College football: Week 9

He called that play, Chuck!

He almost did it, didn’t he?

He almost pulled off the upset Razorback fans had feared the most.

In this space last week, I said that ol’ HDN didn’t have the talent to get it done. In the end, I was right.

But it was close. Real close.

Why do Arkansas defenses seem so woefully unprepared in the first halves of important games — the Sugar Bowl in January, the Texas A&M game earlier this season, Saturday’s near disaster at Oxford?

A few thoughts:

— Yes, I picked Arkansas to win by 23 points. Still, I couldn’t help but be amused last week listening to the fans calling in to radio talk shows and predicting 40- or even 50-point victories. Arkansas is not Alabama or LSU. If you don’t believe me, just go back and check the results of that Sept. 24 game in Tuscaloosa. Alabama and LSU have the two best defenses in the country. Until the Arkansas program puts as much emphasis on defense as it does on offense, it will never consistently compete at the highest levels.

— HDN makes more than $2.5 million a year to put up with the grief that comes with being a major college head coach. Does he really need to start his postgame news conference attacking some poor ol’ reporter who likely makes less than $100,000 annually? The guy’s sin in HDN’s mind was that he picked Ole Miss to lose. The last time I checked, Ole Miss lost the game. In fact, the last time I checked, the Rebels had lost 10 consecutive Southeastern Conference games, the most in school history. The Rebels haven’t won an SEC game since Oct. 9 of last year against Kentucky (you mean they still play football in Lexington?).

— Larry Lacewell had a great line at Monday’s meeting of the Little Rock Touchdown Club. He said HDN has the unique ability to “be booed by two sets of fans at the same time.”

— Earlier this month, I was listening to the radio broadcast of Oklahoma’s game against Kansas. The Sooners were starting slowly. Merv Johnson — who was participating in his 400th consecutive football game at Oklahoma either as a coach, administrator or radio analyst — said this: “The goal is to get the W, get in the car and go home.” Winning road games in the SEC is no simple task. For now, Arkansas can just be glad it got the W and got back across the Mississippi River intact.

Bottom line: The Razorbacks are 6-1 for the first time in the Bobby Petrino era and for the first time since 2006.

Arkansas is 12-8 against Ole Miss since joining the SEC. The overall series record is in dispute. Arkansas says it leads the series 32-25-1. Ole Miss says Arkansas’ lead is 31-26-1. The 1914 game is the subject of disagreement.

One thing is not in dispute about 1914. Arkansas and Ole Miss both lost to Ouachita that season. You knew I couldn’t leave that out.

Yes, Tyler Wilson struggled at times in Oxford. He was 13 of 28 passing for 232 yards and no touchdowns. It was the fewest completions in a game for Arkansas since 12 completions against Ole Miss two years ago. It was the first time for Arkansas not to have a touchdown pass since the 2009 game against South Carolina.

Wilson was seven of 15 passing at halftime for 72 yards. I have a feeling that Petrino was not commenting on the nice weather when he would meet Wilson on the sideline following first-half possessions.

Ole Miss outgained Arkansas 250-128 in the first half and had a 14:24 lead in time of possession.

In spite of the early starting time, I have a hard time believing Petrino will allow a team to sleep through another first half on Saturday.

The record on picks was 6-2 last week. That makes the record for the year 51-16.

On to Week 9:

Arkansas 44, Vanderbilt 21 — We might as well go with the same score we used for last week’s prediction against Ole Miss. As noted, the Razorbacks should play better this week. Vanderbilt improved its record to 4-3 with its 44-21 win over Army. Jordan Rodgers — the younger brother of the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers — got his first start at quarterback. The redshirt junior was 10 of 27 passing and rushed for 96 yards. Vanderbilt finished with 530 yards of offense. This isn’t the Army defense, however. Is it? Wake ’em up early, Willie!

Arkansas State 38, North Texas 24 — Western Kentucky upset Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday to end an 18-game home losing streak. Why is that important? It’s important because it leaves Arkansas State alone atop the Sun Belt Conference standings. I attended the Red Wolf game last Tuesday in Jonesboro and had a fun time despite the cold weather. The Red Wolves went to 5-2 overall and 3-0 in conference play with their 34-16 win over Florida International. Quarterback Ryan Aplin rushed for a career-high 175 yards and two touchdowns. ASU had 385 yards of offense. The Red Wolf defense held Florida International to 66 yards on the ground. North Texas, meanwhile, posted a 38-21 win over Louisiana-Monroe last Saturday. The Mean Green opened the season with losses of 41-16 to Florida International, 48-23 to Houston and 41-0 to Alabama. Since then North Texas has defeated Indiana, Florida Atlantic and Louisiana-Monroe while losing to Tulsa and Louisiana-Lafayette. I just don’t see the Red Wolves losing their homecoming game to the 3-5 Mean Green. Hugh Freeze has his players believing, and he has the folks in northeast Arkansas believing. Heck, he has me believing.

UCA 40, Southeastern Louisiana 35 — The Bears have now won four consecutive games. They went to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the Southland Conference with a 38-24 victory over Lamar in Beaumont, Texas, on Saturday. Lamar led early, 14-0, but UCA came back to tie the score at 17-17 just before halftime and ended up dominating the second half. The Bears had 355 yards of offense, including 168 yards on the ground. Nathan Dick was 13 of 22 passing for 187 yards and three TDs. Southeastern Louisiana scored 17 unanswered points in the second half for a 38-28 win over Texas State. The only other victory for the 2-5 Lions was against Savannah State. The five losses have come by scores of 47-33 to Tulane, 52-6 to Southern Mississippi, 48-27 to McNeese State, 48-38 to Lamar and 51-17 to Northwestern State. The Bears aren’t blowing people out, but they’re winning. They’ll win again in Conway on Saturday.

Grambling 30, UAPB 20 — Show up for the fights and perhaps a football game will break out in Pine Bluff on Saturday afternoon. The numerous suspensions will hurt the Golden Lions. Granted, this isn’t a vintage Grambling team. The Tigers are 3-4 with wins over Alcorn State, Concordia and Mississippi Valley State and losses to Louisiana-Monroe, Alabama State, Alabama A&M and Prairie View A&M.

Ouachita 50, Harding 49 — It will be like an arena league game in Searcy on Saturday afternoon. Two good offenses. Two bad defenses. Ouachita stayed alone atop the Great American Conference with a 53-43 win over Southern Arkansas. The Tigers are 4-0 in the GAC and 5-2 overall. They need a win to stay in the running for a playoff spot. Junior quarterback Casey Cooper continues to play well. He had 260 yards passing and 102 yards rushing on Saturday. Ouachita finished with 518 yards of offense, including 269 on the ground. Up the road in Searcy, Harding was scoring 70 points. The Bisons scored touchdowns on all six of their first-half possessions in a 70-28 victory over Southwestern Oklahoma. Harding had 479 yards on the ground, the second most in school history. The Bisons, plagued earlier in the year with turnovers, are just 3-5 overall but remain in the conference race with a 2-1 GAC record. Last team with the ball wins.

East Central Oklahoma 31, Arkansas Tech 28 — The Wonder Boys snapped a five-game losing streak with a 28-16 win Saturday over Southeastern Oklahoma. Tech is now 2-6. East Central’s conference title hopes suffered a blow with a 42-41 overtime loss to Henderson in Arkadelphia. East Central scored first in overtime but missed its extra point attempt. Henderson then scored on a fourth-down play and made its extra point attempt. Tech is at home, but East Central (which is 5-3 overall and 3-2 in conference) seems to have a bit too much talent for this edition of the Wonder Boys to overcome.

UAM 39, Southeastern Oklahoma 37 — These are two teams that started strong but have faded down the stretch. Southeastern Oklahoma began the season 2-0 but has since lost five consecutive games. UAM also started 2-0, but the Boll Weevils now find themselves 3-5 on the season. Northeastern Oklahoma scored with 24 seconds left last Saturday to beat UAM, 47-46. Give the Weevils the edge against Southeastern since it’s homecoming in Monticello.

South Alabama 42, Henderson 33 — The Reddies have found their offense in recent weeks. They’re now 4-3 overall and 3-1 in conference play. For a second consecutive season, Henderson makes the long trip to Mobile, Ala., to take on the Jaguars of South Alabama. The Jags are 4-3 with wins over West Alabama, Lamar, Texas-San Antonio and Tennessee-Martin. The losses have come to North Carolina State, Kent State and Georgia State. The Reddies won’t win, but expect them to keep it close.

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