Sad UA tale: Nothing left for Missouri

Razorback Nation can’t say it hasn’t been warned about another faceless 6-6 football team.

Not much different than Missouri, his opponent Friday at Faurot Field, which honors the former UM coach who gave Frank Broyles his first head coaching job in 1957.

Missouri produces world-class journalists — I’ve worked for one and edited others — and they can take that one apart until both Arkansas and Missouri are in bowl games.

Whether “our amazing fans,” as Eddie Sutton liked to call Razorback Nation, will travel far to see this team that lost three out of four games in November remains to be seen. Some of them have endured trips to Auburn, Alabama, and Provo, Utah while shivering in Fayetteville the night the Razorbacks scrambled past Ole Miss with Houdini flair.

If the Ole Miss game is how those Razorbacks should be remembered for winning on a night when the losing team rushed for more than 700 yards, call it a hollow season for the boys in Red. Sam Pittman is in no danger of losing his job, but the head coach’s third-year honeymoon is up. Those Razorbacks collapsed in November like one from Bret Bielema or Chad Morris — at least the 2022 teams won three conference games — and with no satisfying answers.

Missouri fans didn’t bother selling their Thanksgiving Friday home stadium enough for this regional rivalry between teams that arguably belong to a different conference, the Big 12 say.

At first glance, this was one of the least-anticipated games of the last SEC weekend, ranking alongside Kentucky vs. Louisville and, if you ask me, pales in comparison to Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt, the latter another school producing learned composers to the press. It’s not like Alabama vs. Auburn or Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss; South Carolina vs. Clemson inspires even more passion.

This was the 20th anniversary of Markham’s miracle – the pass from Jones to Birmingham that sent a team coached by Houston Nutt to Atlanta. Arkansas 21, LSU 20 at War Memorial Stadium, one of two Razorback wins against Nick Saban-led teams (attending the 2000 game at Little Rock grounds).

They’re still playing for the golden boot, but the Arkansas-LSU series has lost a bit in my opinion since getting promoted in the regular season after Missouri and Texas A&M entered the SEC in 2014. Arkansas’ series with A&M, the Southwest Classic in Arlington, Texas, is now generating about as much kinetic energy as Arkansas vs. Missouri. We may see a day the former being played on campus grounds, regardless of whether grizzled veterans think Arkansas needs a strong recruiting presence in Texas, which the Classic can provide.

The Missouri game excites people in Northwest Arkansas, one reason Lou Holtz’s desire to break away from the Southwest Conference in the late 1970s found support. If Arkansas isn’t Missouri’s biggest SEC rival, then the Tigers don’t have one. A big game with Missouri is more reminiscent of basketball games with Kansas, those border rivals who were still playing a nationally important football game in 2007.

Missouri grad Barry Odom couldn’t get the Tigers moving — he coached Mizzou to a win at War Memorial Stadium in the last Arkansas game for interim coach Barry Lunney Jr. in 2017, then quickly residing in Fayetteville as Arkansas defensive coordinator, Pittman’s first as head coach set to.

Pittman, who came home after coaching the offensive line first in Arkansas under Bielema and later in Georgia under Kirby Smart, accepted a job offer from UA that got other prospects thinking. Lane Kiffin’s name was featured prominently, only to have Agent Jimmy Sexton work out a deal for Kiffin at Ole Miss, potentially going to ex-Rebels coach Hugh Freeze, whose profile was boosted by an away win against Arkansas in November.)

Eli Drinkwitz, with some state ties, had found his name for the UA job before leaving Appalachian State for Missouri. Roger Wehrli no longer plays for the Tigers — nor does Hot Springs’ Wallace Snowden, another fine player who escaped Holtz’s recruiting web and spent the last few days in coach Warren Powers’ Columbia — and if it wasn’t Gary Pinkel, the next Dan Devine as head coach, is unlikely to walk through the UM athletic director’s door.

But the Tigers can beat Arkansas at football – six of the last seven years for a 10-4 lead in the Battle Line Rivalry. I can imagine UM grad Norm Stewart, the former Mizzou basketball coach, tossing a pack of gum to Arkansas fans and saying, “Here, guys, chew on this.”

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