Archive for November, 2018

College football: Week 13

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is indeed unacceptable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rex’s Rankings: Nearing the end

Monday, November 19th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

OVERALL:

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

CLASS 7A

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

CLASS 6A

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

CLASS 5A

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

CLASS 4A

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

CLASS 3A

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

CLASS 2A

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

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College football: Week 12

Friday, November 16th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the picks for this Saturday’s games:

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

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

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

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

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

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Rex’s Rankings: The playoffs continue

Monday, November 12th, 2018

There weren’t many changes in the rankings following the first week of the high school football playoffs.

In fact, six of our Top 10 teams had first-round byes.

The four teams that did play won easily: No. 6 Pulaski Academy beat Alma 57-21; No. 7 Fayetteville beat Little Rock Catholic 45-17; No. 9 Conway beat Rogers 49-7; and No. 10 Joe T. Robinson beat Pottsville 47-12.

Things get more interesting this week in the second round. There are some matchups that we’re used to seeing in the finals — Pulaski Academy against Little Rock McClellan in Class 5A, Arkadelphia against Warren in Class 4A, etc.

Here are the updated rankings as we move in the second round of the playoffs:

OVERALL

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

CLASS 7A

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

CLASS 6A

  1. Greenwood
  2. West Memphis
  3. Benton
  4. Marion
  5. Searcy

CLASS 5A

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

CLASS 4A

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

CLASS 3A

  1. Booneville
  2. Smackover
  3. Clinton
  4. Rison
  5. Prescott

CLASS 2A

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

 

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College football: Week 11

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

So what’s the state of mind of the LSU football team following that 29-0 loss to No. 1 Alabama last Saturday night in Baton Rouge?

And does it really matter as the Tigers head to Fayetteville for what promises to be a cold night game (and one that probably will be played before a sparse crowd) at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium?

The Tigers had no answer for Tua Tagovailoa last Saturday as he threw two touchdown passes and ran 44 yards for another score.

“We really wanted to make a statement in this game,” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. “What better opportunity is there to make a statement than the circumstance we were in.”

Arkansas has had two weeks to prepare for the game against LSU. But again, does it really matter? The talent difference between the two squads is so great that I think the answer is “no.”

The better fan experience Saturday likely will be in Arkadelphia for the Battle of the Ravine, which is scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. at Henderson’s Carpenter-Haygood Stadium. Ouachita is 10-0, ranked fourth in the country in NCAA Division II and has already secured its second consecutive Great American Conference championship (and its fourth title in the eight years the conference has existed). Henderson would like nothing better, of course, than to keep this from being the first Ouachita team to go 11-0 in the regular season (the undefeated 2014 team only played 10 regular-season games).

We were 4-3 on the picks last week to make the season record 64-20.

Here are the selections going into Saturday’s games:

LSU 34, Arkansas 20 — If LSU is indeed experiencing an Alabama hangover, the Hogs might hang around for three quarters or so. Last week, LSU’s defense allowed Tagovailoa to go 25 of 42 through the air for 295 yards. LSU enters the game with records of 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the Southeastern Conference. Arkansas is the only SEC team without a conference victory as the Razorbacks find themselves 2-7 overall and 0-5 in conference play. Expect Tiger quarterback Joe Burrow to have a much better game than a week ago when he was sacked five times and had a late pass intercepted in the end zone. Alabama held the Tiger running game to just 12 yards. The Crimson Tide finished with a 576-196 advantage in total yards while beating LSU for the eighth consecutive time.

Ouachita 31, Henderson 21 — The Battle of the Ravine is the best small college football rivalry in the country, and it’s right here in Arkansas. It’s the small college version of Alabama against Auburn — a game that divides families and is talked about 12 months a year. The two schools first played each other in football in 1895, and the series is almost even after all these decades. Henderson leads 43-42-6. The game has been decided by a touchdown or less in 42 of those 91 contests. The series was suspended from 1951-62 due to excessive vandalism. Attending a Battle of the Ravine should be on every Arkansan’s bucket list. Henderson is having a down season. The Reddies come in at 5-5 following a 24-17 loss to UAM in Arkadelphia a week ago, but this is the Reddies’ bowl game. Expect Henderson to play far better than it did a week ago.

Arkansas State 35, Coastal Carolina 32 — Arkansas State makes the long trip to Conway, S.C., to take on a Coastal Carolina team that’s 5-4 overall and 2-3 in Sun Belt Conference play. Coastal Carolina’s victories have come by scores of 47-24 over Alabama-Birmingham, 58-21 over Campbell, 30-28 over Louisiana-Lafayette, 24-13 over Massachusetts and 37-34 over Georgia State. The losses have been by scores of 49-15 to South Carolina, 45-21 to Troy, 45-20 to Louisiana-Monroe and 23-7 to Appalachian State. ASU moved to 5-4 overall and 2-3 in Sun Belt play last Saturday with a 38-14 victory over South Alabama at Jonesboro. Red Wolf quarterback Justice Hansen was 26 of 37 passing for 332 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in that game. He’s now fifth on the all-time Sun Belt list with 74 touchdown passes.

Incarnate Word 27, UCA 26 — The Bears fell to 5-4 overall and 4-3 in the Southland Conference with a disappointing 38-24 loss to Lamar last Saturday night in Conway. Lamar rolled to a 35-16 halftime lead and never looked back. Luke Hales, UCA’s redshirt freshman quarterback, was 18 of 45 passing for 257 yards and one touchdown. McNeese State, Nicholls State and Incarnate Word are tied for the Southland Conference lead at 5-2. Incarnate Word comes to Conway for Saturday afternoon’s game with a 5-4 record overall. The wins have been by scores of 31-7 over Stephen F. Austin, 44-34 over Abilene Christian, 52-34 over Southeastern Louisiana, 45-17 over McNeese State and 43-26 over Sam Houston State. The losses have been by scores of 62-30 to New Mexico, 58-16 to North Texas, 27-21 to Lamar and 48-21 to Nicholls State.

Southern University 45, UAPB 29 — A long season for the Golden Lions got even longer before a big homecoming crowd in Pine Bluff last Saturday afternoon as UAPB fell 45-14 to Alabama A&M. The game wasn’t in doubt after the visitors took a 14-0 halftime lead. UAPB (1-8, 0-5) finished with 378 yards of offense. Taeyler Porter, who had come in averaging 130 yards rushing per game for the Golden Lions, was held to 40 yards on 15 carries. Southern University, this Saturday afternoon’s opponent in Baton Rouge, is 5-3 overall and leads the west division of the SWAC with a 4-1 conference record. The Southern victories have come by scores of 33-18 over Langston, 29-27 over Alabama A&M, 38-0 over Prairie View A&M, 21-7 over Texas Southern and 41-7 over Jackson State. The losses have been by scores of 55-7 to TCU, 54-17 to Louisiana Tech and 20-3 to Alcorn State.

Southern Arkansas 33, UAM 30 — Southern Arkansas came to Arkadelphia last week with a chance to gain a share of the GAC lead with a win over Ouachita. The Muleriders, however, fell to 8-2 as the Tigers thrashed the visitors by a final score of 35-10. SAU can still earn a spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs with a victory in Monticello against a UAM team that has won four of its past fives games (losing only to Ouachita during that stretch). In the Boll Weevils’ win at Henderson last Saturday, UAM senior quarterback Cole Sears was 12 of 23 passing for 185 yards and a touchdown. Devonte Dean rushed for 75 yards on 22 carries. I expect the Weevils to give SAU all it can handle.

Harding 49, Arkansas Tech 25 — Harding is 8-2 and has an outside shot at a playoff berth. The Bisons host a 3-7 Arkansas Tech team that has played below expectations all season. Harding won 24-10 against Southeastern Oklahoma last Saturday as Cole Chancey rushed for 99 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. The Bisons rushed for 258 yards and only passed for 21 yards on three passes. Tech fell 28-26 at home to East Central Oklahoma after having led 21-7 at the half. The season can’t finish fast enough for Wonder Boy fans. Harding, meanwhile, will have at least one more game. The Bisons will play in a bowl game if they don’t make the playoffs.

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Rex’s Rankings: Playoff time

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

The regular season in high school football has come to a close, and it’s time for the playoffs.

In Class 7A, North Little Rock is the clear favorite to repeat as state champion.

In Class 6A, Greenwood is the clear favorite to repeat as state champion.

In Class 5A, Pulaski Academy is the clear favorite to repeat as state champion.

Things aren’t as clear in the other classifications.

For now, we have Joe T. Robinson at No. 1 in Class 4A, Booneville at No. 1 in Class 3A and Hazen at No. 1 in Class 2A.

Here are the rankings at the end of the regular season:

OVERALL

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

CLASS 7A

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

CLASS 6A

  1. Greenwood
  2. West Memphis
  3. Benton
  4. Marion
  5. Searcy

CLASS 5A

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

CLASS 4A

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

CLASS 3A

  1. Booneville
  2. Smackover
  3. Clinton
  4. Rison
  5. Prescott

CLASS 2A

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

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