What makes football so special? Is it the feeling we get when our team is victorious? The escape it brings from our normal days of worry and stress? Or perhaps the magic lies within the memories which are often created?
One might strongly and accurately suggest the answer is found in all three.
Today I want to talk about simply the last possible answer listed within the aforementioned inquiries. If you are over the age of 14 you surely have memories of more sacred times watching the Arkansas Razorbacks play the Auburn Tigers on crisp fall Saturdays.
Reminisce if you will thoughts about Auburn vs Arkansas game weeks from years past. Any recollection of lying in bed on Friday night knowing you were going to see Tigers QB phenom Jason Campbell in person on The Hill the next day?
What about water-cooler banter at work leading to a debate upon which of Auburn’s plethora of idols and nicknames is their official mascot?
Or maybe reading this evokes the full awareness and pending anxiety of knowing within hours you would be the victim of a Pig Trail traffic jam.
Most of the history is recent with Arkansas joining the SEC in 1992. Since that time the two SEC west foes have had many classic battles. Following are some of my favorites in no particular order. [Actually, that’s a lie, I will list them chronologically.]
The 1995 home victory where the Hogs, led by Barry Lunney, Jr, got up early (27 – 0) only to barely upset No. 11 Auburn 30 – 28 in what would have been an amazing comeback by the Tigers had their kicker not missed a 52-yard field goal as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Fayetteville was again the place to be in 2001. Arkansas had a newly expanded stadium, a freshman quarterback fans knew only as “Matt Jones from Northside” (unless you are from Van Buren, but I digress), and the No. 17 Tigers in town looking for an easy ‘W’ to add to their 6-1 record.
They didn’t find it.
What they did discover was an amped-up group of Razorbacks with an ecstatic crowd testing the new I-beams in the south endzone section
. What I believe no one in attendance nor watching at home will ever forget from that is an 88-yard interception from Hogs linebacker Jermaine Petty which started on the 12-yard-line, saw some shifty moves we did not know one of our favorites possessed, and ended 21-seconds later on the west sideline as a “never say die” Auburn defender knocked Petty’s legs out from underneath him as he fell into the endzone for six.
I excitedly watched Petty come straight at me as he ran towards paydirt, all the while my thought processes were, “Good for Petty! … This is the longest play I have ever seen.”
Even passing through the fairly new Bobby Hopper Tunnel was electrifying that evening as the Hog faithful filled it with echoes of honked horns, screams of victory, and even countless chants of “Woo, Pig Sooie!”
In 2006, the impressive backfield of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones ran all over the plains and No. 2 Auburn’s defense while Mitch Mustain had a decent day by going 7-of-10 for 87-yards with one touchdown to Marcus Monk, leading to a 27–10 upset of the Tigers.
I distinctly remember being in a golf tournament with a radio strapped to the cart that day, playing alongside three of the finest men and Razorback fans you will ever meet.
Several hours after the game, pulling onto the turn for my block found me face-to-face with numerous watch party barbecues still at their peak and only further aroused by the sight of Razorback flags and magnets donning the exterior of a new Nissan XTerra (and its horn) carrying a first place trophy and blasting Hank Williams, Jr’s “Hog Wild”.
Yes, I was an even bigger dork then, and I am almost positive their shouts of enthusiasm had nothing to do with the golf award but clarity on the reasoning was never obtained.
Speaking of overtime, Arkansas used four of them in a 54 -46 victory over Gus Malzahn and his touted Tigers in 2015.
This contest holds a special place in my heart, but I am not 100% certain as to why. Honestly, I feel it was simply the look on Gus’s face when he walked to midfield for the post-game handshake.
You know, beating Malzahn is like watching your ex-brother-in-law marry a witch from Crawford County. You feel bad for him because he was once family, but you sadistically enjoy the pending turmoil.
Good times. Good times.
Word is Sam Pittman, KJ Jefferson, Grant Morgan, and everyone else within the team still have their spirits and confidence high.
Let’s welcome the Auburn War Eagles … no, Plainsmen … no, wait, Tigers coach Bryan Harsin back to the Natural State.
Some may forget he got his head coaching start at Arkansas State in 2013 leading the Red Wolves to a share of the Sun Belt Conference Championship.
TRIVIA QUESTION: Who did Harsin succeed when he took the reins in Jonesboro? Winner gets bragging rights and a free membership to the John L Smith Quote of the Month Club.
Some are worried about the rushing defense of the Razorbacks. Arkansas Defensive Coordinator Barry Odom will find it much easier to scheme against a less complex Auburn offense.
How long has Bo Nix been playing for Auburn? It seems like twelve years. In his defense, It is probably simply his high number of dumb remarks to the press (including his crediting Chad Morris for the turnaround of Arkansas Football) which make his tenure seem so lengthy.
Auburn’s defense will not be able to contain our rushing attack for four quarters. Two perhaps, but definitely not four.
I am anxious to see what play Kendall Briles will call to begin our first offensive drive. I do not have any specific reason outside of I was not a huge fan of the last call in Oxford, and I know our offensive coordinator has good stuff.
If you have not noticed what former Arkansas coaches Jeff Traylor and Barry Lunney, Jr. are doing at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) you had better start. They currently sit at 6-0 and host the same Rice team with whom we opened 2021.
It’s fair to say my curiosity is piqued and I wish the Roadrunners the best.
Speaking of Auburn history, remember when their middle linebacker Anthony Swain faked an injury in the endzone to stop the Arkansas momentum?
Ole Miss had a moment like that this past Saturday as well.
Some have argued the latter was not a fake injury/cramp by their defensive lineman, but watching the replay, his teammate looked away from the signs on the sideline and back at him just in time to see the fine acting job. Coincidence? No way!
TRIVIA ANSWER: Harsin succeeded Gus Malzahn at Arkansas State in 2013. He has now done the same at Auburn, so apparently he likes sloppy… You know what? I am better than that; however, if by some wild chance he replaces Gus at UCF, I will lower my standards.
Arkansas is the more battle-tested team. They have heart and talent. I see no issues with them bouncing back and defeating Auburn in Donald W. Reynolds.
Arkansas gets back into the win column in a game which will not be as close as the final score.
Arkansas, 34 – 17.
Be certain to listen to the game Saturday at 11:00 A.M. via HitThatLine.com and on the air at ESPN Arkansas 99.5 in Fayetteville, 95.3 in the River Valley, 96.3 in Hot Springs, and 104.3 in Harrison-Mountain Home.
SEC Picks for Week 7
I think Andy is mad at me (Editor’s Note: No, he just forgot about you).
He has not messaged me all week (again), he did not send me a congratulatory present for winning a regional Mahjong tournament, and he still refuses to follow me on ‘Twitter.’ (Andy has no idea he even HAS a Twitter account)
It’s just a football picks’ cup, Hodges. (Andy is yawning) It’s not like I stole your favorite white suit, old buddy. I know how much you fancy yourself a Don Johnson in that thing.
Auburn at (17) Arkansas: My mind is hopeful for memories to share with my Daughters. Hogs by 17.
(20) Florida at LSU: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. How bad has it gotten in Baton Rouge? My good friend Will Vaughn is a staunch LSU supporter, and he secretly has hopes the Tigers will safely fall victim to COVID protocol simply to avoid any more embarrassing losses. I say that in jest of course … or do I? LSU is not requiring proof of vaccination this weekend. My guess: due to the way things are going, keeping six-feet apart in Death Valley will not be nearly as difficult as it was even two years ago . Gators by 14.
(21) Texas A&M at Missouri: We said the Aggies would try to make a statement last week, but I did not think Alabama would shut up and listen. They may have stuttered throughout the entire game, yet A&M got the last word. Now the Aggies are riding a tide of emotion. A&M by 17.
(11) Kentucky at (1) Georgia – GAME OF THE WEEK: 6 and 0 meets 6 and “Oh my gosh, they’re by far the best team in college football”. I am glad for the uprising of Wildcat football, and, despite the haughtiness of some of their basketball fans, it is enjoyable to see them ranked right outside the Top Ten. Despite their recent success they face the No. 1 team in the country this week, but it’s in Athens, and remember, a very good Arkansas team went down to Georgia looking for a game to steal… Dogs by 24.
Vanderbilt at South Carolina: South Carolina finds a way to win at home, but, with all due respect to the Commodores, so could the Cedarville Pirates if they were hosting Vanderbilt. Cocks by 27.
(5) Alabama at Mississippi State: My favorite part of Alabama losing? Thinking about how mad Nick Saban gets and how miserable the next week’s practices must be on the players. Mississippi State has had a week to prepare, and while I think the Bulldogs could have kept it close under normal circumstances, the Tide losing to Texas A&M has to have been a wake-up call. The Bulldogs feel the brunt end of frustration’s hammer. Bama by 35.
(13) Ole Miss at Tennessee: Who really cares? Ole Miss is the better team, and all I can think is Lane Kiffin always looks like a six-year-old boy who was just woken early from a nap. Tennessee will hang around for three quarters though. Rebels by 8.
Check back soon for all the highlights from Saturday’s game.
We need to make memories again this Saturday. Let’s give us something to talk about ten years down the road, Hogs.
Find me on ‘Twitter’: @PeterMorganWPS