It was a hot start to the college football season in Arkansas, wasn’t it?
With temperatures in the 90s when the Razorbacks kicked off in Fayetteville last Saturday afternoon, the first aid crews were kept busy. I understand they treated dozens of people. But it wasn’t for dehydration. They were treating people who were hit in the face after asking the folks sitting next to them the inane question: “Is it hot enough for ya?”
You know, there just wasn’t too much for Arkansas fans to complain about after the first game of the Bret Bielema era.
You had Jonathan Williams rushing for 151 yards and Alex Collins rushing for 131 yards. Arkansas was one of just four teams in the country (Arkansas State was another) during the first weekend of college football with at least two running backs topping the century mark.
You had Brandon Allen completing 15 of his 22 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns.
On defense, the Hogs had four sacks and forced two turnovers. After netting 136 yards on their first two possessions, Louisiana-Lafayette had just 138 yards the rest of the afternoon as Arkansas posted a 34-14 victory.
Louisiana-Lafayette is now 0-37 against Southeastern Conference teams and 0-5 against Arkansas. The margin should be even larger this week as Samford (that’s Samford; not Stanford) from the FCS comes to Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium.
Meanwhile, up in Jonesboro last Saturday night, Arkansas State could have named its score against the Golden Lions of UAPB. With at least a dozen players having been ruled academically ineligible, UAPB was just no match for ASU. The final score was 62-11. Fans stayed to watch the UAPB band perform at halftime and then left in droves.
Four Red Wolves gained more than 100 yards on the ground — David Oku had 124, Sirgregory Thornton had 112, Michael Gordon had 102 and quarterback Fredi Knighten out of Pulaski Academy had 101.
Arkansas State finished the night with 672 yards of total offense. Of that yardage, 509 came on the ground. That’s just 17 yards shy of a school record. The Red Wolves had 480 yards by halftime and scored on nine of their first 10 possessions.
I realize this is the fourth head coach at ASU in as many seasons, but it has been amazing to watch the transformation of this program. It obviously would be an upset if the Red Wolves were to beat Auburn on the Plains on Saturday, but these are players who go there expecting to upset their former head coach, Gus Malzahn. It’s also a program that has drawn 30,000 fans in each of the past three home games.
In Conway on Thursday night of last week, UCA had an easy time with Incarnate Word from San Antonio, winning 58-7 before a crowd of more than 10,000. Five Bears were suspended for this game, but it didn’t matter.
Quarterback Wynrick Smothers was 27 of 31 passing for 267 yards and one touchdown. The Bears, who had 523 yards of offense, led 30-0 at halftime. Expect UCA to compete for at least a half if not longer when the Bears go to Colorado this weekend, just as was the case a year ago when they actually led Ole Miss at Oxford at intermission in the season’s first game.
All of the state’s NCAA Division II teams with the exception of Ouachita open the season this week. And the new Division III team from Hendrix is home against Westminster on Saturday afternoon. It’s the school’s first football game since 1960. I’ll be in Conway. It should be fun.
I’ll be honest and tell you that I don’t know much about Division III football. So I won’t be picking Hendrix games this season. Let’s let this new program get off the ground. As in the past, I’ll pick the Arkansas, Arkansas State, UCA, UAPB and Great American Conference games each week.
We were 3-0 on picks last week. On to the picks for Week II:
Arkansas 52, Samford 17 — I hope to start the day Saturday having breakfast with my old friend Andy Westmoreland, the former Ouachita president who is now the president of Samford in Birmingham. I bet Andy’s morning in Little Rock will be better than his evening. Samford, a member of the Southern Conference, started the season last Friday night with a 31-21 win over Georgia State in Atlanta. It was Samford’s first win over an FBS team. Samford, which is Bobby Bowden’s alma mater, has just 63 scholarships while Arkansas can offer 85. That difference in depth will show on a warm night at War Memorial Stadium. Samford is 2-73-3 against SEC teams. The last time the Bulldogs beat an SEC team was in 1934 when Samford defeated Ole Miss. So Westmoreland has now been the president of two schools that have defeated Ole Miss in football. Ouachita beat Ole Miss in 1914. Ouachita is also the only Arkansas school to have defeated the Razorbacks more than once. When it comes to the Razorbacks, Samford will have to settle for the check it takes back to Birmingham.
Auburn 28, Arkansas State 22 — Malzahn is 1-0 as an SEC head coach after Auburn’s 31-24 victory over Washington State. We should have known it would be a game of big plays because it was Malzahn vs. Mike Leach. Neither team is very good. Expect the Red Wolves to hang around until the end Saturday with a chance to win at Jordan-Hare. Red Wolf fans remember this quote from Malzahn a year ago: “If you think I’m here for only one year, you don’t know me very well.”
Colorado 31, UCA 20 — You also can expect UCA to hang around in Boulder on Saturday. UCA will receive a check for $390,000, the largest it has ever received. Games against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Kansas State loom during the next four seasons as the Conway school continues to upgrade its football program. Colorado was just 1-11 a year ago. It opened the season with a rare Sunday game, defeating Colorado State, 41-27. The Bears find themselves ranked No. 5 in the FCS coaches’ poll. And we’re coming off a first week in which eight FCS teams defeated FBS squads. UCA head coach Clint Conque would love to become No. 9 in 2013. After watching the Bears last week in Conway, I think his team has a chance.
McNeese State 47, UAPB 16 — One of those FCS teams that went on the road and won last week against a school from the NCAA’s highest division was McNeese State from the Southland Conference. The Cowboys shocked South Florida. McNeese is now filled with confidence, and that’s bad news for the depleted UAPB team that rolls into Lake Charles this weekend. It looks as if the defending SWAC champion is going to start the 2013 season with a record of 0-2.
Southern Arkansas 35, Southeastern Oklahoma 33 — The 2013 Great American Conference season begins with three Arkansas teams on the road tonight in Oklahoma. Since the Southern Arkansas-Southeastern Oklahoma series cranked back up two years ago when the two schools joined the GAC, the road team has won each time. The Muleriders must go to Durant (home of the world’s largest peanut) a second consecutive season. SAU won there last year, 31-24, en route to an 8-3 season. The preseason coaches’ poll had Southern Arkansas second behind Henderson. Southeastern Oklahoma was ranked sixth out of 11 schools.
Harding 29, Southwestern Oklahoma 27 — In another Thursday night game, Harding must make the long trip to Weatherford. Harding was 9-2 a year ago, and Southwestern Oklahoma was 3-7. The Bisons ended the regular season a year ago with a 38-7 win over Southwestern, racking up 358 rushing yards in the process. Harding has won 10 of its past 11 season openers.
Arkansas Tech 40, Northwestern Oklahoma 19 — Coach Raymond Monica brings a new look to Tech following the resignation of Steve Mullins after 16 years as head coach of the Wonder Boys. Monica had success at Kutztown in Pennsylvania, and he gets to open tonight against a Northwestern Oklahoma team that was 3-7 a year ago. Tech, which finished 5-6, beat Northwestern by a score of 41-20 last season. The result should be much the same tonight since the Rangers have 52 redshirt or true freshmen on their team.
East Central Oklahoma 23, UAM 12 — The Boll Weevils must go to Ada for a third consecutive season. East Central, which finished 6-5 a year ago, is ranked fifth in the preseason GAC poll. UAM, which was 1-10 last year, is ranked ninth. East Central beat UAM in Ada by scores of 34-9 in 2011 and 31-17 in 2012. The Tigers should make it three in a row Saturday.
Henderson 59, Southern Nazarene 14 — Henderson is picked first in the conference. Southern Nazarene is picked dead last. That tells you all you need to know about Saturday night’s game in Arkadelphia. The Reddies went 10-0 in the regular season last year — the first undefeated, untied team in school history — before losing in the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs. This year, it appears Henderson has the talent to go much deeper in the playoffs. The Reddies are ranked No. 13 in the American Football Coaches Association preseason Division II poll and should move up a few slots after Saturday night’s blowout win.