Normally I like to get this post up on the blog earlier in the day, but I have spent much of this September 11th becoming an expat again as I've been behind the wheel for hours on end. I love driving home for the Little Rock games; can't say I love the drive back nearly as much. On the plus side, however, the drive back has given me plenty of time to think about what I'll share with you from my experience at War Memorial on Saturday. If you haven't had the pleasure of experiencing an Arkansas game in Little Rock, I recommend you find a way to do so. My aunt who is in her 70s made her first trip to War Memorial this weekend, so you are never too old to start calling the Hogs in Little Rock. Sights, sounds, thoughts, reflections, all below.
* So Michigan is just now getting around to playing night games in the Big House. We've been doing that for decades down here in Arkansas, right? "Hail to the lightbulb at last!" in Michigan.
* Gameday was in Michigan for what turned out to be an exciting finish there in Ann Arbor. That is one bad thing about seeing the Hogs in person, you can end up missing much of the live college football narrative of the day. Thanks to my brother's satellite radio, we got to hear the exciting finish of Miss. State vs. Auburn.
* And who doesn't hate Auburn these days? That finish made their 10th victory, I believe, in games in the 4th quarter where there has been a seven point or less separation between Auburn and their opponent.
* Surveying the SEC landscape after week two, you don't see a lot of weakness out there when it comes to teams that Arkansas will end up playing. Too bad we can't have another game with Georgia, right? Auburn isn't winning pretty, but obviously knows how to win. Alabama is as tough on defense as expected. Hey, even Vanderbilt is 2-0. Ole Miss, however, still looks like a weak link with their less than impressive win over SIU, a win in which Colonel Nutt had to play revolving quarterback again.
* Though I missed a lot of Saturday games, I did stay up late enough to watch Arizona State vs. Missouri. Friday night, after the Baylor vs. TCU game, is now 2-0 in exciting games. I love to watch college overtime, so I was rooting for Missouri to miss the kick at the end of regulation. But I had no idea that the Missouri coach would help my cause out by freezing his own kicker by calling two timeouts. He later offered the bogus excuse that he was trying to make Arizona State jump offsides. Can we replay that 2008 Cotton Bowl? haha. I think their coach has regressed!
* I followed Jeff Long's orders and came up with a white Razorback shirt for section 35. I was much better prepared to sit in a red section, since that is how my Razorback wear mostly runs, red. And it was apparent that most other Hog fans had gotten the memo, for War Memorial was 360 degrees of alternating red and white.
* Hog games, of course, are great places to checkout the latest in Razorback fashion. The hit for me was a t-shirt that had a lab (my favorite dog breed) sitting under a Razorback logo (my favorite team) tearing up an LSU logo (one of my favorite teams to hate) with "Good dog" written on the shirt. I love it!
* The spirit of Willie Oates (former Hog cheerleader and wild hat connoisseur) is still alive, for I saw a woman with a Hog hat that resembled the plastic variety, but was a hot glued on creation of buttons and sparkles that must have given the people sitting behind her plenty to look at when the game itself wasn't in action.
* Banners again flew over War Memorial, but they once again said nothing about Houston Nutt (thank goodness) and only wanted you to know that Verizon and State Farm exist.
* What can you say about the golf course? We walked through a portion of Tailgate Arkansas on the way to the stadium. There might have been a New Mexico fan or two somewhere in all of that, but I didn't see any, nor did I see any in the stadium. If I had seen one, I think I would have shook his or her hand, because that would have been one dedicated fan, seeing as New Mexico is in another time zone, and the Lobos won only a single game last year.
* Gas is always going up, but programs are still five dollars. Maybe they keep them at the price just because it is much easier to make change for a five dollar item? And how many people would buy a ten dollar program? Another thing about the program that has stayed the same: it still says we won the Orange Bowl in 1978 in Dallas, Texas. I think I really am going to have to write Jeff Long that letter to get this corrected. And I might also tell him that nobody would complain if you put "vacated by OSU" next to the Sugar Bowl entry. The cover itself had more missed by the day, Dennis Johnson, and safety Isaac Madison on it.
* Some big fella in a yellow shirt had to pad down my seat cushion before he would let me enter. I could have had a revolver in my back pocket and walked in, but I wasn't going to get inside with anything nefarious hidden in my seat cushion.
* Note to Texas A&M: You can still hate Texas as a member of the SEC. The annouced score that got the biggest reaction from the crowd was the Texas score when they were losing to BYU. Nearly twenty years down the road from our old days in the SWC, and we Arkansas fans still savor the idea of Texas losing at anything and to anybody.
* Credit to the Time Keepers at War Memorial. The game went from start to finish without any clock trouble for what seemed like the first time in memory. Just imagine how poorly time must be governed at Michigan's stadium! haha. The place that just got lights.
* But who designed the intros? The players on the screen are surrounded in flames as their images appear in front of a dark background. I thought Dante Alighieri would soon have his named called at safety, haha. How about instead of making our players look like they are in Hell, how about images of the UofA itself in the background? You know, that place where they go to school. We already know that the Hogs are hot stuff in Arkansas.
* Jennings Osborne's daughter and wife were on hand to walk with Jeff Long through the "A." Cedric Cobbs, the one time "it" running back of the Hogs, was on hand as the honorary captain. With 50,000 other Arkansans there in attendance, you still felt like you knew the Osbornes and Cedric Cobbs, Arkansans all. And if you were at the stadium, you probably ran across people you know on the way to get nachos or some other supply. Smaller can be better too when it comes to states and stadiums.
* Marquel Wade: Hog fans, get used to that freshman's name and number (one), for I believe he is going to plant a lot of smiles on our faces as the year goes on. He electrified the stadium with his return for a touchdown early in the first half. Joe Adams has his understudy!
* I had no idea just how big Kiero Small actually is until I saw him lined up to where his 5-10 and 255 pounds (large percentage of which is rear end) were put in front of our backs.
* Ahh, the subject of our running backs. Wally Hall states the obvious today in his column that the Hogs miss Knile Davis. We do. But I like how we are working Joe Adams into the backfield in a Percy Harvin type of way. He is a Percy Harvin type in that he can do magic with the ball and some space. As is, running backs got 6.2 yards per carry last night and 252 yards total on the ground. And it seemed like every yard came with a cloud of dust. Hopefully Dennis Johnson will be ready for Troy to get a tuneup for Alabama.
* The early part of the game seemed sluggish after Joe Adams' touchdown was called back due to a holding call. I had some ULM flashbacks. Another lackluster game over a lackluster opponent in Little Rock? With what we had to pay for just the right to purchase our tickets, I was hoping surely not.
* Cobi Hamilton, nothing lackluster about his Little Rock performances. He had a great night (5 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown) to go along with his two touchdown effort against MSU in 2009 and his two touchdowns agains LSU last year. Thank goodness he is a junior!
* Suggestion to John L. Smith: don't always line Joe Adams up on one side for punt returns and Wade on the other. Have them switch around, or even switch around at the last moment. Try to keep that kicker guessing as to where the Adams card is in the deck.
* Halftime: I thought the tributes were well done, and the whole red, white, and blue makeover for the game suitable for the occasion. Even a traditionalist like myself didn't mind seeing the white hog on the helmets turn red, white, and blue. WARNING: You will probably disagree with what I am about to write, and that is okay with me. Only one moment did I cringe. And that was a crowd led moment with chants of "USA!, USA!" I love my country too, but I feel like it is reductionism to make a sports chant out of it. Too close to jingoism. The singing of the national anthem gave me goosebumps, but I'll save my chanting for "SEC! SEC!" or if someone should start a chant of "OUR COMMON HUMANITY! OUR COMMON HUMANITY!" I could see myself doing that one as well.
* Actually, I think I have two other bones to pick with the crowd. Brandon Mitchell in the second half was trying to lead the offense for the first time in War Memorial, but the crowd was too busy making the wave to give him the silence and attention he should have been afforded. At one other point, during an "ARKANSAS!" "RAZORBACKS!" back and forth, the offense was seen trying to get its home crowd to shutup. I love fun and having a good time at the game, but we got to be smart fans as well.
* Brandon Mitchell: 8 of 13 with 114 yards passing and 59 yards on the ground. He had one touchdown through the air and one on the ground. If Tyler Wilson doesn't take better care of his body (Alabama might take his head off) out there, we might see more of Mitchell than expected. What I did see, I was impressed with. I knew he was better than his spring game performance.
* Bobby Petrino: "I was complaining to our defensive line coaches all night." Thanks for being my voice, Bobby! Very disappointed that are "heralded" defense didn't get a single sack on a team that gave up nine sacks in the previous game. Maybe the Lobos really got that figured out, but still, we should have dominated more on defense. Yeah, we held them to three points, but also gave up nearly 300 yards of offense to a team that isn't anywhere near SEC strength.
* We threw a lot of simple tosses to the sidelines and could take advantage of our natural speed to get by the Lobos's defense once we were in space. And I know we don't want to show the full package to future SEC teams. So it will be interesting to see us go whole Hog on offense in Tuscaloosa. I fully believe we are going to top Penn State's eleven points. Alabama, Arkansas might be the one team where you really need a quarterback!
* I would say over 60 percent of the crowd didn't stay for the entire game. But we did, just to savor the experience. And to worry a little longer, I might add, about Jake Bequette and what might have happened to him. We got the injury report once we got back to the car. Hopefully, he and Wright (strained knee) and Wilson (possible concussion) will get back to 100 percent during the week.
* Thought on the way back to the car: Have the Hogs ever had special teams touchdowns in two consecutive games? Could they have a third game next week? Another thought: As the paper pointed out today, the Hogs started the great 1977 season with a win over a New Mexico team in Little Rock on September the 10th.
* Big Picture Thoughts: Two games down and twelve to go to the National Championship. But with 51-7 and 52-3 over some very weak competition, is that enough to raise your confidence meter in the Hogs winning it all this season? Well, not really, for me. But it sure doesn't lower it either! We expected these types of scores. And congrats to Raz on his prediction! Let's see how the Hogs do next week against Troy, a team that has won its conference, even though it is the Sunbelt. I wouldn't even mind it if the Hogs felt a bit of pressure at some point in the game, for they have some serious pressure cookers ahead starting with Alabama. But something I am sure Petrino, knowing something of his style, is probably doing and that is combating the Alabama mystique. Give them respect, I am sure he is telling our players, but don't let the Tide beat you in your head before you even step on the field like in 2009. The Hogs are a pretty damn good football team too.
Until next week! Woo Pig Sooie! Oh, and a shoutout to reader, Ron Carter, and his family who were all in the north endzone. Glad you could make the game.