 26-17 with time running out. The Bears drove 72 yards, and Wynrick Smothers threw a 19-yard touchdown pass with 1:10 remaining. UCA then recovered a perfectly executed onside kick. Sophomore Eddie Camara booted a 47-yard field goal with 27 seconds left in the game, and the Bears escaped the Bayou State with a 27-26 victory. They are 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Southland Conference. Smothers was 26 of 41 passing for 254 yards and three touchdowns. A 3-4 Lamar team comes to Conway this Saturday. The victories have come by scores of 31-0 over Prairie View A&M, 31-0 over Langston and 52-21 over McMurry. The losses have been by scores of 40-0 to Louisiana-Lafayette, 54-2 to Hawaii, 31-21 to Southeastern Louisiana and 30-23 to Northwestern State.

Southern University 21, UAPB 17 — The Golden Lions are 4-2 overall, 3-1 in conference play and leading their division of the SWAC. This week they must visit Baton Rouge to take on a Jaguar team that is 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the SWAC. Southern’s wins have come by scores of 28-21 over Jackson State, 21-14 over Florida A&M and 34-7 over Texas Southern. The losses have been by scores of 66-21 to New Mexico, 6-0 to Mississippi Valley State and 20-17 to Alcorn State. We’ll give a slight edge to the home team.

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Rex’s Rankings (after seven weeks)

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Seven weeks down.

Three to go until the regular season ends and the playoffs begin.

For six of the first seven Friday nights of the high school football season, there has been rain in Arkansas. The forecast for this Friday night: Clear skies and cool temperatures.

Here are the rankings after seven weeks of the high school football season:

Overall

1. Bentonville

2. North Little Rock

3. Greenwood

4. Camden Fairview

5. Pine Bluff

6. Fayetteville

7. El Dorado

8. Springdale Har-Ber

9. Fort Smith Southside

10. Conway

7A

1. Bentonville

2. North Little Rock

3. Fayetteville

4. Springdale Har-Ber

5. Fort Smith Southside

6A

1. Greenwood

2. Pine Bluff

3. El Dorado

4. Jonesboro

5. Russellville

5A

1. Camden Fairview

2. Greenbrier

3. Wynne

4. Pulaski Academy

5. White Hall

4A

1. Malvern

2. Stuttgart

3. Pine Bluff Dollarway

4. Arkadelphia

5. Nashville

3A

1. Glen Rose

2. Prescott

3. Harding Academy

4. McGehee

5. Fordyce

2A

1. Gurdon

2. East Poinsett County

3. Junction City

4. Bearden

5. Carlisle

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College football: Week 7 (laughing at Auburn)

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Paul Finebaum rolled into town Monday from Alabama to address the Little Rock Touchdown Club.

I’m not quoting him exactly, but here’s basically how he began his talk:

“I prepared this speech on Friday. I’ve come here to talk about a tradition-rich team that has fallen on hard times.

“I’ve come here to talk about a once-great college football program that was in a BCS game just two years ago.

“I’ve come here to talk about a program in a free fall, one that’s now a national laughingstock with a clown as the head coach.

“Yes, I’ve come here to talk about Gene Chizik and the Auburn Tigers.”

Rim shot, please.

Remember last week when we were talking about a weekend when all of the state’s Division I teams had lost?

This time around, everyone is coming off a win — Arkansas won, Arkansas State won, UCA won, UAPB won. Throw in Division II wins by Ouachita and Arkansas Tech against teams from Oklahoma, and Arkansas teams were 6-0 last week against out-of-state opponents.

Here’s what our trusty out-of-state correspondent has to say: “What struck me most about the Arkansas-Auburn game wasn’t the final score — I’d seen enough of Auburn to know that the Tigers were capable of losing big, and ugly, to anybody — but the step-back perspective of the sudden plight of these two teams in 2012.

“Consider the game two years ago on the Plains. Auburn and Arkansas both were highly ranked. Cam Newton vs. Ryan Mallett. Two programs on an upward arc. Auburn would go on to win the national championship that year. Arkansas would play in the Sugar Bowl. Even with the departures of Newton and Mallett, it was hard to imagine either program falling far. After all, we could see what Bobby Petrino was building at Arkansas. And didn’t Gene Chizik attract top recruiting classes year after year? He might lose a once-a-decade player like Newton, but he was clearly stockpiling talent.

“Fast forward to the Hogs’ return to Auburn last Saturday. We may have seen the two worst teams in the Southeastern Conference. In one offseason, Arkansas had lost its head coach and its way. Auburn had lost both of its coordinators, its star running back and its mojo. The coach who won a national title just 22 months ago is now on the hot seat, rumored to be run out of town at season’s end for the likes of, say, a Bobby Petrino.

“And all of this isn’t the least bit unusual. In the modern era, teams flip from good to bad regularly. The Alabamas and LSUs (sort of) and Oregons are the exceptions to the rule. Alabama stays on top because it has the best coach in college football, who has parlayed his NFL-ready defensive style and the Bama tradition into top recruiting classes and national championships. That cycle in Tuscaloosa can’t be broken until Nick Saban retires or dies.”

So what does that mean for Arkansas?

Our correspondent writes: “The point is that any and all hand wringing about the long-term negative implications the Petrino ousting and the blessedly brief John L. tenure will have on The Program is silly. A football program situated like Arkansas — that is, in the SEC with a solid tradition and track record, facilities that are good and getting better and a diehard fan base — can turn around quickly. All that’s needed are a great coach (preferably with an eye-catching offensive scheme), a very good quarterback, one or two exceptional recruiting classes that pan out (like Petrino’s first-year class) and some luck.

“In another two years, the Hogs may visit the Plains for a Top 10 battle. That is if Jeff Long makes the right hire — and Auburn finally manages to successfully woo Bobby Petrino.”

Finebaum made much the same point.

With the right hire, there’s no reason Arkansas cannot be back among the top tier of college football powers.

The wrong hire, on the heels of the current debacle, could set the program back years, Finebaum said.

No pressure there, Mr. Long.

We were 6-2 on the picks last week, making the record 42-9 for the season.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 7:

Arkansas 32, Kentucky 24 — Yes, we’ll pick Arkansas to win. But, yes, we think that point spread is a bit much. This is still a very fragile Razorback team. Kentucky, though, is just plain bad. The Joker will be out as coach at the end of this season. Who’s next? The Riddler? The only win of the season has been against Kent State. The five Kentucky losses have been by scores of 32-14 to Louisville, 32-31 to Western Kentucky, 38-0 to Florida, 38-17 to South Carolina and 27-14 to Mississippi State. Kentucky fans don’t care. That’s because basketball practice starts this week.

Arkansas State 40, South Alabama 25 — The Red Wolves went to 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the Sun Belt Conference with a 34-20 Thursday night victory at 1-5 Florida International. The Red Wolves had 421 yards of offense in that game. The Thursday game means that ASU has had nine days to get ready for a Saturday night contest in Jonesboro against the relatively new South Alabama program. The Jaguars are 1-4. The lone win was over a Nicholls State team that lost to UCA in Conway last Saturday. The losses have been by scores of 33-31 to Texas-San Antonio, 31-7 to North Carolina State, 30-10 to Mississippi State and 31-10 to Troy.

McNeese State 30, UCA 21 — Lake Charles isn’t an easy place to visit, but UCA must do just that this weekend for what’s known as the Red Beans & Rice Bowl. The Bears are 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Southland Conference after their win over Nicholls State. UCA trailed by a point, 14-13, at halftime but shut out the Colonels in the second half. Wynrick Smothers was 31 of 43 passing for 289 yards. Senior wide receiver Jesse Grandy tied a school record with 13 catches for 111 yards. As usual, McNeese State has talent to spare. The Cowboys are 4-1. The only loss came by just a point to Southeastern Louisiana. The wins have come by scores of 27-21 over Middle Tennessee, 69-7 over McMurry, 35-21 over Weber State (they must miss John L. at Weber) and 30-22 over Northwestern State. We’ll go with the home team, which has had two weeks to prepare for this game.

Henderson 39, Harding 31 — It’s the season’s biggest game to date in the Great American Conference. Henderson is 6-0 and ranked No. 12 in NCAA Division II. Harding is 5-0 and ranked No. 23 in Division II. The game will be played before a packed house in Searcy, and the Reddies will be held to fewer than 50 points for the first time this season. Henderson beat 1-5 UAM by a score of 71-0 last Saturday, putting up 655 yards of offense. Kevin Rodgers passed for 326 yards and five touchdowns. In the Boomtown Classic at El Dorado, Harding’s John Gay hit a 44-yard field goal on the game’s final play to drop Southern Arkansas to 4-1. The Muleriders had tied the game with a touchdown with 1:17 left. Southern Arkansas, which had won its first four games for the first time since 1990, had led 13-0 at one point in the game.

Ouachita 37, UAM 20 — Ouachita is 5-0 and ranked No. 11 nationally despite starting its third-string quarterback the past two games. Sophomore Ty Towers, who started the season as a wide receiver, continues to turn in strong performances at quarterback. Ouachita outscored Southwestern Oklahoma 21-0 in the second half last Saturday to go to 3-0 in the GAC with a 33-12 win. Towers was 15 of 18 passing for 154 yards. Chris Rycraw added 151 yards on the ground. It’s UAM’s homecoming.

Southern Arkansas 19, East Central Oklahoma 17 — It will be interesting to see how the Muleriders respond to their first loss of the season. East Central was picked by many people in the preseason to finish near the top of the conference but has been a bit of a disappointment with records of 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the GAC. The game is in Ada, but we’ll give the Muleriders the edge due to quarterback Tyler Sykora.

Arkansas Tech 41, Southwestern Oklahoma 38 — The Wonder Boys are slowly improving. They’re 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the GAC following a 45-38 victory in Russellville last Saturday night over 1-4 Southeastern Oklahoma. Tanner Marsh was 16 of 31 passing for 213 yards and two touchdowns. With its loss to Ouachita, Southwestern Oklahoma fell to 1-4 overall and 1-3 in the GAC.

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Rex’s Rankings (after six weeks)

Monday, October 8th, 2012

We’re into the second half of the high school football season, and things are becoming more clear as teams continue on the Road to the Rock.

Here are the rankings after six weeks of action:

Overall

1. Bentonville

2. North Little Rock

3. Greenwood

4. Camden Fairview

5. Conway

6. Pine Bluff

7. Fayetteville

8. Jonesboro

9. Springdale Har-Ber

10. Fort Smith Southside

7A

1. Bentonville

2. North Little Rock

3. Conway

4. Fayetteville

5. Springdale Har-Ber

6A

1. Greenwood

2. Pine Bluff

3. El Dorado

4. Jonesboro

5. Russellville

5A

1. Camden Fairview

2. Greenbrier

3. Watson Chapel

4. Wynne

5. Pulaski Academy

4A

1. Malvern

2. Stuttgart

3. Pine Bluff Dollarway

4. Arkadelphia

5. Nashville

3A

1. Glen Rose

2. Prescott

3. Harding Academy

4. McGehee

5. Fordyce

2A

1. Carlisle

2. Gurdon

3. East Poinsett County

4. Junction City

5. Bearden

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Archie Schaffer: Another Arkansas original

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

It was among the best writing assignments I’ve had in a long time.

A couple of months ago, Roby Brock called to ask if I would be interested in doing a cover story for TBQ magazine about Archie Schaffer III of Tyson Foods.

I jumped at the opportunity to write about one of my favorite Arkansans.

Grab a copy of the new issue of TBQ and tell me what you think.

Later this month, Archie’s retirement from Tyson Foods will become official, though he will continue to serve as a consultant for the company. On Friday from 4:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. at Arvest Ballpark, the Springdale Chamber of Commerce will sponsor an event known as “Chicken, Peelin’ and Politickin’” with Schaffer as the guest of honor.

More than 1,000 people are expected to show up to eat chicken jambalaya while peeling boiled shrimp and crawfish.

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Paul Greenberg once described Archie as “everybody’s favorite Arkansas lobbyist.”

Greenberg wrote: “Even when arguing with him over some petty political matter, I’ve always found him candid, convivial, convinced — the way everybody in politics should be.

“Okay, maybe a little cantankerous on occasion, but who isn’t? I certainly am. If curmudgeonhood were a crime, who should ‘scape whipping? Life would be so much poorer without its Menckens or even Carvilles. And certainly without its Archie Schaffers.”

As I wrote in a recent newspaper column, one of the nice things about this story assignment was that it gave me the opportunity to spend a long lunch with his aunt and uncle, Dale and Betty Bumpers.

I kidded Archie later by saying, “We spent about 10 minutes talking about you and the next two hours telling political war stories.”

If I make it to age 87, I hope I’m doing half as well as Sen. and Mrs. Bumpers are doing at that age. We actually spent a lot more than 10 minutes talking about Archie, who the Bumpers call “Spike.”

A Franklin County family tree probably is in order at this point.

Elizabeth Callan Flanagan Bumpers — that would be Betty — was born Jan. 11, 1925, to Herman Flanagan and Ola Callan Flanagan in the Franklin County community of Grand Prairie. The family moved to Fort Smith during World War II and later to Iowa before returning to Franklin County. Betty Bumpers attended both the Chicago Academy of Fine Art and the University of Iowa.

Dale Leon Bumpers was born Aug. 12, 1925, in Charleston. He was one of four children born to William Rufus and Lattie Jones Bumpers. His father began working for the Charleston Hardware & Funeral Home beginning in 1924 and bought the business along with a partner in 1937.

Betty’s older sister, Maggie, was Archie’s mother.

Betty and Dale dated during their senior year in high school but were separated for a time after that. Dale briefly attended the University of Arkansas and then joined the U.S. Marines. He was on a ship headed for the Pacific theater when World War II ended. He was discharged from the Marines in July 1946 and graduated two years later from the University of Arkansas with a degree in political science.

While attending law school at Northwestern University, Dale received word in March 1949 that both of his parents had been killed in a car crash.

On Sept. 4, 1949, he married Betty, who had been teaching the fifth grade.

After Dale graduated from law school, the couple returned to Charleston. Dale took over his father’s store, which he owned until 1966, while also practicing law. Betty continued to teach school.

Archie’s dad, Archibald Schaffer II, had come to Arkansas in the early 1940s for Army basic training at Fort Chaffee. He met Maggie while in Arkansas. The couple married in 1944, and Archie III was born in January 1948.

Archie’s father, who was in the Army Reserves, later was reactivated to serve in Korea.

“From a young age, Archie was always there for anyone, dating back to when his father went to Korea,” Betty Bumpers said. “He was responsible for looking out for his two younger brothers, and he often watched our three children. He just had this incredible sense of responsibility from a very young age.”

Former Sen. David Pryor is just as big a fan of Archie as is Dale Bumpers. Schaffer chairs the board of the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History at the University of Arkansas.

“There is no one who listens more effectively to people than Archie Schaffer,” David Pryor said. “He’s a walking sponge, soaking up Arkansas history and politics. He just absorbs information and then uses it in a wise way.”

Pryor said people often come to Archie for advice “because they trust him. They know he’s someone they can confide in. When he speaks, it’s always in measured tones. He exudes confidence. Archie is imbued with wisdom.”

The former senator was quick to note that Archie is also a fun person to be around.

“I can’t think of many people I’d rather be with,” Pryor said. “Everybody loves Archie. He’s just one of those people everybody considers a friend. Because of that, everybody asks him to serve, and he often says ‘yes.’ He has 20 balls in the air at any one time.”

Archie, whose official title at Tyson Foods is executive vice president for corporate affairs, is further described by Pryor as the “eyes and ears of that company. I can’t imagine that John Tyson will let him go too far.”

During our lunch, Dale Bumpers related numerous tales of how Archie could calm people down, turning enemies into friends. Bumpers remembered one incident during his 1974 Democratic primary campaign against U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright when an angry man stormed into the campaign headquarters.

“Richard Arnold tried to reason with him, and the man just kept getting madder,” Bumpers said. “Then Archie came out of his office. After Archie spent about three minutes with him, everything was fine.”

Martha Perry, a longtime, Bumpers aide, said Archie was invaluable because “he was family. He was the kind of guy who could tell Dale when he had spinach between his teeth.”

Archie thought he had retired from working in politics when in 1985 rumors began to fly that then-Gov. Bill Clinton was thinking about challenging Bumpers in the 1986 Senate primary.

“There were people encouraging him to run against me, and I know he was taking polls,” Bumpers said.

It came as no surprise when Bumpers asked Archie to go to Little Rock and make sure Clinton ran for re-election as governor rather than seeking the Senate seat.

Mission accomplished.

My favorite quote in the TBQ story was this one from Archie: “My job was to raise lots of money and scare Clinton off. We were successful in doing that.”

You know what they say: Bill Clinton became president because he couldn’t figure out a way to beat Dale Bumpers or David Pryor and become senator.

Scahffer took the job with Tyson Foods in 1991.

Most of those who followed Arkansas politics and public affairs during the 1990s are well aware that on Jan. 15, 1998, Archie was indicted by a federal grand jury on seven felony charges for allegedly providing illegal gifts to then-U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy. Jack Williams, a Washington lobbyist for Tyson Foods, was charged at the same time following an investigation by an overzealous independent counsel named Donald Smaltz. Don Tyson, John Tyson, Tyson Foods and the Tyson Foundation were named as unindicted co-conspirators.

“People thought Archie was being singled out unfairly,” said Gov. Mike Beebe, who has known Archie since they were both students at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

Soon after the indictment, Archie told Arkansas Business: “I’m not really sure why they have chosen to come after me. It has been suggested to me that my political history and my ties to a well-known Democratic senator like Dale Bumpers and a Whitwater figure like my wife (Beverly Bassett Schaffer, who served as state securities commissioner in the 1980s) might have something to do with it, but I choose not to speculate about that.”

Schaffer had been quoted when various investigations involving the Clinton administration began that Clinton’s election as president was “one of the worst things that ever happened to Tyson Foods and the state of Arkansas.”

He later told Arkansas Business: “Throwing the state of Arkansas in there may have been an overstatement, but I still think it’s the worst thing that ever happened to Tyson Foods. Were it not for all the extraneous issues such as the perceived Tyson-Clinton connection and the Espy investigation and all of those issues, I think my job would be great. I still believe strongly that Tyson Foods is a great company. Once we get all the extraneous nonsense behind us, I think the job can be what I thought it could be … when I first came here. I have no plan to do anything different. The company has said they fullysupport me. Obviously, I’m going to be somewhat distracted for the next few months, but I have no plans to leave the company.”

Long story short, a jury later found Schaffer guilty only of violating an obscure 1907 law known as the Meat Inspection Act, along with the federal gratuity statute. A federal court overturned that verdict, but in July 1999 a three-judge panel reinstated the Meat Inspection Act conviction, which carried a mandatory one-year prison sentence.

In October 2000, U.S. District Judge James Robertson reluctantly sentenced Schaffer to a year in prison. The judge made clear at the time that he believed Schaffer deserved only probation and a fine but said he was required by the 93-year-old law to impose the prison sentence.

During his final weeks as president, Clinton pardoned Schaffer.

“I did not see it coming,” Archie later told me. “I guess I was naive about what might end up happening. I was probably a bit overaggressive in my public statements about the investigation, which led to me being the primary target.”

He admitted that the months between the initial indictment and the pardon were “difficult. One of the things that made it even more difficult was that my wife was being written and talked about in the media each day. We used to joke that we were the only household in American being investigated by two different independent counsels at the same time.”

As securities commissioner, Beverly Bassett Schaffer had dealt with Jim McDougal’s Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan, a key part of the Whitewater investigation.

“The company was very supportive and continued to pay my legal fees or I would have never made it,” Archie said.

He said the trial judge realized that the charges against him “were a farce.”

When he later was sentenced under the Meat Inspection Act, the judge set a January reporting date, allowing for Clinton to issue a pardon just before leaving office.

In November 2000, Archie was deer hunting in south Texas with Little Rock businessman Craig Campbell (son-in-law of the late Witt Stephens) when his cell phone rang. It was someone from the Federal Bureau of Prisons telling him he had two weeks to report to a federal prison in El Reno, Okla.

“I explained to the person on the other end of the line that the judge had given me until January to report,” Archie said. “I suggested that they get a copy of the judge’s order.”

Arkansas Republicans and Democrats alike called the White House to ask Clinton to pardon Archie. A group of friends who hung out each afternoon at Uncle Gaylord’s in Fayetteville came up with the idea of the “Free Archie” bumper stickers, which at one time could be spotted on cars and trucks in all parts of the state.

After the pardon, Tyson Foods moved aggressively into the beef and pork sectors in addition to poultry, becoming almost three times as big as it had been. So it’s not as if life slowed down for Archie.

What’s next?

A book?

He doesn’t think so.

Running for office?

He was a constitutional convention delegate once and served for five years on the Charleston School Board in the early 1980s after having returned home from Washington.

Again, though, there are no such plans.

“I have a great deal of appreciation for those willing to put their names on the ballot, but I’ve decided that’s not something I want to do again,” Archie said.

In addition to being on the Pryor Center board, he serves on boards for the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, the Nature Conservancy, the University of Arkansas Foundation and the Jones Center at Springdale. Those board assignments, along with more time spent with his three grown children and three grandchildren, should keep him busy for now.

“I think I’ll take a few months to decide what the next stage in my life will be,” Archie said.

With friends in all 75 counties, the options are many.

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College football: Week 6 (where is rock bottom?)

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

It’s much like what’s said about people with severe addiction problems: Sometimes you must hit rock bottom before you can start back up.

Which leads to this question: Just where is rock bottom for the 2012 edition of the University of Arkansas Razorback football team?

Surely we’re close.

Let’s consider some of the dubious milestones reached by this football team in its 58-10 loss last Saturday to Texas A&M:

– The 557 yards for the Aggie quarterback were the most yards ever put up by an individual against an Arkansas team. That performance shattered the previous record of 473 yards set by David Klingler of Houston in 1990. It was a Texas A&M school record and broke the Southeastern Conference record set by Archie Manning of Ole Miss in 1969 and tied by Rohan Davey of LSU in 2001.

– Texas A&M’s 498 passing yards came in just one yard shy of the most passing yards ever allowed by Arkansas. Kentucky gained 499 yards through the air against the Razorbacks in 1998.

– The last time Arkansas ended September without a victory over what would now be called an FBS opponent was 1967.

– It was the most points ever scored by Texas A&M against Arkansas in a series that dates back to 1903.

– This is only the seventh time Arkansas has started a season 1-4 or worse. The previous times were 1903, 1905, 1943, 1953, 1958 and 1992.

– Arkansas, whose meltdown was featured last Saturday morning on ESPN’s “College GameDay,” is the first team since Pittsburgh in 1984 to be ranked in the preseason Top 10 and then lose four games in September.

– Arkansas last lost four games in a row in 2004.

– Texas A&M finished the game with 716 yards of offense. The last team to gain more yards against a Razorback squad was USC in 2005 when the Trojans had 763 yards en route to a 70-17 victory.

– Arkansas has now been outscored 110-10 in two Southeastern Conference games and has given up 1,154 yards in those games.

Yes, I’m getting tired of going to the record book each Saturday as this team continues to see how low it can go.

We were 8-1 on the picks last week (missing only the UCA game; we had picked the Bears to win on the road), making us 36-7 for the year.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 6:

Auburn 30, Arkansas 28 — Auburn’s offense is bad. Arkansas’ defense is worse. Auburn might be joining Arkansas in the search for a new head coach soon, especially if the Razorbacks somehow come back from The Plains with a victory.

Arkansas State 35, Florida International 33 — It was not a good outing in Jonesboro last Saturday for a Red Wolf team that ended September with records of 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the Sun Belt Conference. Western Kentucky won 26-13 after trailing 13-0 at the half before a crowd of more than 25,000 people in Jonesboro. Ryan Aplin was 23 of 40 passing for 204 yards for the Red Wolves, but ASU had just 335 yards of total offense. Only 103 yards of that came in the second half when the Red Wolves were just one of seven on third down. Florida International is also struggling at 1-4. The lone win was by a score of 41-38 in overtime over Terry Bowden’s Akron Zips. The losses have come by scores of 46-26 to Duke, 33-20 to Central Florida, 28-21 to Louisville and 48-20 to Louisiana-Lafayette. ASU and Florida International hook up on a Thursday night on ESPNU in what could be a close game.

UCA 27, Nicholls State 20 — The Bears were coming off that huge home victory over Sam Houston State, but they struggled in the rain at Nacogdoches, Texas, losing 42-37 to Stephen F. Austin. UCA ended September with records of 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the Southland Conference. UCA was outgained 467-217 in the loss to SFA. The Bears were outscored 20-0 in the second quarter when they had just 16 yards of offense. Nicholls State, UCA Coach Clint Conque’s alma mater, comes to Conway for what’s shaping up to be another rainy Saturday. The Colonels played just three games in September, losing to South Alabama and Tulsa while posting a victory over tiny Evangel.

UAPB 14, Jackson State 12 — These two teams appear evenly matched. UAPB is 3-2 after a 40-13 loss to 5-0 Tennessee State last Saturday in Nashville. Jackson State is 2-3 with victories of 45-35 over Texas Southern and 34-13 over Prairie View A&M. The losses in September came by scores of 56-9 to Mississippi State, 38-12 to Tennessee State and 28-21 to Southern University. We’ll give the Golden Lions a slight advantage since they’re playing at home.

Ouachita 24, Southwestern Oklahoma 20 — Ouachita is 4-0 and ranked No. 11 in NCAA Division II despite being down to its third-string quarterback due to injuries. The Tigers survived on the road last Saturday, winning 27-24 over Southeastern Oklahoma in the rain at Durant. Sophomore Ty Towers of Star City, who started the season as a wide receiver, passed for 187 yards and rushed for another 103 yards. It’s homecoming at Ouachita, and Southwestern Oklahoma comes to Arkadelphia with records of 1-3 overall and 1-2 in the Great American Conference. We’ll pick Ouachita to again “win ugly” in the rain.

Henderson 52, UAM 31 – The 5-0 Reddies have been scoring more than 50 points per game so why not pick them to do so again even though it’s likely to be raining in Arkadelphia on Saturday afternoon? Henderson went on the road last Saturday for a 50-22 victory over Southwestern Oklahoma. Quarterback Kevin Rodgers was 19 of 31 passing for 241 yards and four touchdowns for the No. 14 Reddies. Henderson scored 35 consecutive points in the second and third quarters of that game. UAM fell to 1-4 with a 30-14 loss to 4-0 Southern Arkansas.

Harding 36, Southern Arkansas 25 — Two undefeated teams will battle Saturday in the Boomtown Classic at El Dorado. Southern Arkansas is 4-0 for the first time since 1997. The Muleriders scored the game’s final 23 points against UAM as Mark Johnson rushed for 203 yards and Tyler Sykora went 19 of 34 through the air for 354 yards. Harding, meanwhile, is 4-0 for the first time since 2002 after a 31-24 victory over East Cental Oklahoma in a game played at Searcy. The Bisons, who lead NCAA Division II in rushing, had 381 rushing yards in that game. Harding should move into the Division II Top 25 if it defeats Southern Arkansas.

Southeastern Oklahoma 32, Arkansas Tech 29 — Southeastern Oklahoma fell to 1-3 overall and 0-3 in Great American Conference play with its loss to Ouachita. Arkansas Tech snapped a three-game losing streak with a 41-20 win over Northwestern Oklahoma. Quarterback Tanner Marsh passed for 260 yards and rushed for 86 yards for the 2-3 Wonder Boys.

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