LITTLE ROCK, AR - NOVEMBER 19: Head Coach Bobby Petrino and the Arkansas Razorbacks run onto the field before a game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at War Memorial Stadium on November 19, 2011 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Razorbacks defeated the Bulldogs 44-17. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
The state of Arkansas woke up this morning to the prospect of the Hogs being ranked Number Three in the BCS by the time the state goes to bed tonight. But no such continued visions of a crystal trophy would be part of the dreams of Hog fans tonight if the Razorbacks had fallen victim to the Top Ten chaos that was this Saturday in college football. Credit and more credit goes to our coaches and players for staying focused on the game at War Memorial and not a future game in Death Valley. Having stayed up last night to see both Oregon and OU lose, I feel this morning something like a correspondent from the apocalypse! I could swear that I saw a few zombies walk in front of the cameras at Bristol, haha. If you thought you heard Bristol broadcast Lee Corso dropping the F Bomb in Houston, you really did hear that! Fortunately, I was able to see not chaos (excepting Tyler's fumble and Hocker's blocked kick) at War Memorial, but an orderly victory over Mississippi State from my seat in the north end-zone.
PRE-GAME THOUGHTS AND ACTIONS:
* I had no fear of Derek Dooley and his crew last week. But MSU did scare me, for we always get tough games from them for some reason, and you got to think that Dan Mullen's team is bound to beat a Western Division team that is not Ole Miss at some point. But even more heavy on my mind was what had happened to Oklahoma State the night before. Iowa State had no business beating Oklahoma State, but they did!
* From Central Oklahoma, I got to the hometown of the Warren Commission (Childs, Gragg, Wright) after midnight and was up and headed to Little Rock a few hours later. I was going to give the Hogs all the "Woo Pig Sooie" I had left in me, but I wouldn't say I was at 100 percent. But I think I would have to be in the low teens, percentage wise, before I would miss a Hog game at War Memorial.
* I could just hear Bobby Petrino in his post-game interview say, "I am really disappointed in Kevin and his mother forgetting their Razorback seat cushions that they've always set on and while sitting on have not seen us lose a game at War Memorial." Thank goodness the two we bought at the stadium were up to the task of comforting our butts and whooping the butts of Miss. State.
* Halloween in November? If you were at the game, you might have saw three guys, one in a wheelchair, dressed up in suits with long black wigs and wearing foam Hog hats. They also had their faces painted in makeup, so it seemed, and one carried a cane with crystal looking nob.
* One fella was off by a year. Either a year too early or a year too late. He was wearing an LSU hat at one of the tailgates.
* The fashion of the day was to have on some type of windbreaker. Though it wasn't very cold, the wind was enough for you to need something besides a t-shirt. Thanks to a past Birthday, I was well prepared.
* How about a banner overhead in praise of what Bobby Petrino has done so far at Arkansas? But from the grey clouds you saw instead "State Farm" behind a little piper cub.
* If you were at the game, you had a chance to place a bid on framed Razorback items. I noticed after the game that a picture of Ryan Mallett had brought in a comparatively low eighty bucks. Ryan, we still love ya. But Tyler Wilson is all the rage these days. I am sure you can understand.
* Though mostly blown under the seats, pom poms awaited us when we got to our section. I would later hear and agree with a guy on the post-game show that we need to put pom poms into the game budget, for War Memorial looked even more threatening and more like an SEC stadium with the shaking of the poms. I saw some grizzled men shaking theirs, so you can keep your manhood and go all pom pom, hah, at a game. I never once doubted my y chromosome as I shook my pom pom, haha, with the crowd.
* Though the color scheme was dominated by red and white under grey, there were a few hints of maroon about, and we did hear the clang of a cowbell in our section until this young girl and most likely her boyfriend were escorted out by the yellow shirted event staff. I saw the young woman trying to explain to War Memorial officials that there is an SEC agreement about artificial noisemakers. My sympathies were with her. The cowbells sounded "cute" as the Hogs were whipping butt. I admit, that I might have felt different if that had not been the case. But a cow bell or two was nothing in comparison to what over 50,000 Razorback fans could do. Yet, alas, no false starts or delay of games by MSU. Give them credit there.
THE FIRST HALF: WHERE WE HUNT FOR THAT ELUSIVE DAGGER
* It was good to see Madre Hill honored as the captain for the game. One always wonders if Arkansas's first trip to Atlanta might have had a better result if he had not been injured early in that game. I know we would have gotten more than just three points that day.
* Didn't we all know beforehand that it would be Cobi Hamilton to score first? Boston probably isn't his kind of town, as that old song goes. But Little Rock sure is his kind of town for the man from Texarkana.
* "Yeah do it, Yeah, yeah, do it, do it!" That is how much confidence I had in our defense when MSU decided to go for it on 4th and one from their own side of the field. And sure enough, the Hogs's defense stuffed them! The defense would only give up 211 yards for the game, and some of that came on the garbage time last drive.
* But then Fate jumped inside Tyler Wilson's head and didn't allow him to feel the pressure that was on him. Credit Johnson for running down the MSU player who scooped up the fumble. Tyler seems to have one very bonehead play he needs to get out of his system with each game. I wondered to myself, if Vanderbilt is watching this game, might they be laughing their asses off! I would be if I were them. Football karma, there you have it.
* On that series the Hogs had a chance to go up 21 to 3 and really put the dagger in MSU's heart, but instead, they left the door open, and it was 14-10. I said something about Oklahoma State, and a fellow fan told me not to even talk like that. I didn't tell him that I had just driven from Stillwater, and that I might be carrying a dark cloud over my head of a different sort from the weather kind.
* A sign of the collapse of Western civilization or just teenage girls being teenage girls? The occasional clang of a cowbell wasn't nearly as annoying as the group of girls across from us that hooped and hollered and waived their arms constantly in an attempt to get a few seconds of "fame" on the scoreboard monitor. They eventually succeeded, and I heard one of them say with excitement, "I've gotten three texts from people who saw me!" And thus is the energy that fuels reality television.
* I can't really identify with that type of thinking, but I do have a canny ability to sense a big Razorback touchdown in the works. I predicted (trust me! ha) the beautiful Joe Adams touchdown in the end-zone right before it happened. The Hogs finally finished a drive and it was 24-10. Thoughts of Oklahoma State were fading.
* The most anticipated play of the afternoon? Joe Adams returning a punt. But credit MSU's talented Swede for kicking it where his punt coverage team could force Joe out of bounds. The defense did at one point force six three and outs in a row. So there was plenty of punting to do by MSU. Hopefully Joe will get his next return for a touchdown in Baton Rouge.
THE SECOND HALF OF THE CREATION OF 7-0 AT HOME
* Here is how dominant the Hogs were on offense in the second half. They went 6-8 on third downs. MSU, in contrast, was 3-8 on third downs. The Hogs also had 12 first downs to MSU's 7 first downs. Neither Tyler Russell or Dylan Favre were burning it up through the air with only 80 yards passing between them. With no need to come from behind, the Hogs remained a productive second half team, outscoring MSU 20 to 7.
* Bobby Petrino and Tyler Wilson finally got my message about using Chris Gragg in the red-zone. But I really was envisioning more of a jump ball scenario. Still, I'll take the Warren native standing alone in the endzone anytime. I am sure he would welcome that scenario as well. One of my favorite things about Chris is that he is a junior! He had eight receptions last night for whopping 119 yards with a long of 41 yards. Jarius Wright was his closest competition with also eight receptions and 96 yards.
* As you've probably already read, Joe Ferguson's old record of pass completions in one game was broken last night by Tyler who put together 32 completions in not a catchup game, as was the case with Ferguson in 1971 against Texas A&M.
* Tyler Wilson's one brain fart in the second half was when he had the opportunity to run through only green grass for a first down, but threw the ball away instead. My section was disappointed in that, but when your team masses 539 yards of offense and your quarterback throws for 365 (a yard per day of the year) of those yards, you can let something like that slide. But I grant you, that in film study, our coaches won't let it slide very far!
* War Memorial saw the wave go around again, but at least it wasn't while the Hogs were on offense and trying to do some work like back in September.
* I spotted Verne and Gary through my binoculars. Was surprised, however, that I couldn't hear Verne's laugh.
* Loved seeing Brandon Mitchell get some playing time there at the end. We even saw him run the option with Wingo. You can't argue with Tyler's success, but I would like to see if LSU's defense could adjust to a Brandon Mitchell wrinkle thrown in earlier in the game come Friday.
GAME BALLS GO TO:
* Defense: Believe it or not, the defensive coaching staff. The Hogs' defense played lights out the whole game and gave up touchdowns only after the offense put them in a bad situation with the fumble and during garbage time, which I still hated to see, but I know that wasn't all first string out there either.
* Offense: Everybody and anybody who caught a pass last night. On a night when Tyler completed more passes than any other Hog has ever completed, it was also a night when the receivers stepped up and caught balls. I can recall only one dropped pass that should have been caught.
* Special Teams: Though he had one kick blocked, this still was a great night for Hocker who made fields goals of 44, 48, and 27 yards. Don't you think Oregon wish they had Hocker last night? They might still be in the hunt for the crystal football if they had our Hocker. I also give Hocker a great deal of credit for all of his numerous touchbacks, which he produced with and against the wind. It sure saves a lot of wear and tear on special teams players when the other guy is kneeling in the end-zone.
* Opposing Teams: Kansas State for defeating Texas. All these years later, it is still a good weekend when the Hogs win and Texas doesn't. Iowa State for defeating Oklahoma State, though I have a few mixed emotions about that one. USC for defeating Oregon, and the Baylor Bears for getting their first win ever against OU. Looking forward to giving a big game ball to Auburn on Saturday if they can win one for the Hogs (I am sure that is how they will look at it, ha) and beat Alabama.
SHOUT-OUTS GO TO:
* My old high school buddies and friends, Steven and Shannon, both residents of the North Endzone as well. It was good to see you both. My Aunt, I didn't see you there, but I imagine you and Edgar had a great time. How could anybody wearing red and white not have had a great time? The Hogs are now giving us games where they are playing solid not just for halfs, but whole games!
TWO SCENARIOS, BOTH GOOD CASES:
* Hogs beat LSU on Friday. Alabama goes on to lose to Auburn on Saturday. The Hogs don't need a tiebreaker and head off to Atlanta to face Georgia, of all teams, in the Georgia Dome with Bobby Petrino at the helm. Wouldn't it be nice to return all the hate from December of 2007 with an SEC Championship in December of 2011? Then would it be Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, Stanford, or possibly LSU in the national title game?
* The Hogs could possibly play for the national title by skipping Atlanta. In this scenario, the Hogs beat LSU, but Alabama wins the tie-breaker. Yet, a rising Georgia team defeats them in Atlanta. Then you would have a 11-2 Alabama team and a 11-1 LSU and a 11-1 Arkansas, which had earlier beaten LSU at Baton Rouge. Arkansas and LSU might get a rematch in New Orleans, correct? All other SEC National Championship teams got a conference title first. Might we put the Crystal Trophy in the Broyles Trophy Room before a conference trophy? Seems possible.
WALLY HALL, A ONE MAN SIMILE MACHINE:
* Here is one from today's column: "Tyler Wilson picked apart the Bulldogs like a Navy Seal sniper taking a turn at a county fair shooting gallery."
* Another Wally quote and one that pretty much sums up the game: "The Bulldogs were balanced. They struggled on both sides of the ball." And I should add, they are still without a victory in the state of Arkansas!
INITIAL LSU THOUGHTS AND FINAL THOUGHTS:
* With all that happened this weekend that the Hogs needed to have happened, it makes you wonder if the Hogs might indeed be one of those teams of destiny. We know this group of 17 seniors knows how to beat LSU in Little Rock and how to come overtime close in Baton Rouge. The Tigers know we aren't afraid of them, so I imagine they aren't going to take as lightly as the media seems to when it comes to Friday's game. Another great thing about this MSU game is that we had something of an introduction of what to expect on defense from LSU.
* I won't go so far out on the limb and guarantee a Razorback victory, but I will go so far as to guarantee it will be a much more exciting game than what we saw when LSU went to Tuscaloosa. Alabama, your game of the century is about to be overshadowed! And seeing as you lost it, you probably won't mind, right?
* As we left the stadium and began the westerly march down Markham amongst happy fans, I couldn't help but wonder again, like I did in September, about the 11-1 season of 1977 and how the Hogs finished it with a great victory over OU in the Orange Bowl. That season has been the benchmark for several decades now. The 88 and 89 seasons were great, but they ended with bowl defeats in Dallas. With the Hogs peaking like they are right now, I think I can hear sounds of disco in the air! Tonight when I expect to see the Hogs ranked No. 3 in the nation, I imagine my blue jeans might just feel a bit more like polyester. GO HOGS! BEAT LSU!