We went from the high of Friday and Saturday when all the stars seemed to align for the University of Arkansas football team to the tragedy of Sunday.
It was a dreary Monday morning as I drove my youngest son to Little Rock Catholic High School. A pall, which mirrored the weather, seemed to permeate the school at that early hour.
Catholic High is indeed a brotherhood and even the grounds, marked by the statue of Father Tribou, seemed to mourn the loss of a member of that brotherhood.
I didn’t attend Catholic High. But my oldest son graduated from there last year, and his younger brother began the ninth grade there this year.
You won’t find bigger fans of Catholic High than members of our family.
I’ll never forget what the school’s principal, Steve Straessle, said during an orientation session we attended more than four years ago: “For the first month or so, your boys will be very uncomfortable here, having to wear ties, having to keep their hair short and all the rest. Then, for the remainder of their lives, they will be very proud of this place because it’s unlike anything else in Little Rock.”
Garrett Uekman was a proud member of that purple-and-gold brotherhood.
God bless his soul.
God bless his family.
And God bless the men and women who make such a difference in the lives of the boys who attend Catholic High.
I was deeply touched this morning when I read in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Garrett had spoken during the game with the school’s counselor, Brother Richard Sanker, who was on the sidelines for the Razorbacks’ victory over Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon.
Brother Richard is a constant presence on the sideline of Catholic High football games, but he also attends events for the school’s other athletic teams. My oldest son ran cross country and track at Catholic, and Brother Richard would show up at conference and state championships to say a prayer prior to the races.
My two sons would be among the first to tell you that Brother Richard is one of the rocks that make Catholic High so strong. And a lot of people will need strength in the days ahead.
I’m thankful that Brother Richard and Garrett were able to speak during Saturday’s game.
As I write this, a rosary for Garrett is being held at Catholic High. Say a prayer today for the Uekman family.
Driving back to work following the weekly meeting of the Little Rock Touchdown Club this afternoon, I heard Catholic’s head football coach, David Estes, interviewed on Bo Mattingly’s statewide radio show.
As anyone who knows David could have predicted, he did a masterful job at a tough time. David was an assistant on Scooter Register’s staff when Garrett played at Catholic.
Asked by Bo what he thinks Garrett would say now if he could send us a message, David answered: “Let’s get to work and beat LSU.”
So in that spirit on this sad day we will turn to college football as we have done in this space for the entire fall.
It was as if some mad scriptwriter had been employed to come up with a dream scenario for Arkansas.
Here’s how it played out:
— Late on a Friday night, quarterback Brandon Weeden has his first pass in the second overtime intercepted by Iowa State. The Cyclones, who had come in as 27-point underdogs to No. 2 Oklahoma State, score and win 37-31 in Ames. Who saw that coming for a Cyclone team that had started the season 0-4 in the Big 12?
— On a warm Saturday afternoon in Little Rock, the Razorbacks take care of business with an impressive 44-17 victory over Mississippi State.
— On Saturday night, Oregon kicker Alejandro Maldonado misses a 37-yard field goal attempt to tie the game in Eugene against USC. Oregon, which had come back from a 24-7 third-quarter deficit, loses by three points, 38-35. The loss snaps a 21-game home winning streak and a 19-game conference winning streak for the Ducks.
— In Waco a few minutes later, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III throws a 34-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams with eight seconds left as Baylor shocks No. 5 Oklahoma, 45-38. Oklahoma had tied the game with 51 seconds remaining. But the Bears go 80 yards in five plays to score. Baylor was 0-20 against Oklahoma coming into the game. The man known as RGIII, now one of my favorite quarterbacks in college football, passed for 479 yards and four touchdowns. He had 551 total yards to set a school record.
I know there are those who think the computers will say otherwise, but I don’t see how you can keep No. 3 Arkansas out of the national championship game should the Hogs beat No. 1 LSU in Baton Rouge on Friday afternoon.
Consider these facts:
— Arkansas has won its past three games by a combined score of 137-52.
— Arkansas has won seven consecutive games, has gone undefeated at home for the first time since 1999, has won 11 consecutive home games and has won 10 consecutive games in Little Rock.
— Arkansas is 10-1 for the ninth time in school history and the first time since 2006.
— This is only the sixth time in school history for Arkansas to score 40 or more more points in three consecutive games.
— Tyler Wilson is the best quarterback in the Southeastern Conference. He set a school record with 32 completions on Saturday. He was 32 of 43 passing for 365 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. The completion mark he broke had stood for four decades — Joe Ferguson had completed 31 of 51 passes for 345 yards against Texas A&M in 1971.
— Arkansas dominated Mississippi State in all categories: 539-211 in total yardage, 29-13 in first downs, 166-84 in rushing, 373-127 in passing.
— Arkansas had an advantage of 20:42 to 9:18 in time of possession in the second and third quarters, holding the Bulldogs to six consecutive three-and-out series at one point in the game.
— Chris Gragg had a career-high eight catches for 119 yards and one touchdown. The Warren trio of Gragg, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs combined for 19 catches and 247 yards.
No team is playing better right now than Arkansas. So should the Razorbacks win on the road, they deserve to play for a national title.
Winning against LSU in Baton Rouge is much easier said than done, of course. The 11-0 start is the best for a Tiger team since 1958. The 52-3 win over Ole Miss on Saturday night was so thorough that it was difficult to watch. The Tigers led 21-0 after just five minutes and led 35-3 at the half as Ole Miss lost its 13th consecutive SEC game. LSU only threw the ball eight times and completed all eight passes.
What a football season this has been for the schools I follow and write about.
Arkansas, Arkansas State and UCA are a combined 22-0 in their past 22 games.
Arkansas State secured a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship with a 45-19 win at Middle Tennessee. The Red Wolves are 9-2 overall and 7-0 in conference play with one conference game remaining in Jonesboro against Troy on Dec. 3. ASU will play Jan. 8 in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Just think about it: You can go to New Orleans to see Arkansas in the national championship game and make the short drive over to Mobile the day before to see Arkansas State play.
UCA didn’t play last weekend but got the good news Sunday that it has earned a playoff berth. The 8-3 Bears go to Tennessee Tech on Saturday to take on a 7-3 team coached by Watson Brown, the brother of Texas head coach Mack Brown.
Tennessee Tech shared the Ohio Valley Conference title with Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State.
UAPB rolled to a 42-6 win over Texas Southern on Saturday. At 6-5 overall and 5-4 in conference play, the Golden Lions will have a spot in the SWAC championship game at Birmingham on Dec. 10 if Grambling loses to Southern on Saturday afternoon in the New Orleans Superdome. The Grambling-Southern game will be telecast nationally by NBC.
We were 3-0 last week on picks, meaning we’re having about as good a year as the Razorbacks with an overall record of 76-19.
The picks for this week:
UCA 29, Tennessee Tech 27 — We’ll be homers and go with a Bear team that has won seven consecutive games. The Bears finished second in the Southland Conference behind 11-0 Sam Houston State. The winner of the UCA-Tennessee Tech game will play at 9-2 Montana on Dec. 3.
LSU 24, Arkansas 21 — Given all that has happened, my heart tells me to pick Arkansas. My head tells me to pick LSU. I’ll go with my head for the purposes of this blog. But remembering what David Estes said, I will be rooting with all my heart for Arkansas on Friday afternoon.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.