Arkansas played #1 Florida in the Swamp today, and came as close to an upset as the Hogs have ever managed against the Gators (in the SEC era). While Ryan Mallett still showed signs of nerves/jitters in the face of a top-notch defense, he mostly made plays when he needed to do so.
Arkansas’ offensive line played very well indeed. The blocking up front gave Mallett the time he needed to make the plays.
The receiving corps, likewise, did well, making some clutch catches (yes, they missed some, nobody’s perfect) they would have missed early in the season.
How bout that young Dennis Johnson! Whoa, where did HE come from? He certainly stepped up while Smith is out---and had some nice kick returns as well. Ah, to be young again, and have that kind of stamina…
The Defense: what can you say about these guys? Worst to first! They were trounced last year, and started out this year looking like “Second verse, same as the first!” They’ve quietly improved, game after game, and today’s game---let’s just say the #1 Gators had all of the Arkansas defense they wanted and then some.
Ole Miss offense: Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.
I am very, very proud of the Hogs today---they stood toe-to-toe with Florida, with some of their best players on the sidelines, and won the game (with the exception noted a couple of sections below).
Fearless prediction: January 2, 2010, Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas: The SBC Cotton Bowl Classic, Arkansas vs. Oklahoma (or K-State, depending on how that shakes out).
A Public Apology:
Toward the first part of the year, in public and in private, I excoriated Willy Robinson, Arkansas’ Defensive Coordinator. I publicly called for his head, stating that he obviously wouldn’t know Defense from a paper bag.
I was wrong.
Mr. Robinson, you have developed your players all year (something not seen at Arkansas for the past 10 years). You’ve devised some very stout defenses against some very good offenses. I am impressed. I was wrong, and I publicly apologize. Give ‘em Hell, Willy!
I watched the game today with Nathan and his fraternity brother and friend, Adam. We were cautiously optimistic as the game began, but as it wore on and it became more and more likely that we might pull off the upset, we began to be very concerned with and interested in the game. As the game wore on to the final quarter, Adam began twisting his hat, unconsciously running his fingers through his hair, and both he and Nathan started sitting on the edge of their seats. I was sprawled back on the sofa. At one point, Adam turned to me and said, “You look pretty relaxed for someone who professes to be nervous!”
“Boys,” I said, “y’all are 26. I’ve been living with the Arkansas Razorbacks for 52 years. I’ll get excited when we get down to the last minute.” (I was thinking of the scene in “Fried Green Tomatoes” when Kathy Bates slams her Ford into the young girls’ car, then says, “Face it, girls---I’m older and I’ve got better insurance!”).
They’re 26. Full grown men with college degrees and homes and cars and careers and wife (one) and fiancée (other). They were 9 years old when Arkansas played its last Southwest Conference game. They vaguely remember us playing texass u (spit) and aTm and Baylor and SMU and TCU and Rice and Texas Tech and Houston; they’ve never been to Lubbock; Waco is someplace they’ve driven through going from Dallas to San Antonio; Austin is 6th Street (but not football); Texas Stadium is where the Cowboys used to play, and who was Amon Carter and where is Ft. Worth anyway? They never owned a copy of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football (or the Arkansas version).
That name may not mean anything to young Razorback fans (see above) but it does to us old farts.
Arkansas was playing SMU at Texas Stadium; SMU was in full “Pony Express” mode with their bought and paid for players (Craig James you suck); when they got caught, that set in motion the demise of the Southwest Conference.
In any event, Horton Nesrsta was an official in that game. He called Arkansas’ Nathan Jones for Pass Interference (which then was half the distance to the goal, period); this put the ball at the Arkansas 17 and SMU went on to win the game, which gave them the Conference Championship. Except there was no Defensive Pass Interference. It was obviously, positively, blatantly OFFENSIVE pass interference, should have resulted in a (drive-killing and probably game-losing) penalty for SMU, and everybody in the stadium and in the national TV audience saw it---except Nesrsta. Even the SMU player later said he was play-acting, trying to convince Nesrsta that it was Jones interfering with him, when he knew he was guilty as original sin.
Out of all the hose jobs the Texas referees (for the young fan: Arkansas refs could not referee an Arkansas game; the Texas schools were afraid we’d “cheat”. So of course, ALL of OUR games were refereed by ALL-TEXAS refs---but hey, that was fair, right?) ever pulled on poor old Arkansas, that was by far the worst.
In fact, out of all the hose jobs EVER pulled on Arkansas in both the old Southwest Conference and the Southeastern Conference, that was the worst---until today.
THE SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE SHOULD DIE OF SHAME BECAUSE OF THE REFEREEING IN THE ARKANSAS-FLORIDA GAME TODAY. Those referees (who likewise hosed Georgia in favour of LSU) should never be allowed to work another game in the SEC, if the SEC is to have ANY credibility whatsoever. I have thought the refereeing in the SEC was bad, and I’ve heard the complaints of favouritism from other fans, but I’ve never witnessed anything like this hosing, except for dear old Horton Nestrsa. What game were they watching?
I’ll tell you what game they were watching: they were watching the SEC’s bottom line, they were watching the fact that the SEC has the number 1 and number 2 ranked teams in the nation right now, and they were damned well intent on keeping Florida #1, even if they had to carry the ball across the goal line FOR St. Tebow and Co.
Normally, I am one who says, “Whining about the refs is for losers,” but in this case, it’s deserved.
Look, when our team does something against the rules, fine. There’s “holding” on every play in every football game; as long as it’s called evenly, that’s fine when we get popped. Off sides, False Starts, 12 men on the field---we commit them all, and deserve to be penalized for it.
But when an Arkansas player is obviously going for the ball, does not push off, and otherwise just properly defends a pass into the endzone---and gets flagged for pass interference, when there clearly was none…when an Arkansas player gets called for blocking his man cleanly, with no other apparent issue—and gets flagged for it---both of which penalties result in keeping the Florida drive alive when it was sputtering---that’s just plain old bullshit.
Foul, Southeastern Conference, foul. If Florida goes on to win the national championship (which I hope does not happen), it will be tainted as far as I’m concerned. I hope St. Tebow and the Gators lose in the NC game. I’ll sure be rooting for their opponent (for the first time since we joined the SEC in 1992), unless it’s texass u (spit). If that’s the game, I just won’t watch it. I don’t think my heart could take it.