It has become a November tradition in our family: The Ouachita football season has ended, meaning it’s time to attend a Razorback game at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium.
The November opponent in Little Rock has alternated in recent years between Mississippi State and LSU.
The LSU contest is the one you really look forward to, but there’s nothing wrong with playing the Bulldogs. We’ll do as we always do. We’ll park in Hillcrest, walk down Van Buren Street and head to Brenda Scisson’s tailgate party about two hours before kickoff. We’ll hit Brenda’s party again after the contest while the traffic clears. With the traffic gone, I can be home from War Memorial in less than 10 minutes. It’s great.
Normally, you would expect CBS to pick up Ole Miss-LSU as its national Southeastern Conference telecast on this weekend each year. Two years ago was the Tigers’ infamous clock-management meltdown in Oxford as Verne Lundquist exclaimed: “What are they doing?”
But the Rebels are so awful this year that there was no way CBS was going to telecast that rout nationally.
Thus the Razorbacks get a chance to show off for the national television cameras Saturday afternoon. They should take advantage of the opportunity. So should the fans.
The folks at War Memorial Stadium — who did a nice job getting those in attendance to wear alternating red and white shirts earlier in the year to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — have come up with a new idea for this Saturday. They’ve purchased more than 50,000 red-and-white pompons that will be placed in the seats.
It should make for quite a sight on national television.
The War Memorial Stadium Commission was joined by the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, Bank of America, Regions Bank, the Mitchell Williams law firm, the Friday Eldredge & Clark law firm, Ark and Nancy Monroe and Kevin and Cathy Crass in making the purchase.
These individuals and entities realize how important those two Razorback football games are each year to Little Rock.
Kevin Crass, the chairman of the stadium commission, described it as a “privilege” to host two games in an era when few schools play home games away from campus.
In the unique state that’s Arkansas, I think UA athletic director Jeff Long has come to understand how much the Little Rock games mean to fans not only in central Arkansas but also those in south and east Arkansas. Expect to see plenty of those in attendance from south and east Arkansas in hunting clothes since Saturday is the first day of duck season and the second Saturday of modern gun deer season.
Add to the football game the fact that Mike Anderson’s basketball team will take on Houston on Friday night in North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena.
Hugh McDonald of Entergy Arkansas, the current chairman of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, noted during a Wednesday news conference at War Memorial Stadium that the events will have an estimated $6 million impact on the city.
McDonald also noted that part of economic development these days is “creating an environment in which people like to live.”
Especially in the South, people like to live in a place that has some big-time college football.
Given the Razorbacks’ long history of playing Little Rock games, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola made the point at the news conference that War Memorial is also a home stadium for the university.
“The Little Rock games offer an opportunity to bring this state together,” the mayor said. “We’re proud of our partnership with the university. This is going to be a wonderful Razorback weekend with wins Friday night and Saturday afternoon.”
Stodola also correctly pointed out that the golf course in War Memorial Park provides the setting for one of the best tailgate scenes in America.
Shake those free pompons Saturday afternoon and make it look good for the CBS cameras.
As part of what’s known as RazorRock, a pep rally will be held at 4:45 p.m. Friday at Little Rock’s Park Plaza Mall. The Razorback band, cheerleaders and mascots will be in attendance.
As for the game itself, it’s important to point out that Mississippi State is not to be confused with Tennessee. Though the Bulldogs are just 5-5 overall and 1-5 in the SEC, they’re a far better team than the Vols. That’s not to say that the Hogs shouldn’t pull away in the second half. Coach Dan Mullen is just 2-11 against SEC West teams since coming to Starkville (he has defeated a fellow from Ole Miss named Nutt on two occasions). Last week, Alabama’s defense held the Bulldogs to only 131 yards of offense en route to a 24-7 victory.
This Bulldog team easily could be 7-3 rather than 5-5 had it made key plays down the stretch in losses of 41-34 to Auburn and 14-12 to South Carolina. Top-ranked LSU only beat the Bulldogs by 13 points, 19-6.
Arkansas has won 14 of the 21 meetings between these two schools, including nine of the past 10. The Razorbacks are 5-0-1 against the Bulldogs in Little Rock. Mississippi State last beat Arkansas three years ago in Starkville.
Meanwhile, Arkansas State needs a win at Middle Tennessee on Saturday afternoon to secure at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship. And UAPB ends the regular season at home against Texas Southern.
We were 7-1 on our picks last week, making the record 73-19 for the season. We not only would have gone 8-0 had Ouachita been awarded a touchdown on the final play of the Battle of the Ravine but also have had the margin correct since we had picked the Tigers by one. Oh well.
On to the picks for Week 12:
Arkansas 35, Mississippi State 19 — Razorback fans couldn’t find much to complain about in the wake of that 49-7 win over Tennessee in Fayetteville last Saturday night. The Hogs have now won six consecutive games and 10 in a row at home. It was their largest winning margin in an SEC game since beating Mississippi State in Fayetteville in 2003 by a score of 52-6. I attended that game. Arkansas has now won seven consecutive games against SEC East teams, dating back to the narrow 2009 loss at Florida. At 4-6 overall and 0-6 in the SEC, Tennessee will have six or more conference losses for the first time since 1962. How long ago was that? Tulane was still in the conference. It was the largest margin of defeat for a Tennessee team since a 44-0 loss to Georgia in 1981. It’s fair to say the Hogs are rolling now. With Joe Adams’ remarkable punt return, Arkansas has now scored seven nonoffensive touchdowns this season, including one in each of the past four games. Tyler Wilson was 16 of 26 passing against Tennessee for 224 yards while Dennis Johnson rushed for 97 yards. My thinking is this: A similar performance against Mississippi State in Little Rock on Saturday afternoon results in a margin of victory between 14 and 21 points.
Arkansas State 31, Middle Tennessee State 24 — Last Saturday’s 30-21 win in Jonesboro over a good Louisiana-Lafayette squad was huge for Red Wolves. In the first year of the Hugh Freeze era, ASU is 8-2 overall and 6-0 in conference play. The Red Wolves converted five turnovers into 17 points against Louisiana-Lafayette. Ryan Aplin was 20 of 32 passing and added 80 yards rushing. Middle Tennessee is 2-7 overall and 1-4 in conference play. The wins came by scores of 38-31 over Memphis and 38-14 over Florida Atlantic. The losses have been by scores of 27-24 to Purdue, 49-21 to Georgia Tech, 38-35 to Troy, 36-33 to Western Kentucky, 45-20 to Louisiana-Lafayette, 24-0 to Tennessee and 42-14 to Louisiana-Monroe.
UAPB 21, Texas Southern 12 — The Golden Lions can give Monte Coleman his first winning season in four years as head coach. They evened their record last Saturday at 5-5 overall and 4-4 in the SWAC with a 15-3 victory over Mississippi Valley State. Texas Southern comes to town with records of 4-6 overall and 2-6 in the SWAC. The wins came by scores of 49-6 over Texas College, 14-7 over Alcorn State, 42-11 over Central State of Ohio and 29-15 over Southern University. The losses were by scores of 37-34 to Prairie View A&M, 58-13 to Jackson State, 43-29 to Alabama State, 24-21 to Alabama A&M, 12-9 to Mississippi Valley State and 29-25 to Grambling. The good news for UAPB is that all of those suspensions that resulted from the brawl at the end of the Oct. 15 win over Southern have now been served.