This quarantine will end sometime, sports will resume and I can end my quest of digging through history to come up with something to write about. For the next few weeks I want to reminisce on my life as a Razorback fan. Yes, I know many will say “this isn’t even the best of Razorback football,’ yes I know that. What I do know is that in my lifetime, in my boyhood, these moments here will stay with me forever. Memories of Matt Jones running through defenses, Fred Talley making remarkable runs at the right time, watching DeCori Birmingham and Cedric Cobb skip past defenders, Tony Bua laying men out on the floor after jaw dropping hits.
It is crazy to think that 2001 is nearly 20 years ago. What most fans will not realize is for younger fans, there were many memorable moments in this period of Razorback history. Looking back, fans of all generations probably do not realize the impact the class of 2021 freshmen would have. Goodness, I did not know that they were even a top-10 class. According to old recruiting files on HawgSports with 247Sports, the class of 2001 was ranked ninth in the NATION and fourth overall in the SEC.
5-star Ahmad Carroll CB
4-star De’Arrius Howard RB
4-star Shawn Andrews OT
4-star Jeb Huckeba OLB
The class also included standouts Matt Jones, Tarvaris Jackson, Mark Pierce, Caleb Miller and Decori Birmingham.
This class ended their careers with a 30-20 overall record, 16-16 in conference, a throw down in Austin (2003), two of the longest overtime games in the college football history against Ole Miss (2001) and Kentucky (2003) and three first round NFL Draft picks (eight total picks).
Why do all these stats really mean to me? This was a time period that began my Razorback fandom. Many fans similar to myself enjoy turning on WarMachine’s YouTube channel and watching highlights of the most exciting time of Razorback football for fans in their mid-20’s early 30’s.
Personally, watching the human highlight reel of Matt Jones being an unstoppable force. Jones would rip through tacklers, run them over, run past them making what seemed like smaller and quicker defensive backs with angles still were beat by his blazing speed. Personally, my favorite moment of Jones was during the Ole Miss game in his senior year. Arkansas was already up 14-0 on the Rebels. It was the start of the second quarter and Jones was in the shotgun, he faked the option read to his right and ran his way through the Rebel defense down the sideline for a touchdown. That is not all though, Jones jogged over to the goalpost, increased his speed and jumped to the goalpost like he was dunking a basketball.
During the 2006 draft, Jones would be drafted in the first round by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 21st pick. He would go on to the NFL as a receiver and compiled 166 receptions for 2153 yards and 15 touchdowns. One cool statistic I found interesting is that every other of Jones’ receptions went for a first down.
Before we advance to the next player, for kicks and giggles Jones played a little basketball for the Razorbacks including a few highlight reel dunks.
“Batman” Carroll being a physical specimen at his position with 32 inch arms, blazing 4.38 speed and a vertical jump of 41 inches was a shutdown corner coming out of college...even if his professional career did not turn out the way most hoped he stood out at Arkansas. Shawn Andrews made fans proud with huge pancake blocks that would knock defenders in the air so hard it would knock their socks and cleats off. He was well on his way to becoming a freshman all-american choice in 2001. By the end of his Razorback career Andrews was named to first team all-american in his final two seasons. Andrews (6’5 330) was so nimble and athletic that he was known to perform back flips and head stands during practice.
2001: versus South Carolina @ Little Rock (The Block)
The Gamecocks came into the game as the ninth ranked team in America. Neither team was able to get into the endzone in the first half but starting in the third quarter that changed when quarterback Zac Clark was able to find Richard Smith in the endzone for the first touchdown of the game. Up 10-7, Carolina kicker Daniel Weaver was set to tie the game and force overtime with less than a minute to play. Razorback defender, Carlos Hall, jumped high in the air to block the kick and Arkansas held on to win their first SEC game of the season. The win would improve Coach Houston Nutt’s record to 11-0 in games played in Little Rock.
2001: versus Ole Miss @ Oxford (Seven Overtimes I)
In the midst of a two-game SEC win streak, the Razorbacks landed in Oxford hoping to stop the Rebels led by Eli Manning. The six hour slugfest included 114 points, 988 offensive yards, four 100-yard rushers, and seven overtimes. Manning would throw for six touchdowns but on the final play of the game his two point conversion attempt was short of the endzone as Doug Ziegler was smacked by Jermaine Petty ending the game in the seventh overtime.
2002: versus Auburn @ Jordan-Haire
Arkansas was facing the absence of running back Cedric Cobbs. With the unknown out there, could Arkansas find their footing in the SEC after a six overtime loss the previous week to Tennessee? The answer was found
2002: versus LSU @ Little Rock (Miracle on Markham I)
This was the first major memorable moment I have of Razorback football. In a game that would determine the winner of the SEC West and go on to the SEC Championship game versus Georgia, Arkansas had found themselves in a hole late in the ball game but then the magic insued. A sack by Gavin Walls set Arkansas up with an opportunity to cut into the 17-7 Tigers lead. With the ball at the 46 yard line, Jones took the snap with a back to either side. Talley was to his left and took the handoff at the left hash mark. Talley split himself between two LSU defenders in the backfield at the 39 and cut back to the middle of the field. He split two more defenders at the 46 and broke another tackle at the 40 and he was off to the races for a 56 yard touchdown run that seemed much longer due to breaking tackles and shifting field. With 6:33 to go the Razorback fans were back in it.
On the next LSU drive, the Razorbacks held the Tigers to a field goal to push the lead back to six but the Razorback magic was not done. Only completing two passes all day, Matt Jones was in the huddle as Houston was giving Jones the call. “I’ve got it,” said Jones. With no timeouts and 34 seconds to go in the ball game and 80 yards to get to the endzone how in the world were the Hogs going to generate offense that quickly? Jones found Richard Smith for a 58 yard gain down to the 32 yard line. Arkansas had at least two or three more plays to pick up a touchdown. Arkansas went into a hurry up offense on first down, Jones in the shotgun threw a strike down the right side of the field in tight coverage to Birmingham. As he angled his body in the back of the endzone the football fell right over the defender and into Birmingham’s hands for a touchdown to tie the game! Bang, let the party in “The Rock” ensue with eight seconds remaining. The Tigers missed a long field goal as the game would come to a close and the Razorbacks sealed their fate for their second trip to Atlanta for the conference championship game.
2003: versus Texas @ Austin (Ambush in Austin)
The Razorbacks had a bad taste in their mouths as they came into 2003 with hopes of a return to the SEC Championship game. Two longtime Southwest Conference rivals would face off in Austin for the first time since 1990. The Longhorns were the sixth ranked team in the country welcoming in a Razorback team that came in looking to make their state proud.
The Longhorns rallied twice. Once from down 28-14 and the second time when they cut the lead to 35-28. The ‘Horns were throttled behind Matt Jones who threw for 139 yards and ran for another 103 yards. One of the more memorable plays was the quarterback bootleg by Jones who sprinted to the Hogs 39 yard line down to the ‘Horns one yard line (I still believe he crossed the plain). In one of the more infamous photographs was taken that day as a fan performed a clean photoshop edit to make it look like Jones’ left hand gestured a “Horns Down.”
2003: versus Alabama @ Tuscaloosa (The last road win at Alabama)
In what had become the traditional last Saturday in September game, Arkansas came into this game ready to win another game on the road to start their season. Not everything came easy for the Hogs that day in Tuscaloosa as they fell behind 31-10 with seven minutes to go in the third quarter. Before the third quarter could cease, Cobbs would take a handoff from the five yard line to score making the game closer at 31-17. This time the Razorbacks would need a miracle comeback at Bryant-Denney to steal a win and stay undefeated on the season. Cobbs would finish the game with 36 carries, 198 yards and a touchdown.
In the second overtime, kicker Chris Balserio, won the game with a 19 yard field goal to win the game. Alabama blew their lead and a chance to win the game in the first overtime when Crimson Tide defense picked off Jones in the endzone. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Tide defense would start their next offensive drive at the 40 yard line. The advantage was Arkansas’ and they went on to win 34-31.
2003: versus Kentucky @ Lexington (Seven Overtimes II)
Arkansas went 0-fer in the month of October but started the month of November with one of the most memorable wins in school history. The game started off with a slow start that ended in a first quarter tie. Birmingham, usually a wide receiver, slid over to the running back slot but had a career day in all purpose yards and scores. He would score a touchdown from ten yards out to take the lead. Kentucky would block a punt and recover it in the endzone for a touchdown to tie the game.
In the second quarter, the Hogs began to separate themselves with a 14 point output with a 26 yard touchdown pass by Matt Jones and a blocked punt would be recovered in the endzone for a touchdown.
Kentucky would come out in the second half to outscore Arkansas 17-3 and tie the ball game heading into overtime.
Fast forward to overtime where both teams would combine for the most points scored in a game. Arkansas scored 47 points in overtime, which broke their own record of 41. Both teams combined for 86 overtime points in a game that lasted 4 hours and 58 minutes.
The converted running back, Birmingham found running room on the left side for a 25 yard touchdown. During the two point conversion, Jones found Jason Peters in the endzone for the conversion to take the lead for good. On fourth and three with the ball game on the line, Wildcat quarterback, Jared Lorenzen fumbled the football and was recovered by Bua to win the game.
Jones went 16 of 25 passing for 260 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another 112 and another score. Birmingham carried the ball for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver George Wilson caught nine passes 172 yards and a touchdown.
What moments made you a Razorback fan? What childhood memories stick with you to these days? Share them below in the comments and hit the share button to post on your social media account.
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