With our fleet of corporate jets undergoing some much-needed maintenance work, we were unable to attend last night's hair-raising, blood-pressure-spiking win over mighty Louisiana-Monroe. However, frequent commenter KevinHog was there, and, after his heartbeat returned to normal, he filed the following report detailing exactly 28 observations on the evening. Take it away, Kev:
1. Under a clear, blue (and bannerless) sky, the Hogs took on ULM and their own youthful selves. And as everyone now knows, they nearly got beat by both!
2. My mother joined me for the game as she is the most rabid Hog fan in the family outside of myself. My father stayed home asleep on the couch with the basset hound. Obsessing over the Hogs' triumphs and travails follows more the maternal line in my family. My grandmother is mainly responsible for my interests in sports and the Hogs. The loss in the SEC Championship game is proof enough that her pull in Heaven is not what it should be. But give her time! I think she might have actually pulled a few strings last night.
3. Gustav's journey through Arkansas was apparent on the golf course, where we encountered some downed trees. I think another visitor from Louisiana left their own mark: some downed expectations for this season's team.
4. The sheer diversity of Razorback wear! Teams of Indonesian and Chinese kids must stay up late at night working on yet another variation of Razorback wear. I rarely saw two shirts that looked alike. It is strange (but a good strange) for an expat who lives in Oklahoma to no longer be the only one wearing something with a hog on it.
5. Nobody looks cuter than little girls dressed up in Razorback cheerleading outfits. One of them sitting next to us was so cute that for a moment she took my mind off the disaster that was unfolding on the field. If the AP has a poll in ranking little girls in cheerleading outfits, I expect to see the Hogs at the top.
6. Tusk wasn't all that impressed with anyone's outfit, but we did take a picture of him in his cage. As we left, I think we saw him eating those red pants!
7. The Hogs themselves were back in white pants (the red stripes were missing though), but in action they still didn't look like the team that beat LSU last November. They were the team that struggled to beat ULM.
8. I thought of my first game at War Memorial back in 1988 when we put up more than 60 points against Pacific. I naively gained the impression that the Hogs should always do that. What would Bobby Petrino and these young Hogs' first experience in Little Rock be like? (My official prediction was 37-17 Hogs - WAY OFF!)
9. National Anthem - Did Ned Perme provide the piano music for this? There was no Ned or piano on the field. It was piped in, I believe. And where was the flyover? Just a Channel 7 chopper going around and around.
10. It was a bad night for people wearing # 7. Tejada single-handedly killed the positive vibe of 50,000-plus people wearing red. Also a #7 was taken out of the stadium by cops for fighting. They were both embarrassing to witness.
11. We need to straighten out those kicks and the band's "A" out on the field. How many freshmen do we have playing for the band? Haha.
12. I had some flashbacks to the 2006 LSU game when the missed extra point killed that initial positive mood. Would Casey Dick look as bad as then?
13. Not exactly. And thank goodness. But Casey needs not to expose himself to so many sacks. Throw it away! And he missed seeing some clearly open receivers that everyone in Row 29, Section 35 of the north endzone was pointing out. At one point, just before halftime, I could feel the ghost of Casey Dick circa the 2006 LSU game coming back to War Memorial.
14. Michael Smith did a good job of giving us something of a running game. But he isn't Fred Talley just yet, and may never be.
15. 10-6 at the half, and I couldn't enjoy any of the halftime festivities. We were losing to ULM, so I had a hard time appreciating the fact that War Memorial has turned 60 years old. I think the 40-second clock must be 60 years old as well, for it didn't work that well all night.
16. And we would go into the hole some more when ULM would add points to their lead in the second half. ULM is a good team, but the Hogs were making them look like their cousins in Baton Rouge. In the end, I would not be surprised if ULM has more wins than the Hogs this season.
17. A bright spot (as War Memorial often is when you get 50,000 people from a small state together): My mother and I saw some people we hadn't seen in a long time. I saw an old high school friend whom I hadn't seen in over seven years. Since our high school reunion, he had served a tour in Iraq with the Arkansas National Guard. He predicted we would come back to win this game, but jokingly confessed that he would rather be in Iraq right now than watching this War Memorial disaster unfold.
18. My parents live in Warren, so it was especially sweet to see Warren's Chris Gragg make that catch on the Les Milesesque 4th and 1 call. No way Houston Nutt calls that, but Petrino isn't a coach who really has anything to lose this first season, as the pre-teen sitting behind me wisely pointed out. It isn't like we are going to fire him.
19. During the late rally, the wave went around. I was too busy trying to mentally will the Hogs into the endzone to do the wave or hit the beach ball.
20. Coming back from a smoke break, my mother reported that some kids claiming to be Razorback basketball players weren't allowed back into the stadium with their torn tickets. But they have a designated section they put smokers in who want to leave the game for a puff.
21. The defense just couldn't stop the quick over-the-middle slant. But when have they ever been able to stop that?
22. ULM's QB looked SEC-caliber out there. But the War Memorial fans did get loud enough on a few occasions to contribute to some false starts.
23. Common row 29, section 35 observations: the defense wasn't getting any turnovers - why can't they? And why must the offense start each game so slow? Will this be their MO all season?
24. But when the touchdowns did come, strangers were no longer strangers. Who were these people? I don't know. They were happy Hog fans, and that is all that mattered. Much hugging and high fiving all around. My mother and I gave our nearby strangers good analysis and commentary (we think!), whether they wanted it or not. We had to talk it out.
25. The moon was half full or half empty? Then it disappeared over the horizon. What did that mean?
26. The Hogs up by one with just over a minute left. What does that mean? With the Hogs, it certainly means expect more drama. And that is what we got.
27. I've never been at a game where it came down to a field goal. My mother and I and all our companions in the north end zone were waving our hands and shouting and wooing. I was also mentally trying to conjure up the spirit of Carlos Hall for a blocked kick. Well, Carlos didn't show up. But I did get some understanding what it must be like to be a Miami Hurricane fan, for the ULM kick was wide right. (Houston Nutt and the Rebs wouldn't be so lucky this night.) Houston, there really was one heartbeat in that stadium after that kick, and it would have short circuited any EKG machine!
28. Afterwards, I climbed up to the top of the north endzone and talked some with my old high school buddy and Iraq war veteran. I congratulate him on his faith in the Hogs. I was never as optimistic as he was. We both agree that things look tougher for the Hogs here on out, so we'd better enjoy this. We talk about the close calls in this game. He says that since we last saw one another he had experienced an even more stressful, on-the-edge-of-your seat Hog game. It turns out he has been to Iraq AND survived the seven overtimes in Oxford! He is well, I am well, and at least for a week the Hogs are 2-0.
NOTE: Six observations were left on the field due to poor special teams play. And James Shibest was several states away!