LITTLE ROCK — These Razorbacks rivet on the War Memorial present more than recent predecessors not performing up to the storied past of the Little Rock venue.
And they certainly are not focused on War Memorial Stadium’s future,
These Razorbacks are fixated on Saturday’s 11 a.m. SEC Network Alternate Channel televised non-conference game with the Alcorn State Braves.
The reigning champion of the lower (FCS) division Southwestern Athletic Conference, Alcorn State, 1-2, lost much from last year’s team, including coach Jay Hopson, who moved on to head coach Southern Mississippi.
However, the Braves return an exceptional linebacker, Darien Anderson, 30 tackles in three games with seven behind the line including six quarterback sacks. And they feature two running quarterbacks, freshman Noah Johnson and junior Lenorr Footman, the week after Texas A&M running QB Trevor Knight ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 225 yards and two touchdowns.
Arkansas (3-1 of the Power 5 SEC and ranked 20th by the Associated Press) ought to win, but the Razorbacks were heavy favorites to beat the University of Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock in 2012 and Toledo last year. They lost both games.
In fact, the Hogs have won but one of their last six games at War Memorial.
Interim coach John L. Smith’s (0-2 in Little Rock) Hogs lost in 2012 to ULM and to Ole Miss, Coach Bret Bielema’s Porkers are 1-3 in Little Rock, struggling first to beat FCS Samford in 2013 then losing SEC games to Mississippi State in 2013 and Georgia in 2014 and non-conference to Toledo last year,
Speculation has gone from debate to foregone conclusion that the Razorbacks will cease playing in War Memorial after their annual contract ceases in 2018. Massive expansion started in 2011 to Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, including at least $160 million luxury seating project to begin after this season’s last game.
Some media have asked the Hogs if they are under a curse in Little Rock.
“There is not a curse on War Memorial,” Arkansas receivers coach Michael Smith scoffed at a TV reporter’s query. “Last time we played there, War Memorial was 100 yards long and had two end zones and two goal posts. We just have to take care of our business. The last time we were down there we didn’t take care of our business.”
The Hogs didn’t and a very good 10-2 Toledo team did, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said.
“Bottom line Toledo had something to do with it,” Bielema said. “And we didn’t execute the way we did winning the games that we won.”
“We have to learn from that (Texas A&M game),” junior receiver Jared Cornelius said. “We’re turning the page, and we have to play our best or we’ll end up with another L.”
That would be especially hard to take for those Hogs from Central and Southern, Eastern Arkansas whose friends and family can see them play with a far more convenient drive than to Fayetteville.
“I enjoy going down there,” junior safety Josh Liddell of Pine Bluff Dollarway said. “My friends can’t really come to the games up here in Fayetteville. So playing close to home, it’s good to go down there and play in front of them.”
Fifth-year senior tight end Jeremy Sprinkle of White Hall notes his college eligibility expires two years before the UA’s current contract with Little Rock expires.
“This is my last Little Rock game,” Sprinkle said. “So it adds more meaning to it.”