Man, oh, man. Where do we even begin with what 2013 brought the Razorbacks, both good and historically bad.
Bud Walton Arena, on multiple occasions returned to its old glory the way it was in the Nolan Richardson days. Arkansas finished undefeated on its homecourt in the calendar year for just the third time ever, and the first time since Richardson roamed the Arkansas sideline.
In football, (lots of) fans were ecstatic and very curious as to how Bret Bielema's style of play would pan out in year one. Not to mention Bielema got folks pumped for the fall when he signed Alex Collins back in February, and the rest is in SEC history books. Everything was peachy until late September.
Dave Van Horn had the Diamond Hogs on top, ranked No. 1 in the nation in the preseason polls for the first time in school history, only to fall off late in the season. Pitching was there, hitting not so much, resulting in a lackluster finish in the Manhattan Regional.
So what I want to do, as we inch closer and closer to bringing in a brand new year in Razorback athletics, is relive some of the top moments from the emotional roller coaster that was 2013. I'll throw in a bad moment along with the good/great, but won't spend too much time on it (trying to keep the optimism high here). Away we go. Here are the top 5 Razorback moments of 2013:
#5 – Feb. 26, 2013 – Arkansas defeats Missouri 73-71
What a ball game this was and what a rivalry Mizzou and Arkansas is sure to become in the future. Jimmy Dykes called the rivalry a "budding border war" and that's exactly what it may become. Less than two weeks removed from upsetting Florida at home, Arkansas got punched in the mouth out of the gate and found themselves down 9-0 early. Arkansas battled back, however, and thanks to referees' inability to process what a traveling violation is, Arkansas escaped with a win. BWA was the loudest I had ever heard it when Coty Clarke stole the ball from Pressey at the end. The place went bananas. Here are the highlights:
Bad Memory #1 – South Carolina and Alabama score 104 unanswered points on Arkansas.
I don't know if I was the only one, but I quickly began pondering the meaning of life and what we had done to deserve that kind of brutality as this was happening. I sat in the press box for the SC game (talk about miserable) and realized at this point it couldn't get much worse. But oh yeah, we went to Tuscaloosa the following Saturday. NEXT!
#4 – Diamond Hogs ranked #1 team in country
For the first time in the history of the University of Arkansas, the Razorback baseball team was looking down upon everyone else. Arkansas was selected as the pre-season No. 1 team with its dynamite pitching staff. The only question was if the offense could produce a few runs per game and make a return trip to Omaha. Nonetheless, Arkansas baseball reached new heights in the pre-season.
Bad Memory #2 – Texas A&M and South Carolina basketball losses.
Just as we are now, we were optimistic about the Hog hoops squad last season heading into conference play only to be shot down and stomped on my the likes of the Aggie and Gamecock basketball teams. I don't know how but I know Spurrier was behind it.
#3 – Jan. 23, 2013 – Marshawn Powell dunks on all of Mississippi State
How. In. The. Hell. Is. This. A. Charge. How? You're not supposed to be able to do things like this coming off of an ACL injury just a year before, Marshawn. It was a phenomenal play in a game that, to put it lightly, stunk the place up. MSU just wasn't any good, and Arkansas seemed uninterested. But the game brought us one of the year's top moments:
Bad Memory #3 – Diamond Hogs early exit in Manhattan Regional.
We simply couldn't get a timely hit. Couldn't buy one. Opportunities were there, but the bats went quiet and Arkansas was headed home four games into the postseason. Arkansas lost to Bryant in the opening game, then won two games facing elimination, but lost to host Kansas State to end the once promising season in disappointing fashion.
#2 – Feb. 7, 2013 – Alex Collins signs with Arkansas
It was a good time to be a Razorback in early February. Arkansas had just knocked off No. 2 Florida at home, and then, after his mother ran off with his NLI, the stud running back from south Florida inked with Bret Bielema as his first big-name recruit. Collins immediately won over Arkansas fans with this awesome suit. Collins turned out to be the real deal and as advertised, and was well on his way to freshman All-American honors from the get-go. We're glad to have you, Budda.
Bad Memory #4 – Losses to Rutgers/MSU/LSU
Talk about gutpunching losses. We can play the "what if" game forever and ever, but these were winnable games, taken from Arkansas in the closing moments of the game. But that was the youth and playing inexperience raring its head at the worst times. Beaten by a concussed quarterback and two freshmen QBs with their backs against the wall. Are you serious? Again, what did we do to deserve this? And, um.. Where can we find one of those?
#1 – Feb. 5, 2013 – Arkansas upsets No. 2 Florida 80-67
The Bud was bedlam. Pure pandemonium. It was rowdy and loud and chaotic, and all of the other synonyms for "freaking nuts." I was lightheaded from screaming my ass off by the first media timeout, I kid you not. My buddy and I knew it was our night when Michael Qualls, who had a decent jumper but not a good one, and Jacorey Williams, who I'm still not comfortable with shooting, starting knocking down everything they threw up. We looked at each other simultaneously, hands on our heads, screaming like we had just hit the Powerball. I'll never forget that night for as long as I live. It was the most fun I have ever had in Bud Walton ... and here come the chills.
Bad Memory #5 – The "karma" tweet.
Just an awful memory, mostly because of what followed. I won't get into this too much, but it had to be listed. It was just too big of a deal when it happened to be snubbed.
Top Moments Honorable Mention
#1 – Sacking Johnny Manziel.
I've never heard Razorback Stadium so loud. The only other time the crowd got that loud, IMO, was Auburn in 2011 and the Joe Adams punt return TD against Tennessee. The place went nuts, and players were dancing. It was great, the atmosphere was fantastic, and Arkansas was playing well. The rain didn't slow the fans from coming out and getting loud.
#2 – Michael Qualls posterizes SIUE defender.
It was another one of those hands on your head deals where you just sat there amazed. Qualls, at 6-foot-6, just dunked all over a 6-foot-10 defender so effortlessly. Qualls is going to get people in the seats before long. I can't believe it's taken this long.
Bad Memory Honorable Mention
– Blowout basketball loss to Vanderbilt
Seriously? A blowout loss to Vandy?
I hope you have enjoyed reading and reminiscing on these moments as much as I enjoyed reliving and writing this. If you feel I left out a top moment or bad memory, please, take to the comments. It was a crazy year in Arkansas athletics in 2013. Here's to hoping 2014 brings us all something positive. Happy New Year, you guys.