Just another absolute crazy, miraculous thing on Markham

Published Saturday, November 29, 2008

LITTLE ROCK It didn't have the impact or flair of the classic "Miracle on Markham," but what happened Friday to the Arkansas Razorbacks was just as shocking and generated almost as much electricity. The dramatics of Thanksgiving Weekend 2008 and 2002 happened within inches of each other in the same corner of the end zone at War Memorial Stadium, They may eventually put markers down as the Hogs "miracle" zone. For LSU, it's "miracle whipped."

The last-second pass from Matt Jones to DeCori Birmingham six years ago sent the Razorbacks to Atlanta. The last-second pass from Casey Dick to London Crawford sent the Razorbacks home.

But a roller-coaster season in which the Hogs had been on the roller more often than not lately ended on a happier note.

And ironically, the winning connection was produced by two of the most maligned players in recent Arkansas history.

Jones-to-Birmingham resulted in an seemingly impossible Hog victory six years ago, so wonderfully etched in Razorback lore it became known as the "Miracle on Markham."

Dick-to-London (get the big city connection?) is the signature win of the first year of the Bobby Petrino era.

The score: 21-20 in 2002. 31-30 Friday.

The Razorbacks, who yielded 27 straight points, trailed 30-14 with a little less than 14 minutes left in the third quarter.

The Tigers fell through their black hole at War Memorial with two of the dumbest infractions imaginable that resulted in an absolutely crazy 90-yard, 17-play drive to a field goal that drew them within 30-24 with 12:33 left in the game.

Dick was sacked that put the UA seemingly in a fourth-and-28 situation at its 12 with and punting to dangerous specialist Trindon Holliday. However, after the play, the Tigers' Tremain Jackson shoved Brandon Barnett and drew a 15-yard, personal foul penalty. It resulted in an automatic first down.

Later, the Tigers' batted away a pass by Casey Dick on second down. As the ball plopped to the ground, the Tigers' Rahim Alem ran up and kicked the ball in celebration. The unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty gave the Hogs another first down and another shot on oxygen for the drive.

It was almost like the Tigers were intentionally setting up another dramatic finish that has characterized the recent series.

Suddenly, the UA defense, which was ravaged with a mediocre Mississippi State offense last week, grew fangs and shut the Tigers completely down.

And Casey Dick, much maligned for most of his career, turned into John Elway.

The Hogs began their final drive at the Arkansas 31.

On third-and-4, Dick hit D.J. Williams with a crossing pattern for 5 yards and a first down. On fourth and six at the UA 46, Dick hit Carlton Salters for 21 yards.

It came down to fourth and one at the LSU 24 with 21.3 seconds left when Dick lofted a deep pass that hit Crawford in stride in the end zone for the classic storybook touchdown.

So ended a strange 5-7 season.

The opening game against Western Illinois, which featured a very uphill, last-minute comeback, looked remarkably like the climactic game against LSU.

The Hogs had gaping holes in talent and experience level.

The 5-7 could have fairly easily be 7-5. It could have just as easily been 3-8.

The pendulum swung tight.

The best thing the Razorbacks showed was resiliency and heart.

What happened Friday was icing on a cake that so often fell flat. Tasty but not filling.

Often, sequels are not as stirring as the original.

But all things considered Miracle on Markham II will do.

"Madness on Markham."

All things considered, it was fitting end to one of the Razorbacks weirdest seasons.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net)

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