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No Miracle Required / Notes from the North Endzone – LSU Edition

Arkansas
Content provided by Razorback Expats.

Miracle on Markham One will always have the names Matt Jones and Decori Birmingham associated with them. Miracle on Markham Two will always be associated with the names Casey Dick and London Crawford. Instead of a last second hope and prayer play like in wins past, this year’s team made big plays throughout the game. But I would say two names still should forever be associated with this year’s win, Cobi Hamilton for his two amazing touchdowns and his securing of the on-side kick and then Knile Davis for his 152 yards rushing, the first score of the game, and the grinding out of time eating yards in the fourth quarter. With that said, it was still very much a complete team effort, including some 50,000 plus loud and screaming Razorback fans. I am happy to say that I was one of them. Here’s what I saw, heard, and thought during last night’s 31-23 victory over LSU.

* Waking up yesterday morning had something of the feeling of Christmas just two days after Thanksgiving. It didn’t matter that Desmond Howard had chosen to play the Grinch and proclaim on Gameday that the Hogs would lose to LSU. It didn’t matter that ESPN kept running on the scroll that Ryan Mallett had twenty-two incompletions against LSU last year. Such Debbie Downers! haha. What mattered was that it was a beautiful blue-bird day in Arkansas and that I had a coveted ticket to the game.

* Or I thought I did. FYI: If you should mistakenly use one of your two LSU tickets at the ULM game earlier in the season, haha, well, you will need to go to the “Will Call” area by Gate Seven where they’ll ask to see your driver’s license and issue you something that looks like a note from the principals office to get in. We first tried to walk up there and see if the ticket ripper wouldn’t notice. They didn’t notice it during the ULM game! But he had a sharper eye. The take away message, do be careful fellow season ticket holders about which tickets you bring to the game.

* The sights and sounds of the tailgating around War Memorial are always great to behold. LSU fans were dotted amongst the red and white outposts of Hog Nation, but it was clearly an Arkansas gathering of the faithful. In that tent city, those who wore purple and gold were the only sinners. Yet, it was an atmosphere of good natureness from what I could tell. You would see groups of friends, some LSU fans, some Arkansas. Then there mixed dating couples, the woman in Arkansas red and white, her boyfriend or husband in Hog gear.

* My favorite sartorial sighting of the day was a t-shirt that read “The Good (picture of a Hog), the Bad (Alabama A), and the Ugly (picture of the LSU Tiger). Haha. Santa, get me one of those for Christmas!

* The Good Hog, Tusk, was back in Little Rock, but carrying many more pounds of bacon in his skeleton than what he was carrying a few months ago at the ULM game. Like our team, Tusk has done some growing up as well this season.

* Ramon Broadway and Little Rock’s native son, D.J. Williams, were both on the cover of the program. And I am sure Nike is pleased that they are both wearing this year’s uniform and not the Addias wear that was on the first  Little Rock program of the season.

* I thought it rather apropos that a member of one of our early SEC teams, Isaac Davis (1990-93), should be named honorary captain to what was one of the Hogs’ most significant SEC wins since joining the conference.

* I am not up all that knowledgeable on current country music recording artists, but the guy who sang the national anthem sounded a lot like the twang of a country star I used to follow, Randy Travis.  

* The banners were confined to just regular old advertizing this go around. No politicians. No fire the coach. And there is no truth to the rumor that a bunch of LSU fans flew a banner after darkness had fallen that had anything to do with Les Miles’ tenure at LSU. haha.  

* Aesthetically Speaking: Painting is pretty much my chief hobby these days. And I think my fellow painters in the crowd were probably also just blown over by the pure colors on display. The intense green of the field. The horizon to horizon pure blue of the sky. The sun shining on our red uniforms, helmets in particular. I have to admit the purple and gold looked wonderful in the sun as well. I think Van Gogh would have loved to have set up his easel in the press box. The purple and gold really would have appealed to him. As great as your television reception is, nothing can really replace the world is aglow feeling that you get from being at War Memorial on a sunny fall afternoon.

* Cliff Lee and his family led a Hog Call early in the game. I don’t think they mentioned on the CBS broadcast that Cliff has generously given a million dollars to Arkansas Childrens Hospital where his son was treated for cancer. They didn’t mention it at the game either. But I had read of his generousity in the paper.

* And I would say nothing can really replace the collective joy of being surrounded by 50,000 plus people celebrating a touchdown with you. It truly is electrifying. Knile Davis’ first touchdown was at our end of the field and we in the North Endzone started the explosion of joy that went around the stadium, only interrupted by areas of purple and gold.

* I recalled the big day Cobi Hamilton had last year against MSU at War Memorial. I had a pre-game thought of maybe he’ll repeat himself. haha. And did he ever! Putting it in baseball terms seems appropiate, actually, in describing the day. It was a day when we hit home runs more than doubles and triples. But then in the fourth quarter we did steadily round the bases in a drive that took just over six very valuable minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter.

* Trends: The Hogs have a negative trend over the last two games of turning the ball right back over after getting it ourselves from a turnover. A significant trend was broken in that there were no false starts and the penalties (just two for 17 yards) were the fewest this team has made all year. The trend of beating schools that previously beat Alabama continues (South Carolina, LSU). And finally, the trend of not losing to anybody outside of the state of Alabama continues as well.

* Some we still got to work on this numbers: The Hogs kickoff coverage gave LSU 187 yards on five kickoffs. The Hogs gained only 80 yards in six kickoffs. Towards the end of the game I wasn’t the only one in the North Endzone who was advocating for just kicking it out of pounds and letting LSU start on the forty yard line. I give credit to Tejada for forcing Patrick Trindon Holliday Peterson out of bounds when needed. But why was he even kicking to him in the first place?

* I mentioned in a previous comment that I would love to see a repeat of the 1998 LSU game in Little Rock when the Hogs just had the game won going away early. The beatdown on Markham. It wasn’t like that. But the Hogs did put up two pass plays of over 80 yards. And the last time that happened was with Stoerner and Lucas / Eubanks in the 1998 LSU game.

* I will admit that I was thinking the Hogs would just take a knee and go into the half 14-14. Oh, how happy I was not to have a headset in this game, haha. And if you are an LSU fan, you have to say to yourself ironically, “Les Miles left too much time on the clock!” haha.

* This was the 8th time the Hogs have racked up a ten win season. 1977 and 1964 are our lone two eleven win seasons. Might we add 2010 to that list? I think it is highly possible if the Hogs take where they are at now as a team to the bowl game.

* Credit to the defense for holding LSU to field goals and doing some bending, but not breaking out there. The offense seemed to sputter at times, but the defense played more consistently well throughout the game. This was an LSU offense that was trending upwards before this game, and the Hogs held them to 23 points, three of which were more the responsibility of the special teams unit (Breeding’s unforced error).

* This isn’t the first time I’ve complained about War Memorial’s inability to keep a scoreboard and a forty second clock running throughout a game. This isn’t very complicated technology people. High schools across the country manage this without as much trouble. At one time the scoreboard had the score at zero to zero in the fourth quarter. God Forbid!

* Fear of the Night: Somehow LSU might pull off its own miracle on Markham. But the sacking of Jefferson and the resulting turnover put all thought of that out of my head. And finally the Hogs were able to just line up in the victory formation and take a knee. Some around me were yelling for the Hogs to run it in. I wasn’t one of them. I would rather see us be good sports and not shoot a wounded Tiger when it isn’t necessary. Those shots usually find a way to bounce back and hit you latter on. Such is the karma of football.

* The only time I’ve referenced Def Leopard in a post: Yeah, the stadium was singing “Pour Sugar On Me” at the end of the game. The players were jumping up in the air and bouncing off one another. The golden boot, a good kind of heavy, was being carried around by the team. From the recording I watched after getting home, I thought I saw Bobby Petrino even kiss a baby! 

* We listened to the postgame on the radio as we drove through the darkened Arkansas landscape. It was nice to hear the intelligent post-game talk from Bobby Petrino and his coaches. No “I called that play, Brotha” business. Just strictly the business of talking about how the game transpired. Yeah, put me in the Bobby Petrino fan club along with Hog fans everywhere.

* BIG PICTURE THOUGHTS: And saw draws to a close the 2010 regular season (Tempus Fugit) and begins a week where we all hold our noses again and become Auburn fans in order to get that Sugar Bowl invite. It has been one amazing season, and it is one that I’ve enjoyed sharing with all of you here on this website, my old friends and expats in places as diverse as Wichita, Kansas, and West Monroe, Louisiana, and my family back in Arkansas, including my mother who is the quinessential Southern lady who loves her college football. Thanks for sharing the season with me. And now on to the bowl game and getting consecutive bowl wins for the first time in program history.

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LSU – Arkansas: A Viewer’s Guide to the Sunday Replay

LSU
Content provided by And The Valley Shook.

It’s really hard to complain about a 10-2 regular season, but man, that’s a rough way to end it. There are a couple of easy targets of blame for this one, but the reality is this goes on the whole team.

Notes:

  • What is it about LSU-Arkansas that causes these crazy things to happen? A punt catches the back of an LSU player’s ankle for an easy Arkansas recovery, but the Tigers fail to fall on a Joe Adams muff. Never mind the fumble/interception/punt 80-yard touchdown sequence.
  • In terms of Arkansas’ plan of attack, it was pretty much what I expected – outside zone runs or draw plays with Knile Davis that took advantage of the LSU pursuit, and downfield passing from Ryan Mallett designed to attack the Tiger safeties and linebackers.
  • Karnell Hatcher…wow…it’s rare that you make mistakes that directly cost 14 points, but that’s pretty much what he did, and that’s kind of part of the gig with a safety. The first big play to Cobi Hamilton, that’s a throw not many quarterbacks can make that quickly, but you have to know that Mallett can and you have to rotate over there. On the second one, there’s no excuse to play the ball on a last-ditch throw at halftime unless you have a clear path to knock it down (and he didn’t). You get the guy on the ground, half over. You knock your own guy down, and suddenly there isn’t a lot of help to get the guy down. Of course, there was also no reason for the Tigers to be in a 3-deep zone instead of a pure prevent. Arkansas wouldn’t have had time for more than one play.
  • Hatcher’s going to get piled on, but at the same time, LSU got the ball inside the Arkansas 10 with a chance to tie the game and couldn’t punch it in.
  • Really rough game for the offensive tackles, especially Chris Faulk, who got worked over by Arkansas’ Damario Ambrose (coincidentally, the only senior starter on the Razorback d-line). Arkansas even managed to get pressure with three rushers at times, which was just plain sad. In general the offensive line wasn’t great – including the normally solid Josh Dworacyzk. Stevan Ridley’s first TD required the effort it did because Josh D. failed to get his guy on the ground.
  • LSU had some pretty good success with the spread/zone read running game, and even the option in the first half, but tried to get back to I-formation running in the second for some reason. Arkansas has an under-sized front, but the second they saw a two-back set they packed the box and swarmed the line of scrimmage. Spreading things out was the way to go. And I think more option game would have continued to be successful — particularly with Michael Ford. There’s really no reason for Jefferson to throw 27 passes. There was also no reason for Richard Murphy to be carrying the ball in the fourth quarter.
  • Horribly managed game by head referee Steve Shaw’s crew. Really bad clock management at times – including on Knile Davis’ injury in the final two minutes. Bobby Petrino was rightly angry about it. The holding call on P.J. Lonergan was atrocious in particular – calling holding on a center on an outside run (unless that center is pulling) is about as ticky tack as calling pass interference on a hail-mary. Nevermind the facemask on Michael Ford on the play. Shaw generally has a good rep with fans, but this wasn’t his first rough game. I’d say Matt Austin has passed him up in the pecking order.
  • Speaking of Lonergan…oof. He’s had some really good games this season, but today might have been worse than his game against Auburn. But instead of getting pushed around by the Arkansas front, he let them get in his head and badly botched two snaps. The 6-7 Mallett couldn’t have caught that second bad snap.
  • Finally, the only way I can explain Craig Bolerjack and Steve Buerlein’s employment is as a foil for Verne and Gary. From referring to Josh Jasper as a Groza finalist (he’s not), to calling for both teams to constantly go for punt blocks in spite of having the two top punt-returners in the SEC to referring to the game as an upset multiple times (Arkansas was a 3.5 point favorite), the mute button wasn’t good enough to express my discuss. Honestly, I wanted to skip duct tape even and just go straight to chloroform. Is it really that hard for CBS to get Gus Johnson on SEC football games? I would have even preferred the Mark Jones/Bob Davie combo. I may have even preferred Craig James (/slaps self).


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College Football News: SEC Players to Watch in Week 13

LSU
Content provided by And The Valley Shook.

College Football News: SEC Players to Watch in Week 13

Kelvin Sheppard will be in the spotlight, and kind of a chess match with Ryan Mallett and Knile Davis. My compatriots’ Week 12 Review can be found here as well.


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This One Time at Band Camp…

Arkansas
Content provided by Razorback Expats.

It’s been an interesting season to say the least: big wins, tough losses, records falling left and right…and now we have the unlikely spectacle of the football jocks and band nerds coming together to put on a show.

Yes, you read that right…check out Renaissance man D.J. Williams (of course!), Knile Davis and others jamming with the marching band. Quite impressive!

We look forward to Ryan Mallett‘s jazz fusion album and Cobi Hamilton’s LP of folky protest songs coming out soon.

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News And Views: SEC Week Ten

Each Monday, we kick off the week with a wrap-up of the previous weekend’s action.  Below are our MrSEC.com Hot List rankings — based on overall team strength, not just last Saturday’s results — as well as some bulletpoints for each squad.


Rising And Falling

1.  Les Miles reputation — rising (but give it time)
2.  Cameron Newton’s reputation — falling (even though he’s done nothing wrong)
3.  South Carolina’s stock — falling
4.  Arkansas running back Knile Davis — rising
5.  Vanderbilt’s program — falling
6.  Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray — rising
7.  SEC East — falling (just 2-14 in games against the SEC West)


The MrSEC Hot List

1.  Auburn –  Here’s what we know: a) The NCAA is looking into the recruitment of Cameron Newton.  b) Auburn officials are so confident nothing shady went on that they continue to play him.  c) Several pea-brained columnists and talk radio hosts called for Heisman voters not to vote for Newton.  Now maybe something comes of these rumors or maybe it doesn’t, but anyone who votes against the kid based on rumors is showing less integrity than Newton has to date.  Oh, and if the Tigers keep winning… they’ll play for the national title.  Almost forgot that.

2.  LSU –  Les Miles is getting universal praise today and he deserves it.  But how ’bout some applause for defensive coordinator John Chavis?  The Tigers’ offense has shown up in a couple of big games this year, but the LSU defense has kept the Tigers in the national title hunt all season.  Aside from a bad day against Cam Newton — and no one’s really had a good day against Newton yet — the Bayou Bengals have been dominant.  What a solid hire Chavis was two years ago.

3.  Alabama –  Nick Saban warned that each team has to develop its own chemistry and advance at its own pace.  This year’s Tide team should show us that’s true… as well as a couple of other things.  First, that it’s near impossible to win back-to-back national championships (as Florida learned last year).  Second, that the SEC doesn’t allow anyone to stay on top for long (no back-to-back champs since 1997-98).  Also, that one or two youthful mistakes in a single game can derail everything that pundits see “on paper” heading into a season.

4.  Arkansas –  The Razorbacks’ big win at South Carolina resurrects some fading goals in the Ozarks.  If the Hogs win out — and they’ve got UTEP, Mississippi State and LSU left on the schedule — Bobby Petrino’s team could finish with 10 wins in the regular season.  Do that and Arkansas could still land a BCS bid.  Saturday’s win in Columbia was absolutely huge.  And kudos to Knile Davis for his recent play.

5.  Florida –  It still doesn’t look like 2006 or 2008, but the Gators are at least showing signs of improvement.  They’ve scored 89 points the past two weeks and now get to host South Carolina for the East Division belt.  It might not have been pretty, but if the Gators best the Gamecocks they’ll be back in Atlanta for a third straight year.

6.  Mississippi State –  How will the Bulldogs respond to the death of Nick Bell?  With Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss still on the schedule, it’s likely Dan Mullen’s squad would have lost two out of three to close their season anyway.  But can they rally together in the face of tragedy… or will things take a turn for the worse?

7.  South Carolina –  Certain things happen each and every fall.  The leaves change colors.  My allergies get bad.  And South Carolina’s football team withers and falls like a dry, brown leaf.  The Gamecocks’ loss to Arkansas had all the markings of a team that wasn’t ready to play.  Now they’ve got a chance to play in their “biggest game ever” against Florida with Troy and Clemson waiting down the road.  Florida’s a toughie, but if Carolina loses to both Florida and mediocre Clemson, we’ll all know that The Chicken Curse still rolls on.

8.  Georgia — Fans aren’t happy.  Columnists aren’t helping.  And Auburn is waiting for the Bulldogs to come to The Plains this weekend.  It’s hard to imagine Georgia’s defense slowing Cam Newton, but Aaron Murray, AJ Green and company could put up some points of their own.  Remember, Auburn snuck past MSU, Clemson, Kentucky and LSU this year.  There’s no reason to think this one won’t be competitive.

9.  Kentucky –  The Wildcats are 5-5.  That’s not too far off from where most people projected before the season began.  Vanderbilt is up next.  With Vandy’s woes, it’s likely UK will lock up their 6th win before closing the season with traditional bully Tennessee.  If the Cats can snap Tennessee’s 1984-2009 winning streak, Joker Phillips will earn some applause.  (Maybe some?  Maybe?)

10.  Ole Miss –  It sounds like Jeremiah Masoli will play on Saturday and that’s good news for the Rebels.  Tennessee’s defense has been horrible against the pass.  UM still has something to play for, too.  With LSU and MSU after the Vols… a bowl bid is still a possibility for Houston Nutt’s squad.

11.  Tennessee –  The Vols can still go bowling, too, but it will require a four-game winning streak to close the season.  Win #1 came Saturday against a rancid Memphis team.  Freshman quarterback Tyler Bray is a gunslinger.  Last week he played pitch and catch and dissected Memphis’ secondary.  Can he be as carefree against Ole Miss without turning the ball over?  If so then you can bet all the folks on Rocky Top will have a new hero to focus on heading into 2011.

12.  Vanderbilt –  Vandy should try to invoke the mercy rule.  They’ve lost offensive players and defensive players.  They’ve lost starters… and backups to starters… and backups to backups.  They still have three more games to play — doesn’t it seem like they’ve already lost 14 games? — and they were pretty darn bad to begin with.  Pity Robbie Caldwell.  He’s going to get some nice money for his efforts as VU’s coach, but it’s got to feel like someone’s paying him to stand still while another person hits him over the head with a pipe.  Again and again.  And again.

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Gamecocks Upended by No. 18 Arkansas, 41-20

Ryan Mallett threw for 303 yards, Knile Davis tied a career high with three touchdowns and No. 17 Arkansas handed 18th-ranked South Carolina its worst home loss in five years, 41-20.
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Scouting South Carolina at Arkansas: Thoughts on What to Expect While Arkansas Has the Ball

South Carolina
Content provided by Garnet And Black Attack.

FILE - In this file photo taken Nov. 7, 2009, Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett looks for a receiver during the third quarter of the NCAA college football game against South Carolina in Fayetteville, Ark.  Chasing the defending champion Tide in the Western Division will be two teams led by transfer quarterbacks, Arkansas' Mallett and Mississippi and newcomer Jeremiah Masoli. (AP Photo/April L. Brown, File)

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April L Brown – AP

3 months ago:

FILE – In this file photo taken Nov. 7, 2009, Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett looks for a receiver during the third quarter of the NCAA college football game against South Carolina in Fayetteville, Ark. Chasing the defending champion Tide in the Western Division will be two teams led by transfer quarterbacks, Arkansas’ Mallett and Mississippi and newcomer Jeremiah Masoli. (AP Photo/April L. Brown, File)

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3. Knile Davis

After entering the season behind Ronnie Wingo, Jr., on the Hogs’ depth chart, Davis has become Arkansas’s featured tailback over the past few weeks, and the initial results are very positive. Davis had a breakout performance with a handful of long runs against Ole Miss, and he’s also played very well in a few other games. He’s probably one of the more powerful backs we’ll face this year, so he’ll provide a unique test of just how good our interior rushing defense actually is. Don’t forget that while Bobby Petrino is known for his passing game, his best teams have all had good rushing attacks, too. His offenses are in some senses very much like Steve Spurrier’s in that regard.

2. Can the Carolina Secondary Create Turnovers?

Lost amidst the general clamor against Carolina’s poor secondary play is the depressing fact that Carolina’s defensive backs have, by my off-the-top-of-my-head tally, accounted for only two interceptions this season. (Carolina broke a long INT drought on Devin Taylor’s pick-six against Tennessee, but Taylor is a DE–the DBs are still mired in a drought of their own.) That’s another black mark against a unit that can’t seem to do much of anything right this season. If the secondary is feeling inspired and would like to make a name for itself this weekend, there will be opportunities for defensive takeaways against Arkansas, which throws on most downs and whose passing game accounts for about 75% of its total offense. The key to Alabama’s come-from-behind win against the Razorbacks’ was a few opportune INTs of rare errant passes by Ryan Mallett; let’s see if we can’t do the same in our effort to pick up a win here.

1. Aerial Fireworks

Greg Childs or not, with the way our secondary is playing, it’s really hard to imagine that Arkansas won’t throw for a lot of yards tomorrow. It’s going to happen, and we’d best be ready for it. I just hope that we can figure out a way to get enough big plays and a key red-zone stop or two to keep the Hogs’ from really running the score up on us.


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