I have always enjoyed the beginning of September. It marks the start of football season. It marks the start of dove season. It means that fall is not far off.
When I was growing up, the long Labor Day weekend was always special. Often, my birthday fell on Labor Day weekend. That weekend was marked by high school football on Friday night, often a college game on Saturday and several consecutive mornings of dove hunting with my dad. For my birthday, there were fried doves (if we had a successful opening morning of hunting, and we always did) and chocolate cake.
For a fourth consecutive year, the start of the Ouachita football season is going to mean that I miss the opening morning of dove season. There just isn’t enough time to do everything.
The last time I hunted on opening morning at Wiley Meacham’s farm in Monroe, two other hunters and I cleaned 194 doves before breakfast. We were legal, mind you. There were a lot more people hunting, but just three of us cleaning the birds.
In 2006, I had to drive to Joplin, Mo., for Ouachita’s opener against Missouri Southern. There wasn’t time to hunt in east Arkansas and then make it to southwest Missouri for the game.
In 2007, I had to go to Commerce, Texas, to broadcast the Ouachita season opener. Again, there wasn’t time to go east to Monroe County and then drive back west.
Last year, there was a home game in Arkadelphia to open the season, but the kickoff was at noon in order to accommodate the travel schedule of the opponent from Colorado. A morning hunt near Monroe (on the Monroe County-Lee County line) and a night game in Arkadelphia would have allowed me to hunt and broadcast the game. It would have been a perfect day. But I could not hunt and still be in the press box by 10 a.m. to prepare for an 11 a.m. pregame show.
This Saturday will find me driving to Tyler, Texas, for the Ouachita opener against Texas College. So hunting on the opening morning of dove season is once more not a feasible thing to do. If Ouachita would play its opener to the east rather than to the west, I might make it work one of these days.
But college football is on. And if the crowd of 700 people at today’s meeting of the Little Rock Touchdown Club is any indication, Arkansans are ready for some football.
Each week during the season, I’ll put my neck on the line and predict all games involving Arkansas schools. I invite you to add your predictions for any or all of these games in the Comments section.
Arkansas 50, Missouri State 18 — The Razorback season starts at War Memorial Stadium. They’ll be partying on the War Memorial golf course shortly after 7 a.m. and be in a frenzy by the 6 p.m. kickoff. Last year saw the Razorbacks struggle in games they should have won easily early in the season. That should not be the case in this game.
Arkansas State 37, Mississippi Valley State 9 — The Red Wolves have an excellent chance to win the Sun Belt Conference and play in the New Orleans Bowl this year. They’re loaded. Don’t expect problems from a SWAC school in a game played at Jonesboro.
Hawaii 42, UCA 19 — The Bears get their “bowl trip” at the first of the season rather than the end of the season in a game scheduled to begin at 11:30 p.m. CDT Friday. UCA will play well for a half before wearing down after the long trip. Still, having this game on the schedule has been a great hook for recruits.
UAPB 24, UAM 23 — The Division II Boll Weevils upset the Division I-AA Golden Lions (I refuse to use that FCS and FBS stuff) last year. As it turned out, it really wasn’t much of an upset. UAM had its best season in recent years in 2008 with a 7-4 record, and UAPB struggled in its first season under Monte Coleman as head coach. The Weevils will make it close this year after a terrible first game last Thursday at Tarleton State in Texas. But based on the opener, this UAM team doesn’t seem up to the level of last year’s squad.
West Alabama 38, Harding 36 — Harding scored in the final minute Saturday to defeat Missouri Southern in a game played at Searcy. Harding should be improved from its 2-9 season of a year ago. But West Alabama should also be improved. This will be an early test of which of these Gulf South Conference schools made the most improvement during the offseason. This is the Thursday night GSC television game of the week, by the way.
Arkansas Tech 49, Incarnate Word 20 — Incarnate Word? Are they having a football game in Russellville or a tent revival?
Ouachita 45, Texas College 17 — Ouachita went 7-3 last year, the best record at the school since 1985. The Tigers should roll on the road against an NAIA school.
McNeese State 50, Henderson 22 — The Reddies were defeated last Thursday in their opener against Southeastern Oklahoma. They now must make the long trip to Lake Charles, La., to collect a check from a Southland Conference foe and traditional I-AA power.
It’s your turn. Let’s hear your predictions.