When I was a freshman at Baylor, I was a member of the “Baylor Arkansas Club”, made up of boys and girls from Arkansas or with Arkansas ties who were at Baylor.
We had a terrible time at Homecoming that year, because the Homecoming guest was….Arkansas. How could we root against the HOGS? Not possible.
We devised what we thought was a foolproof strategy: we wore our Baylor Line T-shirts and our Uncle Heavy Hog Hats. We got Hell from both sides.
Later that year, Arkansas was taking on the #2 ranked Texas A&M Aggies; it was the ABC College Football Game of the Week (hard to believe now, but you only got ONE). The announcing team was headed by the immortal Keith Jackson (the real one, not the current color guy on Arkansas’ Radio broadcasts). Anticipation was running high in the entire college football fan world on that game.
We Baylor Arkies proudly decked ourselves out in cardinal from head to toe (with Uncle Heavy’s natch) and proceeded to the TV room at Penland Hall (one TV per floor). We taught those Baylor boys how to Call the Hogs that day.
ABC cut to a live shot from the Goodyear Blimp, while Keith Jackson did the voiceover:
WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRR MEMORIAL STADIUM LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS!!!!! WHERE FRANK BROYLES’ ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS ARE TAKING ON THE #2 RANKED AGGIES OF TEXAS A&M!!!! Hello, everybody, I’m Keith Jackson….”
From that day till now, when I see the words, “War Memorial Stadium”, I hear that in Keith Jackson’s voice.
WMS has been Arkansas’ “Home Away From Home” since the 1940’s. Fayetteville was a remote mountain hamlet, roads were awful, and it was a 6 hour drive from Little Rock to Fayetteville. John Barnhill, Arkansas Head Coach and AD, knew that he’d never get the big crowds up there. He politicked the “Ledge” into creating a stadium in Little Rock (center of the state), and put 3-4 games a year there.
WMS was “Modern”; it had a big press box and LIGHTS (at one time, it was voted the “best lit stadium in America”). The national media were able (barely) to fly into Adams Field (the only “real” airport in the state), and when Frank Broyles started to win with regularity, they flocked to WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRR MEMORIAL STADIUM, LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS!!!!! (see how that works?)
Today, in 2009, War Memorial (53,727) is outmoded, a “dump”, “tiny”; Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville is finer in every way. Bigger, better, newer, vastly nicer; loud, intimidating.
Still….still….there’s something magical about that old gray pile in Little Rock. Maybe it’s my memories, who knows. Some awfully good games have been played in that stadium. In 1989, Houston brought Andre Ware and the “run and shoot” offense into WMS. According to eyewitnesses (I lived in NYC at the time), that is the loudest the loud old place ever got.
Tim Couch and the Kentucky Wildcats came into War Memorial and had marched down to easy field goal range; of course, they wanted a TD. The North Endzone (notorious for its rowdiness) was so loud they false started three times consecutively, taking them out of field goal range.
My personal memory of that game is familiar to all Razorback fans: Couch threw, and David Barrett stepped directly in front of the pass, streaking down the sidelines and electrifying the crowd and turning the game in Arkansas’ favour.
South Carolina, ranked #11 in the nation, marched the field as time expired. (and Lou Holtz, former Arkansas coach, had run his mouth all week about how they were going to dominate Arkansas). With two seconds on the clock, all they had to do was kick the (easy) field goal to win. Carlos Hall reached his big hand up and swatted it down---HOGS WIN! HOGS WIN! HOGS WIN!
Pouring rain (pouring---what about that do you not get?). About 40 degrees. The much-vaunted Josh Booty-led LSU Tigers were in town to beat the (about to be) 4-7 Arkansas Razorbacks. Field was a soggy mess; about 20,000 brave souls in the stands (including me). Brandon Holmes, a huge freight-train of a man, busted up the middle. Arkansas ran the same play again and he busted up the middle again. And again. And again. LSU was powerless to stop him, and Arkansas powered all over them.
And speaking of LSU…..
One Miracle is…well, miraculous. But TWO? Over the same team? In the exact same SPOT???
Arkansas was hosting LSU and things just weren’t going well for either team. It had been a decidedly lackluster game, and LSU scored the winning field goal with 40 seconds left to play; 20-14. Arkansas, which had been LOUSY all day (couldn’t complete a pass if their lives depended on it), got the ball back on their own 20 (touchback), 80 yards to go, 34 seconds left to play, no times out left. LSU fans were celebrating; Hog fans dejected. On the first play, Matt Jones ran around for a second, then hit a streaking Michael Smith at the 31 yard line! All of a sudden, the purple and gold got very quiet while the cardinal and white became very “attentive”. First down, 26 seconds to play. First play, nothing. 21 seconds to play. Jones rears back, flings the ball downfield, and hits the perfectly timed DeCori Birmingham in the corner of the endzone, TOUCHDOWN, ARKANSAS, OH, MY!!!!!!!!! 20-20. Two entire states held their collective breath. The 35 yard PAT split the uprights and Arkansas was ahead 21-20 with 6 seconds left. LSU got the ball back but was unable to get into field goal range. HOGS WIN! HOGS WIN!!! HOGS WIN!!!!! You can see highlights here.
Last year, it was a weird sort of déjà vu: the same game all over again, same teams, different players, same result----the “Miracle on Markham” II.
I’m going to post a bunch of pictures from that magical night, Miracle on Markham I, then I’ll resume my narrative. It was one of my all-time favourite Razorback games.
Me with two of my nephews: Jeremiah and David
We knew how to put on a freaking tailgate party
Whichever assclown took this, thanks heaps!
Dad, David and Me in the stands
Merry Christmas!!! How about a trip to the SECCG for Christmas!?
Tailgating at WMS is always fascinating. Little Rock could have a big parking lot for the stadium, which would sit empty most of the time, or they could have a golf course that you park on 3 times a year. They elected to have the golf course. War Memorial Stadium is the only stadium in the world where you park on the golf course. It’s an amazing and wonderful thing.
And a word about couch burning: there was a group of boys (young men) who would bring their entire apartment’s contents to the game: couch, chairs, fridge, tables, lamps, and of course, TV. They’d put it all up on the golf course. One particular game, the couch burned. Now, I ask you: how many teams can claim couch-burning as a fan activity?! The burning couch has been a subject of mirth for years.
I am told that some Auburn fan’s van got burned at the stadium too, but I wouldn’t know anything about that ;-)
We have a grand new stadium on campus in Fayetteville now (there was always a campus stadium; it was just little and far away). War Memorial has outlived its original mandate.
Still, there’s something about the old girl that brings us back, year after year. As Keith Jackson said, again from Little Rock, this time vs. #1 ranked Texas in 1981, “…Oh my! Arkansas scores, Texas is reeling, and THEY’RE CALLING THE HOGS IN LITTLE ROCK!!!”
Tomorrow, one more time. Be afraid, Missouri State.
I’ve posted on message boards for years; Marty saved this one and it’s one of my favourite memories of all times---the time I stood on the sidelines at War Memorial Stadium while the crowd Called the Hogs.
Ok, God---Thank You and I can die now, it's ok
For 1.5 quarters last night, I got to stand on the sidelines during an Arkansas Razorback Football game at War Memorial Stadium.
A big thank you to the King Jackmonkey and the folks who made it happen for me.
I met the King Jackmonkey behind the west stands and he gave me the sidelines pass.
Until you have done it, you cannot imagine what it feels like to walk up to the gate, the one you've seen so many times, wishing you could go through, and have the smiling guard roll it wide open.
He rolled that gate open, and I strolled (alone) down the ramp where the Hogs come out, down to the second gate which was also rolled open for me.
The emotion as I took that first step out of the ramp and onto the field surface (it's ok! If you play golf, it's like the first cut of rough off the green, kind of spongy and not bad at all; NOTHING like Astroturf) is indescribable. It's a different perspective, different even from that of the first row of the stadium. There I was, walking down the sideline, and play was going on right in front of me (Arkansas had the ball, about the 40; Tarvaris Jackson quarterbacking).
Let me tell y'all right here and right now: War Memorial Stadium is one loud MoFo. Even by the time I got there (many folks were leaving for the golf course, the bars, and home), midway through the third quarter, with the game way way way already over, it was LOUD. Loud, Loud, Loud.
We have all seen the players on "Player Walk"; they look (to me, now, at my age) like slightly-larger-than-average kids. Well, ok, in Melton's and Andrews' case, quite a bit larger than average kids, but I digress).
Put them in helmet and pads, put them on the sidelines, and they are HUGE. Tarvaris Jackson is a great big ol stud hoss. I know why Matt Jones' number is 9; that's the number of feet tall he is. Hurricane Andrews is about the size of your average hurricane (miles wide and tall). Zac Tubbs is huge (huge).
Y'all have NO idea how effective the "Arkansas Razorback FIRST DOWN" cheer is. If you are "agin" it, let me tell you---you shouldn't be. When I do it in the stands, it's many different voices making it. I can hear me, my Dad, the people next to us, the people behind us, and that as differentiated from the people across the stadium from us; it always seems like there is a one or two second lag between us and them.
When you're on the field, it's ONE VOICE. It's like the stadium is a living, breathing thing; it speaks with one voice, whatever is happening. The announcer says, "It's another Arkansas Razorback...." and the stadium, with one voice, crisply, says, "FIRST DOWN" in reply. It's very loud, it's very imposing, it would be tremendously ANNOYING to the other team's players, coaches, etc., and it would actually, imho, be discouraging to the opposing defense, with the "FIRST DOWN"'s stacking up and up, we're not stopping them, they keep chewing up yards....
Kids, no matter HOW fast you THINK the game is, until you see it "up close and personal", you have no idea how fast it really is; I certainly didn't. Practice is different. The GAME is amazingly fast. I was right in front of Tarvaris Jackson's interception, where he tackled the guy who intercepted him himself. It's like a movie that's been speeded up. I've watched practice plenty of times, and have seen plenty of games in person, but MAN---the speed, the speed....
When USF was going down the field for their face-saving field goal, even with the stadium fairly well emptied out, the students got the stadium up one more time, and it sounded like a freight train, like a 747 at takeoff. Again, no individual voices---one huge noise. It's like being in a cauldron of lights and noise. You literally cannot hear yourself think. Speech is impossible. It is a MOST intimidating thing.
All in all, a wonderful, memorable experience. There was one moment during this whole experience, though, where I almost broke down, almost lost it.
As I told God at the beginning of this post, it's ok, I can die now. I have stood on the sidelines at War Memorial Stadium while the crowd Called the Hogs.
That, my friends, was SPECIAL.
What’s YOUR favourite War Memorial Stadium memory? Leave me a comment and tell me!
Next up: Final Chapter, Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas
LINKS TO ALL 5 CHAPTERS OF THIS SERIES: