After nearly a decade of disappointment and historically bad football, at least some Arkansas football fans are getting their swagger back. Even if it’s a little misguided, it’s better to see than constant posts focused on misery and negativity.
We’ve got enough of that in this world to have our sports clouded by it, too.
A shining example of this overboard enthusiasm is a post I saw on social media last Sunday night. Some Hogs faithful were disappointed that ESPN’s College GameDay wasn’t coming to Fayetteville for Saturday’s Arkansas vs Texas tilt.
When I say disappointed, I really mean “outraged.” It was as if they thought it was a done deal that Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit and the gang were headed to campus and then had the rug pulled out from underneath them.
No doubt, they recall some of the more glorious Fayetteville College GameDay appearances, which have become far and few between in recent years.
But, man, are there some golden oldies for Arkansas football fans to reminisce on. Below is one such shining example from 2006, when then No. 11 Arkansas hosted No. 13 Tennessee. The sign hoisted up behind Kirk Herbstreit’s head reads: “McFadden tears cure cancer. 2 bad he never cries.”
And, sure enough, Darren McFadden was a stone-faced killer that night, piling up 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 31-14 win.
College GameDay This Week
Seeing Arkansas football fans complain about College GameDay struck a chord with me, being a loyal Iowa State fan and the son of an ISU alumnus. I have bled cardinal and gold since I saw three when I traveled the hour down Highway 30 from my home in west central Iowa to Ames to see my first college football game.
My love affair with the Cyclones runs deep just like yours may for the Hogs.
And Ames, no doubt appropriately enough, is hosting College GameDay this weekend. After all, Iowa State is hosting Iowa in the annual CyHawk game and for the first time in history, that matchup features two Top 10 teams.
It’s a no-brainer. A rivalry game between two in-state teams in the Top 10 the second week of the season? Check, check and check.
But some of those Hogs fans are throwing the same kind of shade toward Iowa like so many non-Razorback fans do with Arkansas by saying, “Who cares about Iowa?” As a flyover state, where have we heard that before?
But when your state is hosting a game that affects the college football landscape, even ESPN takes notice. They even televise a Major League Baseball game if you’ve hosted the filming of one of the better sports movies in cinema history.
The other appeal to this game is that two years ago it spawned a multi-million dollar charity when a casino worker held up a sign on College GameDay asking for beer money on Venmo and wound up creating a charitable foundation with an overflow of funds.
That has feature written all over it.
Props to Arkansas Football
Still, before you quit reading get tired of my ode to Iowa and the Cardinal and Gold, a tip of the cap to over-zealous Hogs fans. I see you. After enduring the Chad Morris Era – the capper of a horrible stretch – you were encouraged by Sam Pittman and the strides he made last season and into the spring and fall camp.
I am with you there. Arkansas is digging itself out of the ditch. There are better athletes on campus, the defense looks like an SEC unit with Barry Odom leading it, and with Pittman’s offensive line expertise that group has made significant strides.
All of those things considered, you’ve got a No. 15 Texas team in town, and there is actual hope that Arkansas will win. Hell, I picked them to win in the spring. For one, the Longhorns are perennially overrated and underachieving.
Plus, while new Texas football Steve Sarkisian seems like he could be the coach they need, after a 38-18 season-opening win against Louisiana-Lafayette, I’m not ready to crown them.
Arkansas has the defense that, even if not completely respected in the SEC, is as good as what the Horns may see in the Big 12 this season. Which is exactly why they are in for a rude awakening whenever they become a full member of the SEC. That difference will hit them and Oklahoma hard, as Barry Switzer pointed out.
And then there is the crowd. Those of you that feel slighted that SEC Nation is on campus instead of College GameDay will lead the drunken charge in all its glory and make it really hard to hear when the game is tight in the fourth quarter.
That’s when Texas may fold like a tent. Seeing a packed house for a Texas game on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks sets up a magical, memorable night no matter what the final score and honestly gives Arkansas a real, true advantage.
The soldout crowd, featuring students who were already camping out in from the stadium on Friday afternoon, are ready for something good to happen. A crowd that big sitting together mask-less during a pandemic could create a noise that could be heard border to border.
The big games in Iowa, Oregon at Ohio State and Washington at Michigan are probably all thought of as bigger games than the one in Fayetteville (even though it is a prime time ESPN game), but the fact that you think College GameDay should actually return to Northwest Arkansas brings a smile to my face.
I am happy for you, Hog fans. The time has come where excitement for Arkansas football is warranted again.
Speaking of D-Mac, here he is talking about the Texas-arkansas rivalry and the Hogs’ current running backs:
How to Watch Texas vs Arkansas Football
Date/Time: Saturday, September 1 at 6 p.m. CT
Where: Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas
TV/Streaming: ESPN with Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), Greg McElroy (analyst) and Katie George (reporter) on the call. Click here to watch the game on your computer, phone, tablet, or another streaming device.
Radio: HitThatLine.com, ESPN Arkansas 99.5 in Fayetteville, 95.3 in the River Valley, 96.3 in Hot Springs and 104.3 in Harrison-Mountain Home, Buzz 103.7 in Little Rock
4 Things to Know about Arkansas Football
- AP Preseason All-American defensive back Jalen Catalon lived up to the billing against Rice, posting 11 total tackles with 1.0 tackle for loss while recording his first career two interception game. Both picks were crucial to the outcome as Arkansas’ offense turned them into 14 points. With interception returns of 39 and 44 yards, the redshirt sophomore was able to show his quickness and totaled 83 interception return yards, the most by a Razorback since Rohan Gaines’ 100 yards on Nov. 22, 2014, against Ole Miss. Catalon is the only player in the country to total at least 10 tackles and two picks in a game this season.
- For the 10th time in his career, linebacker Bumper Pool led the team in tackles, recording 14 stops against the Owls. In addition, his 1.5 tackles for loss were a game high. Over the last three seasons (2019-21), the senior has logged 209 total tackles, tied for the fourth most nationally over that span. Due to a targeting penalty called in the second half, Pool will miss the first half of the Texas game.
- Arkansas’ defense impressed against Rice, especially against the run as the Owls accrued just 81 yards on 39 carries for a paltry 2.1 yards per carry. The Hogs had not held an FBS opponent to 2.1 yards per carry or fewer on at least 39 carries since shutting out Troy, 23-0, on Nov. 2, 2002 (95 yards, 50 carries, 1.9 ypc). Rice registered only one rushing first down, which tied for second fewest allowed in Arkansas’ record book. Florida only picked up one rushing first down and ran for just 12 yards in a 31-10 Hogs win on Nov. 5, 2016. The school record was set on Sept. 20, 1947, when the Razorbacks held Northwestern (La.) State to zero rushing first downs.
- Defensive coordinator Barry Odom’s unit has been a turnover forcing machine since arriving on campus last season. The defense incepted Rice quarterback Wiley Green three times last weekend on a pick from defensive back Montaric Brown and Catalon’s pair of interceptions. In the first 11 games of Odom’s tenure as DC, Arkansas has recorded 16 interceptions, which ranks tied for fourth in the country in total picks since the 2020 season.
(via Razorback Communications)