The Universal Language of the Razorback October 31, 2011Posted by Matt in Razorbacks.
Tags: Arkansas Razorbacks, drive-by truckers, faith in humanity, interconnectedness, Memphis, Mississippi
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Saturday night I had the opportunity to see one of my all-time favorite bands, the Drive-By Truckers, in concert again. It was an incredible show and I’ll have a separate post about that later (today?), but there was another phenomenon that took place prior to the band gracing the stage that captured my attention, something that again renewed my belief in humanity and interconnectedness of the universe.
I’m an Arkansan by birth, hailing from a small town in central Arkansas, so naturally I carry a strong affinity for the gridiron heroes of my home state, the Razorbacks. I have a deep and abiding affection for my fellow Arkansans, those who don plastic hog hats and pig snouts and give a great Woo Pig Sooie at any and all occasions, from weddings to funerals to just the general celebration of life. For nearly 8 years, though, I’ve been somewhat removed from my people, a stranger in a strange land, like the Israelites of old toiling away ‘neath the harsh rule of an Egyptian pharaoh. But, my predicament may be even worse, for these isn’t merely a totalitarian government seeking to enslave my people and kill our children, no, it is even worse.
I live in Mississippi, surrounded by Ole Miss fans.
Yet there is no prophet rising up to lead the people out of exile, to part the rushing waters of the Mississippi river and lead us back to the promised land, and away from the accursed calls of “Hotty Toddy.” The despair can sometimes be great, even unbearable, but occasionally my faith is rekindled.
Saturday, as you may recall, my beloved Razorbacks eked out a victory against the mighty Vanderbilt Commodores, in a game that may rank as one of the most entertaining thus far in 2011. So, as I chose concert-going clothes from my wardrobe (Is this clean? Not sure. Does it smell bad? No, so it’s probably ok.), I made sure to grab one article to proclaim my allegiance: a baseball cap with a Razorback featured prominently, glowing in its maroon majesty.
The friends with whom I planned on attending the show were all unable to go, but that did little to deter my enthusiasm. I mean, it’s the Drive-By Truckers, how could I ever miss that? So, I parked a short distance from the New Daisy Theater, and walked over to the building alone, but not feeling any real sense of aloneness. We’re all Trucker fans here and soon any subconscious unease was alleviated.
I walked into the theater, grabbed a PBR and strode down the runway, just one of a multitude fans beginning to fill the building. As I walked, I heard an unfamiliar voice call out from one side, “Hey, man! Woo Pig Sooie!”
I turned and saw a small contingent of young men smiling and waving. I waved back, “Barely, but we did it again.”
“Hell yeah we did!”
I nodded, gave a little fist pump, and walked on, eventually coming to a halt in the second section, the first elevated one from the stage. I had little desire to be in what would no doubt be a sweaty mass of humanity directly in front of the stage, so I settled into a spot where I would be able to easily see the band and have room to move around if I so chose. I stood in my place, sipping my PBR and enjoying the good sport of people watching (always interesting at a DBT show) when I heard another voice, this time a female one, call out, “Hey, you from Arkansas?”
Turning back, I saw a middle aged woman standing next to a couple gesturing to me. I walked the few yards over to them and answered, “Yeah, I’m originally from Beebe, but now I live here.”
After that there were numerous others, some serenading me with a “Woo Pig” and others with a simple “Go Hogs,” our common language and homeland binding us together with an invisible force, reminding me that I’m not in this alone.
Though separated by miles and invisible borders, we’re all Razorbacks and we wear it with pride.
Woo Pig Sooie!
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year August 31, 2011Posted by Matt in Football, Razorbacks.
Tags: Alabama, arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi St., NCAA football, Ole Miss, predictions, SEC, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
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With wish lists in hand and hopes and dreams in our hearts and minds, we gather together with family and friends to usher in that magical time of year when all things seem possible, when optimism infects each and every one of us with a radical zeal that defies reality, when our belief in something greater than ourselves trumps all misconceptions. On this illustrious eve we wait with bated breath, our anticipation growing by the second as the time quickly approaches. What challenges, what joys, what agonies, what triumphs await us in the coming months.
Yes, college football season starts tomorrow.
Tomorrow evening, the iconic swine-covered orb will be kicked off, launched down the field with a jubilant yell like those first flights into outer space. The faithful will don their chosen colors, greet each other in a traditional manner, whether that be a “Roll Tide,” a “Hotty Toddy,” or, in our case, a “Woo Pig,” stand for their beloved fight song and cheer their team on to victory.
But all will not be victorious, for there are always some casualties along the way as each squad vies for dominance on 100 yard field of battle. Favorites will fall, heroes will rise, and the faithful believers will grasp tightly to each and every win, savoring the sweet taste of victory on the long march through the Fall season and into the frigid depths of winter. In the end only one team will stand as a champion, but today, on the precipice of another football season, we are all undefeated.
I sketched out my SEC predictions for my coworkers, so I thought I would share them with you as well. Let me know what you think.
Georgia 9-3 (6-2)
South Carolina 9-3 (5-3)
Florida 8-4 (5-3)
Tennessee 6-6 (2-6)
Kentucky 5-7 (1-7)
Vanderbilt 2-10 (0-8)
Alabama 11-1 (7-1)
LSU 10-2 (7-1)
Arkansas 10-2 (6-2)
Auburn 8-4 (4-4)
Mississippi St. 7-5 (3-5)
Ole Miss 5-7 (2-6)
Georgia: While many of their conference foes are starting off the year with what they deem to be surefire wins, the Bulldogs are launching their season with an always-tough Boise St. They have arguably the best quarterback in the league in Aaron Murray, and a favorable SEC schedule (their only away games are Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt, with Florida at a neutral site), but the SEC is a meat grinder and they are not of the elite caliber to keep them unscathed. Their week 2 home game against South Carolina will set the tone of the season.
South Carolina: Last year the Gamecocks advanced to their first SEC Championship game on the sturdy back of running back Marcus Lattimore, and his return is the key to success for Steve Spurrier’s team this season. Their schedule is tough, with away games at Georgia, Mississippi St., and Arkansas, but, like Georgia, I think the week 2 matchup will either put them on track for a second straight East title or for another decent, middle-of-the-pack season.
Florida: The Gators suffered some growing pains last season as they tried to emerge from the shadow of Tim Tebow, faltering to an 8-5 record, but this season, with the addition of new head coach Will Muschamp, could see them rejuvenated down in Gainesville. They have a tough schedule, with away dates at LSU, Auburn, and South Carolina, not to mention home games with SEC West foe Alabama and in-state rival Florida St. I can see them pulling off an upset win (I’m looking at you, Bama), but not showing a great improvement in the win column this season.
Tennessee: The Volunteers struggled mightily under the tutelage of head coach Derek Dooley in 2010 and I expect more of the same this season. They are quite talented, but wins will be hard to come by in the SEC, especially when they are facing road games at Florida, Alabama, and Arkansas. Look for Tennessee to struggle again in 2011 before maybe sneaking into a lower-tier bowl.
Kentucky: Second year head coach Joker Phillips will have his hands full with this year’s Wildcat squad, which lost the majority of its notable players from last year’s 6-7 crew. Facing off against a league full of Goliaths, Kentucky may be able to muster their inner David once or twice this season, but I don’t expect them to make much of an impact. On a positive note, at least they have Vanderbilt to keep them out of the cellar.
Vanderbilt: First year head coach James Franklin has one of the most daunting tasks before him of any signal caller in the SEC: turning the Vanderbilt Commodores into a winning program. The Vandy football team have long held the title of annual patsy in the SEC, the automatic “W” on everyone’s schedule and this year will probably be no different, but it will be interesting to see what the future holds for the team.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide are only two years from their last National Championship and once again they are locked and loaded for another title run. Losing a Heisman-winning running back and adept quarterback may seem like insurmountable odds to most teams, but this is Alabama, where football runs through veins and all-American players seem to spring from the ground itself. Running back Trent Richardson is set to be the star on this year’s squad, which has the good fortune of playing Arkansas and LSU at home, but the tough task of facing the Gators in The Swamp. I think they’ll drop at least one game and, though I wish it were to my beloved Razorbacks, it seems more likely to occur against Florida.
LSU: Tiger faithful may tremble at the thought of facing #3 Oregon in their opener without starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson and the National Title implications held in that game, but the team is certainly talented enough to run the table. Always-entertaining coach Les Miles is certain to make some head-scratching tactical errors along the way that may lead to a few losses, but overall I expect the Tigers to fare fine in the SEC.
Arkansas: Coach Bobby Petrino has built a powerhouse in Fayetteville over the past three years and though last year’s 10 win squad set the bar high, hopes were in place that this would be the season when the Hogs would make an honest national push. That, of course, was prior to the season-ending injury suffered by star running back Kniles Davis in the first play of the first scrimmage game of the summer. Rushing has always been secondary in Petrino’s offensive plans, though, and this year’s passing attack looks to be one of the nation’s best. The Hogs face two tough road challenges in Alabama and LSU, as well as a resurgent Texas A&M in Dallas, but I expect them to win at least one of those games. Winning two could place them in the SEC Championship and that is certainly within the realm of possibility.
Auburn: The Tigers lost a host of great players, including Cam Newton, from last year’s National Champion team, and though that could cause feeling of foreboding among the Auburn faithful, they should again make some noise this season. Head Coach Gene Chizik and Offensive Coordinator extraordinaire Gus Malzahn return to lead one of the youngest teams in the conference. The role of underdog could prove to be just what is needed in Auburn. Perhaps more than anything, I’m looking forward to watching the ingenious playcalling of Malzahn again.
Mississippi State: Last year the Bulldogs took a big step forward under coach Dan Mullen, finishing the season with a 9-4 record and a resounding win over Michigan in the Gator Bowl. Though Mississippi State is quite good and should pull off a few big wins again in 2011, the SEC is awfully strong and more than 8 wins is most likely out of reach for a team that is on the road for Auburn, Georgia, and Arkansas. On a positive note, the Bulldogs kick off their season tomorrow night against our local team, the Memphis Tigers, who last year proved themselves to be among the worst in Division 1. It should be over by halftime.
Ole Miss: Times have gotten hard in the lovely town of Oxford, where coach Houston Nutt is wringing his hands and wondering how to succeed with the players he brought in. If the Rebels improve over last season’s 4-8 mark, it won’t be by much with the exceedingly difficult Western Division teams on their schedule. Their opener against BYU this Saturday should provide enough to know whether or not the Rebs will have a shot at postseason play.
40 Minutes of Hell, The Return March 23, 2011Posted by Matt in basketball, Razorbacks.
Tags: Arkansas Razorbacks, basketball, Mike Anderson, Nolan Richardson
Once upon a time, basketball was king in my home state of Arkansas. We cheered on the May-Day-Big O combination to the Final Four and Corliss-Scotty Thurman squad to a National Title (and another title game berth). But, since those glory days, Razorback basketball has fallen on hard times and season after season of mediocrity have taken their toll on the Hog faithful. Today, though, things are again looking up for the hog-snouted fans across this great nation.
According to ESPN, former Arkansas assistant coach and current Missouri head coach Mike Anderson is likely to accept an offer from the state’s flagship university and make a triumphant coaching return to the northwest corner of the Natural State. I for one couldn’t be happier. Bringing back Anderson (along with a little help from Nolan Richardson) will be the best thing the school can do to reenergize the fan base.
I wonder if they need another assistant coach? I heard UCA has someone that might be perfect for the job.
In the meantime, let’s relive the glory days…
Sugar Bowl Poetry January 5, 2011Posted by Matt in poetry, Razorbacks, sports.
Tags: Arkansas Razorbacks, poetry, Sugar Bowl
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There’s a pall o’er the state of Arkansas
Not caus’d by falling birds
This dark state of grief and pain
Goes far deeper than words
For the mighty Razorbacks
Our beloved, red clad swine
Were turned away, defeated
In the backfield and on the line.
Tho’ they fought back valiantly
In a close contested second half
The receivers’ slippery fingers
Led to far too many gaffes
Coach Petrino looked disgusted
Like a man feeling quite sick
When Mallet heard the footsteps
And threw another pick
So, another year is o’er
Another season has been spent
And once again the Natural State
Is one of crushing disappointment
But all is not so dire
Yea, all is not so drear
For we still have Knile Davis
And there’s always a next year!
Pour Some Sugar On Me January 4, 2011Posted by Matt in Football, Razorbacks.
Tags: Arkansas Razorbacks, Ohio State Buckeyes, Sugar Bowl
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Well, Hog fans, tonight’s the night.
We all wait with bated breath, our plastic hog hats in place and a “Woo Pig” dancing across our lips as we await the kickoff. Birds fall from the heavens, fish float on the waters and still we press on with our porcine brethren.
Growing up in the state of Arkansas, it was a foregone conclusion that you would be a fan of the Razorbacks and I, of course, am no exception to that rule. Over the years, we’ve had our ups and down, suffering through heartbreaking losses and rejoicing in triumphant victories, but perhaps no game in my lifetime carries with it the weight of tonight’s Sugar Bowl matchup with perennial BCS contender Ohio State.
At this point, the Razorbacks are 10-2, with their only losses coming to last year’s National Champion Alabama and the current number one ranked team Auburn. The last time an Arkansas team won 11 games was under Lou Holtz in 1977, the year I was born. Since then, there have been a few 10 win teams, including one more under Holtz (1979), three under Ken Hatfield (1985, 1988, 1989), and one under Houston Nutt (2006). A win tonight would give the Hogs their best finish in my memory, probably placing them in the top 5 in the year’s final poll.
There are a lot of questions swirling around tonight’s matchup: Will star QB Ryan Mallett shine against the Ohio St. defense? Will the current distractions involving QB Terrelle Pryor hamper a tough Buckeye team?
I could spend some time lamenting the lack of ethics in the Ohio State athletic department, but columnist Dan Wetzel of Yahoo.com does a much better and more informed job of it that I could.
My prediction: Arkansas 34 – Ohio State 26
Woo Pig Sooie!
What Will It Take… September 1, 2010Posted by Matt in Football, Razorbacks.
Tags: Arkansas Razorbacks, BCS Championship, predictions, SEC
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…For the Arkansas Razorbacks to win it all in 2010? What needs to happen for Woo Pig to be the clarion call of the BCS Champions?
The Razorbacks return 9 offensive starters, including probably Heisman trophy candidate QB Ryan Mallett, one of the best groups of receivers in the country and a good stable of running backs, and 7 defensive starters who should show some improvement after a difficult 2009. That being said, this could be a huge year for Bobby Petrino’s Hogs.
Let’s take a look at their schedule for the upcoming season:
Sept. 4 Tennessee Tech
Sept. 11 Louisiana – Monroe
Sept. 18 @ Georgia (23)
Sept. 25 Alabama (1)
Oct. 9 @ Texas A&M
Oct. 16 @ Auburn (22)
Oct. 23 Ole Miss
Oct. 30 Vanderbilt
Nov. 6 @ South Carolina
Nov. 13 UTEP
Nov. 20 @ Mississippi St
Nov. 27 LSU (21)
The Hogs should be able to take the first two games without much of a problem.
Playing at Georgia could prove difficult, but the Bulldogs are not as good as they have been in years past. If our defense is truly better than last year, we should prevail.
Alabama is the returning national champion, preseason number one and has last year’s Heisman winner. On the other hand, the game is in Fayetteville and Mark Ingram is starting off the year with a knee injury. If Ingram is not back to full speed by week 4, this could be a decent contest and the Razorbacks could give them a run for their money and maybe, just maybe, hand them a closely contested loss.
Texas A&M has an excellent offense, but I still think Mallett will pick them apart.
Auburn is another potential roadblock on the way to BCS glory. They finished 2009 at 8-5, should be even better this year and the game is at Auburn. But, don’t forget that these are the Razorbacks we’re talking about! Win.
Nobody denies that this season will be a struggle for Houston Nutt’s Ole Miss squad, but the loss of probable starting quarterback Masoli is a dagger in the heart of the Rebel faithful. Hopefully we’ll put up at least 50 on them.
Vanderbilt is an almost automatic win.
South Carolina is another team that may be tough to crack, particularly since the game is at their home, but the Hogs should walk out of Columbia as winners.
Mississippi State is poised to be the best team in the Magnolia State, but in reality that’s not saying much. Win.
LSU is overrated and Les Miles is an embarrassment to the coaching profession. Win.
If all goes according to plan, the Hogs will then finish the regular season 12-0, then face off against Florida in the SEC Championship, and waltz into Glendale, Arizona, undefeated. Yep, things are looking up for Hogs fans.
To tell the truth, I don’t really expect the Razorbacks to win out this season. My actual prediction for the regular season is 10-2, with a loss to Alabama and one more, probably to either Georgia or Auburn. Either way, I have high hopes that this will be a successful year for my Hogs.
Woo Pig Sooooiiiieeee!
So, you ask, what are my predictions for the entire SEC? Well, let’s take a quick look.
South Carolina 7-5
Mississippi St 7-5
Ole Miss 5-7
I Miss Nolan March 11, 2010Posted by Matt in basketball, Razorbacks.
Tags: Arkansas Razorbacks, basketball, Nolan Richardson, nostalgia
With post-season college basketball starting this week, I can’t help but reminisce a bit about how things used to be back in the days when my Arkansas Razorbacks were a relevant force in the roundball world. I know that seems hard to believe today, but for a brief period of time during my formative teenage years, from 1990-1995, the Hogs were one of the preeminent programs in the NCAA, one of the true elites. Over that six year span, they went to four Elite Eights, three Final Fours, and won a National Championship. We got to watch some of the best players in the game in the May-Day combination, the Big O, “Big Nasty” Corliss Williamson, and the great Scotty Thurman. We got to pay witness to Nolan Richardson’s “40 Minutes of Hell” defense that tore apart the opposition. It was a great, great time to be among the Hog faithful and I truly miss caring about basketball.
Today I picked up the book “40 Minutes of Hell: The Extraordinary Life of Nolan Richardson” from the library and, though I have yet to turn a page, I’m already feeling a little nostalgic.
The Good Old Days… March 19, 2009Posted by Matt in Razorbacks.
Tags: 1994, Arkansas Razorbacks, National Championship, NCAA Tournament
March Madness always makes me a little nostalgic. Has it really been fifteen years?
Game of the Year! October 25, 2008Posted by Matt in Football, Razorbacks.
Tags: arkansas, Football, houston nutt, Ole Miss, vindication
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Well, maybe not, but today’s contest between Ole Miss and Arkansas (both 3-4 overall and 1-3 conference) could be rather interesting. The Razorback boo-birds promise to be in full effect when Darth Nutt takes the field against the team he coached for the past ten years. While Ole Miss is more talented and definitely the favorite, I can’t help but smile at just how wonderful it would be to bask in the glow of a Hogs victory…
And for Rebel fans, enjoy the next several seasons of 7-5 and 8-4 football, with only bad fourth quarter play-calling to keep you from taking the next step forward. And then, just when it looks as though the ship may have righted itself and the next tier actually seems possible, watch in utter disbelief as the boat not only runs aground, but bursts into flames, leaving behind just a pile of ash where this edifice of your pride once stood.
I know I’ll enjoy it…
(Not So) Hog Wild September 8, 2008Posted by Matt in Football, Razorbacks.
Tags: Arkansas Razorbacks, Bobby Petrino, Football, SEC
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Well, the Bobby Petrino era has gotten off to a rough start for my Arkansas Razorbacks, which by nearly all accounts (except for Jimmy from Grapevine) was to be expected. While the team is 2-0, the fact that their two wins have come by a total of 5 points against those mighty football powerhouses of Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe, have me a bit concerned.
On the good side, quarterback Casey Dick is playing the best football of his career, having already thrown 75 passes (which is probably more than the past two seasons combined) and broken 300 yards in each of the two games. Seven different players have at least 4 total receptions, as well, showing that the offense is spreading the balla around more than in recent years. It was also nice to see the return of running back Michael Smith on Saturday as he racked up 157 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
On the other hand, did either of these wins even come against division 1 schools? Has anybody even heard of Western Illinois? Barring an unforeseen miracle, the Hogs will be lucky to win more than one or two additional games this season. Their next four contests are against ranked opponents – Texas (8), Alabama (11), Florida (4), and Auburn (9). Following that, they have games against a decent Kentucky team (who beat them last year when the Hogs had much better talent), Ole Miss (who have both superior talent to ours and Houston [boo!]), and Tulsa (one of the top offensive teams in the nation due to former Arkansas OC Gus Malzahn). Then there is a decent South Carolina team (don’t ever count out Spurrier), Mississippi St., and seventh-ranked defending national champions LSU.
Ouch. We made it through the atrocious Jack Crow and Danny Ford years, so I have no doubt that we can weather this season and, who knows, if Petrino sticks around longer than 1-2 seasons there should be better days around the corner.