It was a good weekend for college football fans across the state of Arkansas.
The University of Arkansas took care of Ole Miss, making Razorback fans happy while giving some additional emotional relief to the Nutt haters who still lurk among us.
The Arkansas State University Red Wolves got a much-needed win at home, scoring 28 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to overcome Florida Atlantic, 37-16.
The UCA Bears ended a three-game losing streak with a 24-point victory at Nicholls State.
The UAPB Golden Lions won a SWAC road game Thursday night on ESPU.
And my Ouachita Tigers shocked Terry Bowden’s North Alabama team, which had come to Arkadelphia with the best defense in NCAA Division II. Entering the contest, UNA had won 27 consecutive games against teams from Arkansas.
I went 6-2 on the week, making the record 45-18 for the year. I had the margin right on the Arkansas-Ole Miss game. I called it 48-34. It was 38-24.
I missed the UAPB game, while admitting in advance that I find it almost impossible to predict the outcome of SWAC battles.
And, yes, I missed the Ouachita game. Considering that North Alabama had given up only one touchdown in the previous 18 quarters and that the Lions had not given up a touchdown in the second half all season, there were those who said I was crazy for only picking Bowden’s team to win by a single point. I had a feeling Ouachita would play really well in front of a large homecoming crowd. Ouachita’s 24-23 overtime victory was what Gulf South Conference football is all about. It was truly one for the ages.
As for the Hogs, Bobby Petrino finally gets a victory over ol’ HDN, but the postgame handshake was just as cold as it had been the previous two years. Have you ever gotten the impression that Petrino doesn’t care much for his predecessor for whatever reason?
The Houston Nutt saga is one of our longest-running soap operas in this state, ranking right up there with “As The World Turns.” So I guess it was fitting that Saturday’s game was accompanied by thunder and lightning to add to the drama that always seems to surround HDN.
Hats off to Knile Davis for his career-best 176 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. I like the way he runs the football. He reminds me of Fred Talley.
Hats off to Joe Adams for breaking Ken Hatfield’s 47-year-old school record with that 97-yard punt return for a touchdown. It’s amazing the record stood for as long as it did. I’m sure Ken enjoyed being there to see his record broken. Coach Hatfield remains one of my favorite Arkansans — a class act.
And hats off to Zach Hocker for already having three fields goals of 46 yards or longer as a true freshman. It’s nice to know for a change that if you reach the opponent’s 30 or closer, you’re usually going to come away with points.
So we enter the final five games of the regular season with Ole Miss alone in the SEC West cellar and Arkansas tied with Mississippi State for fourth in the division. Given the problems on defense, I’m still thinking an 8-4 season with a berth in the Cotton Bowl for the Razorbacks. This is an Arkansas defense that gave up 512 yards (367 in the second half when good teams should put less talented opponents away). Ole Miss picked up 185 yards on the ground and 327 yards through the air. In addition to passing for those 327 yards (21 of 36), Jeremiah Masoli ran the ball 15 times for 98 yards for the Rebels.
Arkansas, meanwhile, rushed for 197 yards and passed for 267 yards. It was the first time this season Arkansas did not have at least 300 yards passing. And it was the first time this season that Ole Miss had more than 300 yards passing.
I guess we’ll be learning more about Ryan Mallett’s sore shoulder as the week goes along.
Let’s get to the picks for Week 9:
Arkansas 48, Vanderbilt 24 — It’s never a good sign when you change offensive coordinators in the middle of the season. The Commodores announced Monday that 32-year-old Des Kitchings will now call the plays. The previous offensive coordinator, Jimmy Kiser, will remain as the quarterbacks coach. Yes, Vanderbilt did give HDN a headache with that 28-14 win in Oxford back on Sept. 18. The only other victory has been over hapless Eastern Michigan. The five losses have come by scores of 23-21 to Northwestern, 27-3 to LSU, 40-21 to Connecticut, 43-0 to Georgia and 21-7 to South Carolina. Petrino strikes us as the kind of guy who won’t let a team look ahead. Arkansas rolls in Fayetteville on a chilly Saturday night.
Grambling 42, UAPB 30 — I’ve been to War Memorial Stadium for the Delta Classic, and it’s fun. Fitz Hill has brought a really nice event to our city. If you have the chance Saturday afternoon, you should go to the stadium and check it out. UAPB has a better team than the 5-5 version of 2009. The Golden Lions improved to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the conference with their 39-35 win at Alcorn State. Josh Boudreaux was 13 of 26 passing for 132 yards. But Grambling is tough. The Tigers opened the season with a 20-6 loss to Louisiana Tech. They’ve since posted six consecutive victories — 28-21 over Jackson State, 34-17 over Prairie View A&M, 25-22 over Alabama A&M, 22-7 over Alabama State, 38-28 over Alcorn State and 35-14 over Mississippi Valley State. Saturday’s game should be worth the price of admission. If I were in Little Rock, I would attend. But I have some business known as the Battle of the Ravine to take care of in Arkadelphia on Saturday afternoon.
UCA 29, Southeastern Louisiana 20 — It was good to see the Bears go on the road and end that three-game losing streak. UCA is 4-3 overall and 1-2 in the Southland Conference after its 31-7 victory at Nicholls State. The Bear defense came through in a big way Saturday — a 98-yard interception return for a touchdown by redshirt freshman Jestin Love and a 10-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Seth Allison. Southeastern Louisiana comes it at 2-5. McNeese State kicker Josh Lewis hit a career-long 52-yard field goal as time expired Saturday to allow the Cowboys to ruin the Lions’ homecoming, 13-10. The other Southeastern Louisiana losses have been by scores of 57-7 to Sam Houston State, 21-20 to Louisiana-Monroe, 29-28 to Lamar and 27-21 to Tulane. As you can see, four of the five losses have been by six or fewer points. The wins were over Tennessee-Martin and Texas State. Expect the Bears to play well on homecoming.
Ouachita 37, Henderson 35 — My goodness, how do you pick a Battle of the Ravine when both teams are playing well? It is, quite simply, one of the great rivalries in all of college football at any level. This will be the 84th time the two Arkadelphia teams have played each other. This year the game is at Henderson’s Carpenter-Haygood Stadium. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. If you have never been to a Battle of the Ravine, do yourself a favor and attend. Ouachita is 5-2, coming off that victory over a North Alabama team that has almost 25 Division I transfers. North Alabama had come to Arkadelphia with a 6-1 record. Ouachita became the first team all season to score more than 10 points on the Lions. Henderson, meanwhile, went to 5-3 with its 33-28 victory over a decent Harding team. Harding scored with 3:53 left in the game to go ahead. The Reddies then responded with a six-play, 70-yard scoring drive. Nick Hardesty was 34 of 51 passing for Henderson for 448 yards and three touchdowns. The Reddies had three wide receivers with more than 100 yards receiving. Ouachita holds a 39-38-6 advantage, having won the two most recent Battles of the Ravine. Of the 83 meetings, the game has been decided by a touchdown or less 37 times. With two high-powered offenses, this year’s game should be entertaining. It’s amazing that only one game separates these two schools in a series that began in 1895. I’ll be honest: I don’t really have a clue who will win Saturday. Anyone who claims otherwise has not spent much time around this rivalry. I’ll stick with my alma mater.
Harding 31, UAM 27 — UAM was within seconds of knocking off the team now ranked No. 10 in NCAA Division II, Valdosta State. But Valdosta, now 6-1, scored with 33 seconds remaining to win at home, 21-17. UAM is 3-5 but is a different team with senior quarterback Scott Buisson back. Buisson was 27 of 42 passing for 329 yards and two touchdowns against a good Valdosta defense. Harding, meanwhile, is 3-4 with all four losses by a touchdown or less. Don’t let the records fool you (remember, they play in the GSC). These are two talented football teams.
Valdosta State 35, Arkansas Tech 25 — After the scare against UAM, Valdosta must go on the road to play Arkansas Tech. Steve Mullins, one of the best coaches in the Gulf South Conference, has a young team that’s now 3-5 following a 49-26 loss at West Alabama. Tech will be back in future years. The young Wonder Boys, however, will have to take their lumps this year. Saturday should be no exception.
West Alabama 42, Southern Arkansas 20 — The college team struggling the most in Arkansas this fall is Southern Arkansas. Unfortunately, the young Muleriders find themselves in the toughest conference in all of NCAA Division II, the Gulf South Conference. The Muleriders are 0-7. West Alabama is 6-2 with a tremendous offense.
It’s a football bonanza Saturday in Arkansas.
There are games in Fayetteville, Little Rock, Conway, Arkadelphia, Searcy, Russellville and Magnolia.
You have no excuse not to get out and see a college football game.