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LITTLE ROCK - For Jake Bequette, returning to War Memorial Stadium each fall is returning home.
Bequette, like so many Arkansas players from the state’s capital city, have fond memories of games inside the venue. But for Bequette those memories are more frequent, as the stadium also served as his homefield at Little Rock Catholic High School.
“It means a lot to me and I’ve been playing there a lot of years,” said Bequette, a junior defensive end. “Every time I go into the locker room I kind of look at my old high school locker and laugh, and think about how far I’ve come and how much it means to play there again.”
Bequette is one of 14 players on the Razorbacks roster from Little Rock and he said he can’t remember a game at War Memorial Stadium with as much at stake as the one Saturday between No. 12 Arkansas and No. 5 LSU.
“This is one of those games you come up here to play in and one of those games you play college football for,” Bequette said. “Every game at War Memorial is a big game. I’ve been fortunate enough to play on some good teams in both college and high school there. I haven’t lost there in a long time and I don’t want to start Saturday.”
For other players, like tight end D.J. Williams, the stadium has a different significance as the home of the state championship games for the Arkansas high school playoffs. Williams, who played at Central Arkansas Christian just outside Little Rock in Maumelle, won a state championship inside those walls.
“I’ve had some good memories at War Memorial and some bad ones as well,” Williams said. “I’ve lost a couple of games there but for the most part it’s been good.”
Joe Adams, a teammate of Williams at CAC, said War Memorial Stadium’s noise is among the loudest in the SEC, despite seating only 55,000.
“Little Rock’s going to be real loud,” Adams said. “Everybody’s rowdy. It’s not like the Fayetteville crowd.”
Williams and Adams, like most on the Arkansas roster, have never lost a game in Little Rock while members of the Razorbacks. Arkansas’ last loss here came in 2006, to LSU in a game with similar build-up to the one here on Saturday. In fact, the Razorbacks’ only two losses at War Memorial Stadium since 1997 have come to the hands of the Tigers.
“That’s our back yard,” Williams said. “It’s like playing with your friends at your house. It’s hard for anybody to come into your house and try to take what’s yours, which our right to win at the Rock.
“That’s not to take anything away from LSU because we know they’ll come here and play a very hard game. But that’s our home and a lot of us guys from Little Rock feel like we’ve got to do whatever we can to protect it, so we’re going to play extremely hard.”
Bequette, a third-generation Razorback, said he has fond memories of Arkansas-LSU games here, including the 2002 “Miracle on Markham” which sent Arkansas to the SEC Championship Game with a 21-20 win over the Tigers.
“I was actually on the field for the Miracle on Markham,” Bequette said. “I could have reached out and picked off that pass if DeCori Birmingham wasn’t there. That was a really cool moment.”
Bequette was also on the field for a similar finish with the Tigers two years ago when Casey Dick came off the bench to lead Arkansas to a 31-30 come-from-behind win over the Tigers. Dick capped the comeback with a 31-yard touchdown pass to London Crawford on a fourth down in the game’s final minute. That win gave the Razorbacks momentum heading into the offseason, momentum they have been riding since.
“I think two years ago it kind of showed the character of this team and the direction this program was headed,” Bequette said. “We weren’t really playing for anything except pride and to finish the season on a good note. We did that against a really good LSU team.
“This year it means a lot more for us. We have a chance to have 10 regular season wins and get to a BCS bowl game. We’re going to play accordingly.”
For more visit WholeHogSports.com. You can follow Matt Jones on Twitter @NWAMatt.