Monday, July 28, 2014

From the Bench

Countdown to Auburn, the Biggest Game for Bielema Since Taking the Job

Robert Shields

The countdown begins to the kickoff of college football now that soccer at the World Cup has stopped kicking people in the shins and the bike race that they hold in France that was better when they were all on the juice has reached its conclusion.

The uneventful SEC media days has come and gone, and before you know it there will be Razorback media days where also nothing will happen. But then two-a-days start, so you know you’re in that time frame to start making predictions.

As everyone knows, the Razorbacks have a big test right off the bat when they go to Auburn to open the season. I have written before that Arkansas needs to leave that game with at least a moral victory if not the actual thing.

The SEC also needs the Razorbacks to put the Tigers down quickly after they woefully misrepresented the conference in the national title game breaking the SEC’s seven-game winning streak. It would be fitting for one of the worst SEC teams to put them out to pasture (not hard to do when Auburn is mostly one big pasture).

Let’s face it, Auburn never deserved to be in the national championship as they should have lost to Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Georgia, and Alabama during the season. They lucked out getting to play Missouri in the SEC championship game. And Missouri should never win the SEC East again. Shame on Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

Gus Malzahn teams in the past have tended to start slowly and finish fast, or at the very least their luck seems to pick up at the end. This presents the Razorbacks with the opportunity to go on the road and catch Auburn before the Tigers start rolling like Utah State almost did a few years ago.

Auburn has also had to deal with its starting quarterback getting into some trouble, again providing the Razorbacks a chance to catch them.

And if the Razorbacks beat the Tigers, then Auburn can trademark the saying “WTF” after the game just like the Razorbacks did for the Woo Pig Soiee chant. I’m not sure that I’m even allowed to write that, but maybe the trademark only applies if I verbalize it.

Regardless, I am going on Zazzle or whatever those places are on the web to make some T-shirts ahead of time in orange and blue with “WTF, Auburn” on them.

While I’m at it, I have also designed a pig-looking creature in red and white that I call Big Red Swine. And not to leave an opportunity on the table while I’m branding things, you can also pick up a shirt with “Who is Robert Shields?” Of course it comes in red and white.

Regardless, this is Bret Bielema’s chance to punch another SEC team in the mouth, and no team better to do it to than Auburn. This is his chance to put anyone talking about “Gus Malzahn shoulda been the Razorback coach” to bed in this opening game. After going 0-8 in his SEC debut season, Bielema needs something to kick start the program.

I have to give Bielema this fact. Last year, the most prepared his team looked all year for a game was the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette. After all the talk about the Razorbacks maybe dropping that opening game last year against a team that was supposed to have a great quarterback, Bielema’s Razorbacks took it to them from beginning to end. It was by far the Hogs’ best game.

Nothing could springboard this season into a memorable one –– like the 2006 season in which the Razorbacks also shocked Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium –– more than a knockout blow to Malzahn and Auburn.

But if the Razorbacks lose big to Auburn, the season may already be in the tank.



Send your T-shirt orders to fromthebench@yahoo.com



Monday, July 21, 2014

From the Bench

Trip to Yellowstone Yields Better Omen for Razorback Season Than SEC Media Days

Robert Shields

SEC media days went on for days last week, and we found out that those on the outside have no expectations for the Razorbacks next season. So the good news for Bret Bielema is that Arkansas can only exceed expectations. It will take a real crash off the side of the road, no pun intended, for the season to be considered a complete failure.

In past years during SEC media days, I have typically gone on the road to the wonderful waters of Orange Beach, Alabama, to take the pulse of SEC fans from across the South who congregate on the Redneck Riviera each summer as if it were an annual convention. This year, we altered things.

I have never ever really mentioned my family in this space, but this year we did not make the beach. My wife wanted to do something different because one of my sons has graduated from high school and is heading to college. It’s a turning of a page in our life with one leaving the nest, and she wanted the family vacation to be a memorable one.

The choice for vacation by her this year was Yellowstone National Park, which I quickly learned is referred to as YNP by the locals, and then we finished by staying three nights in the Teton mountains.

It was no surprise that we saw very few people wearing SEC colors as is the standard in Orange Beach. I did see one person wearing a purple-and-gold LSU fishing shirt, but I did not bother him as he was winded coming back up the trail from the brink of the lower falls of the grand canyon of Yellowstone. Being from Louisiana, I’m going to assume that he was used to being a flatlander much like me and going up more than 8,000 feet is daunting. So I can’t blame him for huffing and puffing and won’t blame the diet of gumbo and etouffee.

I wore my long-sleeve red shirt with a large white Razorback emblazed on the back and a smaller one on the left side in the front on one day of the vacation. The logo apparently was not recognizable by those in the park, which is not the case on the beach when wearing anything with a Razorback on it. Most looked at it like I was wearing some new fashion like a “Life is Good” shirt.

The park was outstanding, but I felt the ground was explosive and ready to go at any time as I witnessed the geysers, hot springs, and boiling pots, and at times it felt weird if you thought about it too much looking at the caldera in which I was at the bottom.

If there was one spot that stuck out to me that was very memorable, it was the brink of the upper falls that I just happened upon at dusk one night when I pulled off the road. The violence of the rushing water was incredible as it cascaded toward its ultimate drop. I would recommend it to anyone as a must stop.

After five nights in YNP, we headed south into the Teton mountains and stayed at Signal Mountain Lodge. The view of the mountains was spectacular across Jackson Lake. Here we met Travis, who was from Harrison and served us several times as we ate at the restaurant. He mentioned that he had run across very few people from Arkansas in those parts.

Then one night as we waited for our food Travis came by and mentioned that there was a group outside on the deck from Arkansas also. My son looked outside and said, “That’s Jake Bequette.” Bequette is a former first-team all-SEC defensive player, maybe one of the few Razorbacks to make that honor in the last few years.

We went out to visit and needless to say he had a warm and inviting personality. We introduced ourselves and explained that I was a Little Rock Catholic High graduate and that my son had just graduated from the school. Bequette was also a standout Rocket when he attended the same high school. He made the comment that the Rockets were in the house.

The next morning we woke up early and took the ferry across Jenny Lake to climb up to see Hidden Falls and up further to Inspiration point. We pressed further and went up the mountain and the tree line and glaciers were visible above us. I wish we could have pushed farther and made it to the forks, but we did not and I hope one day to go back and make it.

On the way back at the dock where the ferry stops, there was a map and if you’re from a state and are the first you can put the state up on the map. It goes without saying that we were the first from Arkansas to return. My son grabbed the red state magnet and put it on its place on the map.

The map, though, was distorted, which I liked since Arkansas was the same size as Texas. Each state magnet had things of importance to that state. The Arkansas magnet had Christ of the Ozarks, deer, diamond, and of course the ever-present Razorback.

So, maybe in such a remote place from my home state to run into Jake Bequette and find a magnet with a Razorback on it, that is a good omen for the coming season.

It was at least better than the portents coming out of SEC media days.




Send your serendipitous Razorback finding this summer to fromthebench@yahoo.com.

Monday, July 07, 2014

From the Bench

This is Not Your Father’s Razorback Experience

Robert Shields

If you like things the way they are, just wait and they will change.

This could not be any truer for the Razorback football program as it has been in a state of flux for more than two decades – much more so than other college football programs as head coaches at Arkansas fly off in the middle of the night and go to Clemson, get fired at the beginning of the season after losing to the Citadel, and wreck with a girlfriend on the back of a motorcycle.

But all those soap operas are just a small portion of the many changes Razorback fans have been through in the last 20 years that have changed the experience of being a Razorback fan.

The current Razorback experience is far from your father’s Razorback experience. It’s definitely not the Razorback Program that most grew up with and loved when it was such a part of your life and the state’s culture.

For richer or poorer -- and the UA is hoping richer -- most of the new Razorback fans are from out of state. They did not grow up with the Razorback experience and have it in their DNA. Not that it’s bad, but these are the new fans with money that the UA now caters to and it has changed the makeup of the Razorback Nation.

The person next to you at the game now probably would rather be eating humus rather than a hot dog. For that matter, your father and family probably sat in the same seats forever, but you don’t because a big-money out-of-state donor or corporation is in those seats now.

The media people who bring you the Razorbacks have changed. Many used to read Orville Henry who provided you the update on your beloved Program. Now you’re stuck with a mostly young cadre of broadcast and print reporters covering the Razorbacks. Or, you have to go to the Internet for an interesting mixture of truth and rumor.

I personally miss hearing Paul Eells greatly and have yet to get over that loss as a Razorback fan. It’s how I grew up getting to know the Razorbacks. He was the reason that I turned off the sound on TV and turned up the radio. Now you get Chuck Barrett and no matter how good or bad you think he is, I don’t do the same thing for him.

I wonder if today’s younger fans do what I used to do or are they just watching the TV and hitting the advance button on the DVR and pause button to get some Doritos.

Even though Eells has been gone for years, it has lessened my Razorback experience. Would you be more of a Razorback fan if he was still the voice of the Razorbacks? Whatever is the case, I know it’s not the same as it was.

Back in the day, banks all over Little Rock would give you a Razorback sticker for the coming game that weekend. The only way that’s going to happen now is if the bank is paying a monetary homage to the Razorback Program to get that privilege of handing them out.

The UA doesn’t recognize the value of free publicity if someone else is capitalizing on using its “branding marks,” which used to simply be known as the Razorback and seemed to belong to the state.

In the past, you got to get jacked up once a year for the big showdown with Texas. When it was gone, it took years and David Bazzel creating the Golden Boot for you to transition to LSU being the rivalry even though it never came close to igniting the passion that Texas Week did.

Now, the marketers at the UA are hoping to transition you to accepting that Missouri is now your year-end in rival. Why not just get it over with and make the rival Alabama like every other team in the SEC?

Your Razorback experience is just different now than it was in the past, for better or worse.

Your father grew up having four games in Little Rock and three in Fayetteville. Your children will ask, “Games were played in Little Rock?” Maybe it’s all for the better, but as has been written in detail before, it’s a foundational change.

There was a time when the team wore red and white. Now the team wears black (or it’s dark gray to me), but the UofA tells me it’s anthracite. I have to believe yellow cannot be far behind.

This past year, they changed the red to a different shade that is something like Red Dye No. 5. Part of the explanation was to standardize the color as if there has been anything standard in this Program.

The Hog Call is not even the same anymore. It’s started now with an inexplicable whoop. Maybe it’s better that way, but whatever it’s different.

Also new this year will be the new logo of the forward-facing hog that looks like Pumba. It’s not the Razorback that I grew up with, but maybe variety is better. The Razorback was the brand decades ago, but it’s been repositioned, rebranded, and remarketed to the point that they might as well make it green because that is all they are after.

One thing that cannot be argued is that the Razorback tradition has changed, and regardless if it was for the better or worse, it has mirrored the decline in wins.




Send your history to fromthebench@yahoo.com.

Monday, June 30, 2014

From the Bench

Bielema Will Be Right Fit for Arkansas Only if He Wins

Robert Shields

Summer sports talk is always slow in SEC country where football is the only thing that really matters.

It was exciting for Vanderbilt’s baseball team to vindicate the SEC when so many were blasting the conference for being overrated and having so many teams knocked out of the tournament early. Yet, in the end, an SEC team proved it was the best as usual.

But now that college baseball is over and we have more than a month before football teams begin two-a-day practices, some fans just have to find something to talk about to fill the time.

The recent soup du jour stirred up by an online column from MRSEC.com is the debate as to whether Bret Bielema is the right fit at Arkansas.

As much fun as it is to talk about, Bielema’s “fit” at Arkansas is really an irrelevant question because you can be a bad fit and still win at Arkansas, which was the case with Bobby Petrino. Or you can be a great fit like Houston Nutt, but he had to go.

The much larger question is if Bielema gets to stay at Arkansas after the coming season. The only thing that matters is if he wins.

The caveat to that rule is you can’t wreck your motorcycle with your girlfriend that you hired on the back of it and lie about it. For me, that was still not enough to fire him because I don’t have any other delusion except that winning in the SEC is the only thing that matters. I left behind a long time ago that college sports is a business of integrity.

Razorback fans had to feel for a brief moment when Petrino was here that they were about to defy the gravity of the SEC and break the event horizon. But instead we all got sucked back into the depths of the black hole and compressed into something unrecognizable.

It’s quite clear to anyone who is paying attention that Bielema does not fit culturally in the SEC. He’s brash. He’s very assuming and only as of late has he kept his mouth shut. If you want an opinion, he will give you one, and it may not be good.

The downside is that when you arrive and proclaim you came to beat Alabama and then get pummeled by Alabama 52-0, every other SEC coach makes sure they are not the first to lose to the new kid on the block that won’t shut up about himself.

Here is a side prediction: Any SEC coach who loses to Bielema next year will be put on the hot seat at his school, and if Mark Richt at Georgia loses to Bielema in Little Rock it will be the beginning of the end for him.

Bielema is going to have to find a way to win and win soon. Winning brings money and that is the primary reason the UA wants to succeed in college football.

The Razorback Foundation is $10 million behind in donations for its last fiscal year. They had an explanation that it was caused by the expansion of facilities, yet it’s still a scary fact for the UA if that trend continues. There has always been some sort of expansion going on somewhere at the Razorback Sports-Industrial Complex.

The football team still being in the midst of its longest losing streak with no SEC wins last year plus a lackluster Red-White game in the spring has not been inspiring for fans statewide, and it will be interesting how donations will be affected.

Money talks and if the team is not winning, not selling tickets, and donations are falling off, Bielema won’t get to stay. It won’t matter if he fits or not.

Bielema is going to have to find a way to at least make fans feel that the Razorback team will be competitive. Right now, that does not exist in many fans’ minds. The team opens with Auburn on the road, which is a tough task to start the season.

Bielema needs to at least provide hope and the team needs to at a minimum find a moral victory. I believe in moral victories because sometimes you can still leave with pride after defeat.

Blowing a big lead in some obscure village in New Jersey last year to Rutgers was the exact opposite of a moral victory. It was a stunning defeat, which is difficult to overcome. The Razorbacks cannot suffer that kind of defeat again.

The MRSEC.com article points out the lackluster recruiting at Arkansas, which in Bielema’s defense is commonplace since Arkansas arrived in the SEC. Arkansas is typically always in the lower half of the conference rankings when it comes to recruiting.

This means on average that the Razorbacks will probably have less depth and typically a slightly lower-caliber player. The question becomes, can Bielema win against his peers with slightly lesser talent.

Last year did not lead to that conclusion. In three games in the fourth quarter when the Hogs could have won against LSU, Rutgers, and Mississippi State, Bielema’s teams found a way to lose all three.

I believe you can win at any school with any scheme if you have the right players and the right coach. And here is the test if Bielema is the right coach.

In life, most of us learn through memorization or mimicking what others do. Few of us are original thinkers in certain areas.

There are coaches who are successful because they are good mimickers and can take something that someone else did and make it better. They can recreate and they can be successful. Then there are those coaches who truly understand what they are doing and innovate to be successful.

As a former Outstanding Student of Economics at the UA, I see this all the time as people use statistics and know how to use the formula and do it correctly, but if pressed they don’t know why you can use certain variables and why you cannot on others. They just know how to follow the rule without understanding why it exists.

Love or hate Nolan Richardson, he understood the whys of basketball. He knew what the other coach often was going to do before they knew what they were going to do and why. Nolan could just see the game in his head.

For Bielema to be successful at Arkansas, he also has to be that kind of coach who isn’t just mimicking college football fundamentals and putting X here and O there because that is what the book says.

I go back to the time after beating Ole Miss when Houston Nutt spoke his infamous quote, “I called that play, Chuck.” He was obviously excited and I think for once he had been ahead of the opposing coach. He knew what Ed Orgeron was going to do before Ed did and that felt great.

To succeed at Arkansas, Bielema will have to always be ahead of the opposing coaches with the scheme he is trying to implement, and that will determine if he is the right fit. He will have to call that play, Chuck.



Send your short list for the next Razorback football coach to fromthebench@yahoo.com


Monday, June 23, 2014

From the Bench

How to Turn the World’s Game Into a Sport Worthy of the SEC

Robert Shields

You probably have that friend that is all excited about the World Cup like it means something, probably because they played it or later coached their kids in some lame youth league.

For those who don’t have a friend who gets excited about it and haven’t been exposed to this phenomenon, I am talking about soccer. The World Cup is to soccer like the Tour de France is for biking -- and just about as many people care.

I think the media works overtime trying to get Americans to care about it because the rest of the world does. Rick Schaeffer knows what I am talking about. Sure, most understand that you’re supposed to kick the ball into the net, but I think for most Americans it gets about as much respect as Hacky Sack.

I don’t feel shame not getting into the sport, yet I know some get off watching 90-something minutes hoping someone kicks a ball into the net. The SEC athletic directors agree with me since all of them save the confused administrators at Kentucky and South Carolina refuse to sponsor men’s soccer.

I don’t see soccer ever becoming a major sport in Arkansas, in the SEC, or for that matter the nation. The SEC is a culture of sports that are popular in the South, and in Arkansas and all the other conference states most of the small towns don’t even play it.

Soccer in regular play is designed to end in a tie and Americans hate ties. I don’t see people in the SEC watching half a day to see if a ball finally goes into a net to tie a game. A tie? Why did you even play the game?

I’m not sure if the Team USA men’s soccer or whatever they call it has beat the television ratings that the women’s team got in 1999 when the girl took off her shirt after they won whatever the women’s version of the World Cup is. This speaks volumes about the sport’s progression.

The reality in the SEC is that soccer is viewed as a women’s sport. It’s actually a scholarship sport for women in the SEC, and the women’s Razorback team had a good season last year, though like everyone else you probably don’t know that.

So what could change the sport to make it more interesting in the SEC to give fans something to do between the College World Series and when two-a-days starts in August? Here are 10 suggestions.

First, the constant regulation ties have to stop. The game should start with a shootout to get the scoreboard going right from the start.

Second, this not using your hands thing is ridiculous. A player should be allowed to pick up the ball and throw it into the net. But if he does, everyone on the opposing team is allowed to punch him the rest of the game.

Third, the field should always slope toward the net so the ball is always moving and if you’re not kicking it, it’s rolling toward the net anyway.

Fourth, there needs to be a tunnel on the field that players can kick the ball into that goes into the net like in mini-golf. If you get slammed into the concrete pipe it becomes SEC soccer’s version of hockey’s getting checked. It would be called getting “holed.”

Fifth, put more than one ball in play at a time. Matter of fact, as a penalty, another ball pops up in front of the tunnel similar to pinball.

Sixth, the goal should be at least twice as large. The only place the goalie can use his hands is in front of the tunnel. If he uses it anywhere else, all the other players are allowed to punch him.

In this world of equality that we live in, it’s terribly inequitable for the goalie to get to use his hands while no one else can in the field of play. This rule levels the playing field. The lone exclusion is that if someone picks up the ball to throw it into the net, then the goalie can use his hands to stop it.

Seventh, the balls in play would be of different sizes and colors. The red ball would be the largest and worth six points. This system seems to work in Quidditch, which is about as legitimate a college sport as soccer.

Eighth, if you’re carrying someone on your back and they head the ball into the net, its double points.

Ninth, if the goalie ever catches your ball in the air, you’re eliminated from the game like dodge ball. It’s called the dodge ball rule. You have to go sit on the sidelines and hope the referee calls out “Jailbreak!”

Last, there is the Super Player, which is designated by the person wearing a cape, and he can do whatever he wants except he can never punch anyone.

I think these simple rule changes could make a fun month in the summer for some SEC fans. Might be especially good now that the money-printing SEC Network will have some time to fill.

The U.S. improved rugby so no doubt it can improve soccer.



Send your peace, love, and understanding of soccer to fromthebench@yahoo.com.

Monday, June 16, 2014

From the Bench

UA Going All Out to Lure Fans With No Hope for Coming Season

Robert Shields

Even in the darkest hours of the Razorback football program, there has always been hope.

When the team was coming off a bad season in past years, there was always a sense of “wait until next year and they will be better.” Even after the bleak Danny Ford years, when Houston Nutt was hired there was hope that things would be better the next season and that Arkansas could beat SMU.

I don’t get that same sense from the downtrodden Razorback fans right now. There seems to be little hope for this coming season to be anything but bad.

The aspiration from fans for the coming season is just to be able to have hope that the team will be competitive and not get to feel the full extent of 52-0 beatdowns from Arkansas’ SEC brethren.

Fans are just hoping to climb out of the cellar – and that is about the worst place to be for a major football program.

Right now, the Razorbacks are No. 14 in the conference. Let me repeat that, the Razorbacks are No. 14. Make no mistake that if the SEC added two more teams, the Hogs would be No. 16. One can argue Kentucky is worse, but that’s a hollow argument to make against a school that only cares about basketball. The fact that you even have to make that comparison is embarrassing.

The goal you hear from some fans is for the team to be 6-6 making the Hogs bowl eligible to fill one of the all-time high of 78 spots. Right now it seems like a lofty goal.

Most fans don’t have hope that this will be a breakout season for the Razorbacks like the one experienced by Missouri last season. What is frightening is that the Razorbacks are returning an experienced quarterback while other SEC teams are having to break one in next season, yet the Razorbacks are still expected to finish last.

The big hope for Arkansas is to find its first SEC win in almost two years.

The UofA posted a new job listing recently with the title of “assistant director for marketing and fan development.” I’m sure they realize fan attitude needs to be developed. But knowing the UofA, the position will probably be more involved in how to develop fans’ willingness to cough up more money.

One of the stated descriptions of the job is to “schedule and execute pregame and in-game promotions and entertainment in an effort to increase attendance…” The operative phrase in that quote was “increase attendance.”

There is obviously a problem or a metric that is not being met that needs to be addressed to add this new position.

More importantly, by reading that quote, one can also discern that the product on the field is not enough to keep fans going to the game. It’s been a difficult two years to sit in the stands and watch the Hogs get pummeled on the gridiron.

Although attendance and ticket sales are separate animals, I empirically have to believe the two are correlated. Hence it comes as no surprise that the UofA has been offering ticket deals as of late.

I am guessing ticket sales for this expected lackluster season to be lagging what was occurring just a few years ago. The email message recently received from the UofA offers season tickets for as low as $300 with three easy installment payments. It read more like an ad from QVC with the easy pay options.

I also have to wonder if the special deals impact the loyalists who pay their ever-increasing mandatory donation limits on time to get their desired seats when if they would have just waited they probably could have saved thousands.

Or, maybe they have just that much corporate money that price is irrelevant for that group. Instead of being the Wolf of Wall Street, they live the lives of the Wolves of Razorback Club Seating.

Regardless, the fire sale on tickets is telling.

The UofA recently tried to hit the heart strings of fans by trying to sell the same $300 package pushing it as a father’s day gift for your dad. The ad included a picture of a father and son enjoying a Razorback game.

My only thought was that the picture had to have been taken a long time ago if they were enjoying the product on the field. The ad had the feel of something Hallmark would have produced, not a major football program. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

To put things in perspective, the last memorable game for a boy and his dad would have been the LSU game in 2010. Those boys who were freshman in high school have now graduated.

Long gone are the days of the Razorbacks in a Top 10 showdown in the SEC with the nation watching with interest.

Now the UofA is just hoping that it can get its own fans to show up and watch with interest. And it is willing to make you a deal and hire an entertainment director to do it. Can Groupon be far behind?



Send your Debbie Downer lines to fromthebench@yahoo.com.

Monday, June 09, 2014

From the Bench

10 Questions for Hogville.net Founder Lanny Beavers

What would Razorback fandom be these days without the outlet for fans to make their voices heard on Internet message boards? There are several good message boards out there for Razorback fans to spread rumors and fight with each other, but Hogville.net has grown to be the most popular since it went online in 2003 as an offshoot of Woopig.net, which in turn was an offshoot of the godfather of Razorback message boards, the now-defunct Pigpen. Recently I asked a few questions of media mogul Lanny Beavers, proprietor of Hogville.net, about his experiences shepherding the message-board phenomenon.


Q) Over the years of owning Hogville.net, you have seen some bizarre events in the Razorback Program. In your opinion, either bad or good, what was the most electrifying time on the board?

LB) There were several. The Vanderbilt loss in Fayetteville was a total meltdown. Before this Vanderbilt game, Hogville posters were supporters of Houston Nutt. Ater that one game, the board turned 180. The Petrino accident was the worst. The majority of the posters (including myself) did not want Petrino to leave.


Q) I admire the way that you carved out your own niche in the Razorback marketplace much like Randy Rainwater did with Drive Time Sports. Rainwater made his way as a pioneer in Razorback sports radio, and you did something similar with your message board. What has it meant to you to be able to provide fans a venue to vent their feelings about the Program especially considering the drama that has played out over the last 15 years with the firing of Nolan Richardson, Houston Nutt and the Springdale players, and Petrino’s motorcycle accident?

LB) It’s been a wild ride. Hogville.net was created in the spring of 2003, and we’ve gone through Nutt, Petrino, and now on to Bielema. As for basketball, the dark days are finally over with Mike Anderson back at the helm.


Q) In your opinion, what makes a good poster on your board?

LB) I like to read a detailed post with good thought process and the data to back it up. After a big win, I’ll read everything because I’m a fan too like all the other posters.


Q) Do you notice a difference in attitude depending on where a poster may be from, or in other words do you see regional differences in how people post and respond on topics?

LB) Good questions and the answer is yes. It’s easy to see posters from outside Arkansas. Those posters are looking for any Arkansas or Razorback discussion. I started this site for the Razorback fans outside of Arkansas, and I wanted to create a free board that any Razorback fan could keep up with his favorite team and not pay a cent for content.


Q) How many boards do you run besides Hogville? And of all the boards, which one is the hardest to moderate? My guess it’s the one for mothers of girls’ softball.

LB) Two others are FearlessFriday.com for all your Arkansas high-school sports and Gridironhistory.com, a fantastic database for every college football game score and where they played since day one. I have more problems with girls’ softball and girls’ basketball posters on FearlessFriday.com.


Q) Your list of message boards and overall news information on Hogville.net is impressive. Do you have any plans on expanding the offerings of the board in the future? I have always thought it would be good if you created like an Internet database for Razorback player information. It could go back decades or to the beginning and for all athletes of football and basketball, but not soccer. Maybe, players and family members of players could submit it like Wikipedia style. Can you do that for me?

LB) I am always thinking of new ideas. I don’t like old, stale news and with Facebook and Twitter, I have to stay on top of new technology.


Q) You have moderators that monitor your message boards to keep slanderous and ridiculous things off the board such as my column. How do you select these people and what makes a good moderator?

LB) These are posters that have been involved with the board or previous boards I visited. Some are friends and some I have never met.


Q) No names, but give an example of a crazy poster who you have had to deal with over the years besides me, and how did you deal with them?

LB) We ban their IP. I don’t like to kick a poster off the site, but sometimes there is that one poster who enjoys being a disruption, and we don’t allow that on Hogville.net.


Q) If you could change one thing about the attitude on message boards, what would you institute? And please don’t say tolerance or I will have to quote something from Orwell’s “1984.”

LB) I would like to see every poster use their actual name.


Q) Lastly, as I have asked everyone who I have ever interviewed from Sidney Moncrief to Scotty Thurman to Brittany Greenwood, if you were a professional wrestler, what would your intro music be? You can’t use “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC because that would be mine.

LB) When I was growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I never missed Mid-South Wrestling or TBS WCW. My favorites were always the bad guys like the Spoiler and the Four Horsemen -- the ones who cheated to win! My intro music would be the theme from “Get Smart.”


Send your cross examination for Lanny Beavers to fromthebench@yahoo.com.

Monday, June 02, 2014

From the Bench

The Twitter Top Dozen for Razorback Entertainment and Info

#RobertShields

Even though Twitter has now gone public, my top 10 listing has always been. But this year it gets even better as we expand the list to a top dozen. So, here are my top Razorback-related favorites to follow on Twitter, of course excluding Rick Schaeffer’s favorite scribe, @ScottFaldon.

12) Trey Biddy – @treybiddy (11,181 followers, up from 8,358 last year)
He is the ultimate recruitnik and I think he would follow recruiting even if he did not make a living out of it. If you love recruiting, he is a must follow, but he might try to direct you to his pay site. He does have to make a living after all.

11) Richard Davenport – @ARrecruitinguy (22,793 followers, up from 15,627 last year)
Is the fact that his followers increased more than T. Biddy an indication his recruiting news is better? You can follow this guy because he is the statewide paper’s recruitnik who made a name for himself doing the same on Hogville.net. You have to hand it to him for turning a passion into a career. He does a good job and will provide you with more than enough recruiting news.

10) Jeff Long – @jefflongUA (44,903 followers, up from 35,757 last year)
You have to hand it to the UA athletic director. He has really embraced Twitter as a means for communicating with Razorback fans and actually interacts with them as much as he can. He has posted more than 8,766 tweets, making most of you look like amateurs. I wonder if that is the way that he hooked up with Bret Bielema on the hiring before becoming a follower. His Twitter address is also a great way to continually harass him to install natural grass in Razorback Stadium since it will soon be hosting all the games. He follows just 114. I am not one of them.

9) Fake Jeff Long – @FakeADJeffLong (3,489 followers, new to this list)
A great source of humor about Razorback athletics. Last week, Bret Bielema at an SEC meeting said, “Holy Pistol.” As Fake Jeff Long tweeted, “Holy Pistol isn’t exactly what I yell during most Bielema Pressers but it’s close.”

8) Keon Hatcher – @keonhatcher4 (7,966 followers, new on this list)
As the main returning receiver, he has to be on the list. I have to admit that I don’t understand most of his tweets such as “Mama said chase that doe!!!!” or “Oooooooohhhh bouta get this grub!!! SLAPPPP” It sounds fun, though.

7) Brandon Allen – @BrandonAllen10 (14,987 followers, up from 7,944 last year)
Being the Razorback starter at quarterback will get your number of followers to double, but you need to follow him this year just to see how he handles the pressure of this season. Last year the plain vanilla kicker had more followers.

6) Alex Collins – @Budda03 (29,383 followers, up from 13,926 last year)
His follower count still goes up every time that I check. He had a good freshman year, but fans will want more this year. As the star running back, he is a must follow.

5) Robbie Neiswanger – @NWARobbie (9,355 followers, up from 7,656 last year)
This guy is always on top of it. If there is one sportswriter to follow on Twitter, it’s Neiswanger. If you want to follow a baseball game without tuning in to Barrett and Schaeffer, it’s him until the UA shuts down his Twitter feed.

4) Matt Jones – @NWAmatt (10,517 followers last year but he is now gone)
I don’t think that he has died although there is a twitter feed for mattjonesisdead. This is not the Razorback quarterback Matt Jones. He is the sports reporter Matt Jones. In his place, there is @wholehogsports that you can follow and it might even be the sports reporter Matt Jones. Wholehogsports has 15,636 followers.

3)Alyssa Orange – @alyssaorange (570 followers, new to this list)
I need at least one female on this list for diversity. One year, I had @kkgbitchprobs on this list and then she quickly vanished from the Twitter seen. Then last year, I had @sh_tgirlsthink, which has also gone silent now on Twitter. Will Alyssa Orange follow the pattern? I think not.

2) Jen Bielema – @jenbielema (30,023 followers, new to this list)
The fact she has more followers than Alex Collins or the starting quarterback is interesting. She has a great sense of fashion that surely sorority girls around campus take notice. But the reason she is on this list is because of her #karma hashtag last year when taking a shot at the Wisconsin faithful. The dark boomerang of Karma came back and smited her as her husband has not won a game since that point. After that tweet, she is now a must follow. She follows 144 on Twitter. I am not one of them.

1) Bret Bielema – @bretbielema (85,032 followers, up from 61,359 last year)
He is the head coach of the Razorbacks so you have to follow him. Plus, you never know if you might enter into a debate about “slow play” or getting blitzed on the golf course. I assume every sports reporter in the nation follows him because there is no telling what might be tweeted next.

What UofA players, cheerleaders, or women’s soccer girls have I missed on this list? Let me know your nominees. Follow me on Twitter @robert1shields or send me an email (that is so 2005, though) at fromthebench@yahoo.com.



Robert Shields is a world-class mime who partnered with Lorene Yarnell for a prime-time television show in the late ‘70s. He later moved to Sedona, Arizona, to become an artist and make jewelry. THIS IS NOT ME.

Monday, May 19, 2014

From the Bench

Reasons Bielema Will or Won’t Be Razorback Coach After the Coming Season

Robert Shields

After a disastrous first season and questionable prospects for the coming season, the doubt pops up from time to time among fans asking if Razorback football coach Bret Bielema will still be at the UA after next season if it goes badly.

The sunshiners will say this is preposterous to even contemplate. The UA athletic department’s bean counter who signed on to his contract would have to agree. Others, however, are not so sure. So let’s take a look at both sides of this issue. As you all know, I’m a positive guy, therefore I am going to start with the positives for Bielema.

Reasons Bielema will still be coach after next season:

4) He’s affable and most people that meet him like him. He comes off as sincere and most believe that he can and will win at Arkansas. Because of that, he has close to 4-million reasons a year to stick around as long as he can even if he becomes frustrated with growing complaints from fans and difficulty landing the big recruits.

3) The vice chancellor of intercollegiate athletics and director of athletics or whatever his title is this week likes the head coach or at least he has to. Bielema was his hire after wild speculation of who would be Bobby Petrino’s replacement. Jeff Long, AD to me, made a decision to take a year off from competitive SEC football with his interim hire of John L. Smith. After that horrendous season, Long had to make the home-run hire, otherwise the year off he decided to take made no sense. The home run was Bielema coming off his Wisconsin performance of taking the Badgers to three Big Ten titles. Long now has to stick with Bielema to the gruesome or heroic end as the hire of Bielema will be Long’s lasting legacy to the Program.

2) Bielema will get to stick around no matter what because the UofA has to find stability after the running off of Houston Nutt, the motorcycle crash and debacle of Petrino, and the interim hire of Smith. Within seven years, the Razorbacks have gone through six different coaches (Nutt, Reggie Herring, Petrino, Taver Johnson, Smith, and Bielema.) The decision makers probably feel like they have no option but to stick with someone this time. They can’t just keep spinning the roulette wheel hoping something good comes up eventually. Otherwise, what coach would want to come to such an unstable place? They have to make it look like they gave Bielema a chance even if the long-term idea is to get the next coach, and two years won’t fit that bill.

1) Bielema may actually win next year. If he finds a way to win six games, he will make a bowl game and definitely be safe for at least a while. He could have won six last year if he would have taken advantage of the Rutgers, Mississippi State, and LSU games. Maybe this year the breaks go his way and he wins enough.

Now for the reasons this could be Bielema’s last season at Arkansas:

4) The pressure of winning in the SEC may take a toll on him. He could leave to take another job such as if the Iowa job opens where he originally played football and helped coach under Hayden Fry. It might be the end job that he wants. He may have gone as far as he can go with the Razorbacks with his philosophy. The Hogs finished third in the SEC in rushing last year, yet failed to win a game. If he ends up being first in the SEC in rushing, will that finally earn him a victory in the conference?

3) He may have another terrible losing season. Although he is not responsible for the horrific 2012 season under Smith, if Bielema loses again, it will be the third straight losing season Razorback fans have had to endure. The patience of many fans will be waning by that point. Bielema already has put them through the wringer with a record losing streak that is still intact both with overall losses and SEC losses. Fans can’t, no make that won’t, take much more if that pattern of losing is repeated. As mentioned above, he really needs to make a bowl game. All this will be compounded if Petrino has Louisville in the top 10 next season.

2) Fans love him, but that could disappear if he opens his mouth too much. There are those who are waiting for him to slip up, such as Clay Travis who has written that Bielema is the next Lane Kiffin in the SEC, Stewart Mandel of Sport Illustrated piling on him after weighing in on the death of a California player to make his argument of slowing down the speed of play, and Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News who did the same. A few more blunders or #Karmas and fans could easily turn on him souring the marriage that currently exists. If history tells us anything, it doesn’t take much in Arkansas to sour on even the most successful of coaches, and the ones with no success are doomed.

1) Lastly, the surefire way to get canned at the UofA is to wreck your vehicle like Petrino. The worst thing Bielema could do is drive his car like a golf cart.



Send your reasons why Bielema stays to fromthebench@yahoo.com.

Monday, May 12, 2014

From the Bench

My Most Painful Memories of Razorback Football

Robert Shields

ESPN published its 50 most painful games in college football history, and as can be no surprise to any Razorback fan that has had to sit through so many painful losses over the years, the Hogs made two of those games.

ESPN deservedly listed the 1969 game in Fayetteville where the Hogs fell 15-14 as No. 1. That game still reverberates with Hog fans of a certain age like no other, and Frank Broyles to this day still has not watched the game on tape.

So in the spirit of ESPN’s list and the heartbreak of last year, here is my own version of the most painful Razorback games I’ve experienced. As was the case back in my days as Night Life Man, I start at the bottom and work to the top. I am not including the 1969 game in the list because it’s too painful even for someone who was just a little kid at the time.

So here is where I lost my heart, on Razorback field:

#7 -- Hogs lose to Vanderbilt in Fayetteville, 2005
Let me repeat that -- the Hogs lost to Vanderbilt 24-28. This is the only game that I list where the Hogs were not ranked. One thing that I can say about the Razorbacks is that they typically do not choke in a huge way like schools of the Big Ten. But this was the ultimate choke at home against the Commodores and I don’t mean the musical group, which would have been more palatable. The Hogs led in the fourth quarter 24-14 but couldn’t convert to pick up a first down. Vanderbilt scored two late touchdowns to win the game. (On a personal note, I spent most of the night in bewilderment wondering how the Hogs lost it and how Darren McFadden and Felix Jones didn’t carry the ball more in the game.)

#6 -- No. 7 Arkansas loses 10-3 to unranked Auburn in Fayetteville, 2003
The Hogs moved the ball decently in the game but couldn’t get Matt Jones uncorked. Auburn did a great job controlling the clock and limiting possessions with its defense. Jones finally broke free for the tying touchdown, but it got negated by a phantom holding call. This game hurt as the Hogs had come off wins against Texas and Alabama on the road, a feat within two weeks that I am not sure any team has ever accomplished. (On a personal note, I had to deal with the Davis clan that Monday and really grit my teeth.)

#5 -- No. 4 Hogs lose 15-13 to unranked Texas in Fayetteville, 1985
Arkansas moved the ball easily all day and squandered numerous opportunities in the game by missing several easy field goals. The Razorback defense kept the Longhorns out of the end zone all day, yet in a very odd twist of fate, the Texas kicker put five field goals through the uprights in the victory. The Hogs got into the end zone twice but it was not enough. (On a personal note, I wept most of the night and woke up with lots of unexpected people in my Chateau Apartment.)

#4 -- No. 5 Hogs lose 31-26 to No. 9 LSU in Little Rock, 2006
Trindon Holliday returned a kickoff for a touchdown that was just too much for the Hogs to surmount. All season fans yelled for Nutt to throw to the tight end. So in the second half , Nutt calls the exact play over the middle that bounds off the tight end’s hands and lands in an LSU defender’s grasp setting up an easy touchdown. For those keeping score at home, Holliday killed the Hogs with a kickoff return again in 2009 in Baton Rouge. (On a personal note, I did not weep and spent most of the night dealing with hate mail.)

#3 -- No. 7 Hogs lose to unranked Texas 20-24 in Fayetteville, 1989
This game was somewhat eerily similar to 1985 and had the Hogs struggling to get into the end zone. I am sure this is the one game Quinn Grovey really laments in his Razorback career because it was the only regular-season loss the Hogs endured that year. (On a personal note, I wept most of the night away in the Sig Ep house ending up the night banging my fists on the ground outside the McIlroy House by Yocum, but that’s its own story and goes on another list.)

#2 – No. 4 Hogs lose 13-10 to No. 6 Houston in Fayetteville, 1979
Ish Ordonez had his late-game field goal blocked by some Houston Cougar goon who also played basketball. Again, it’s the Hogs only loss during the regular season (funny how we never have occasion to utter that phrase these days). The previous week, Arkansas had beaten No. 2 Texas in Little Rock. This team went on to the Sugar Bowl and lost to eventual national champion Alabama. (On a personal note, I spent the day kicking field goals on my parent’s side yard. The pine tree at the back had a large branch that stuck out.)

#1 -- No. 9 Hogs lose 22-21 to unranked Mississippi at Starkville, 1998
This game is paired with the famous Sturnover game that happened the previous week where the Hogs lost to Tennessee in Knoxville. Yes, the loss to Tennessee killed me, but the loss to the Bulldogs stung more because so much rode on that game. Regardless of a win or loss at Knoxville the previous week, the Hogs had to beat the Bulldogs the next week to make the SEC championship game for the rematch against the Vols. If the Hogs had beaten the Bulldogs and then won the SEC Championship game against Tennessee, they probably would have played in the national championship game.

Instead, we got Nutt’s worst-coached game of his Razorback tenure. Nutt was hampered by not having a kicker who was suspended for a DUI (which goes to show you that disciplining players never pays off for a coach). His team failed on fourth-down conversions that squandered points. He failed to go for two when his team finally took the lead to put the Hogs up by three, instead settling for the extra point that only put his team up by two. As a result, Mississippi State kicked the game-winning field goal and won by one.

Nutt also took a penalty on State’s game winning drive that he should have refused in order to bring up a fourth down. Instead, he took the penalty, essentially giving State two downs to make the first and getting them in field-goal range (late in a game you never give a team a five-down possession to win). As it played out, the replayed third down fell incomplete. The fourth down got the first down and field-goal range. I still have people tell me that State’s kicker missed the field goal. Maybe so, but he never should have had the opportunity to miss it. (On a personal note, this is when I began the campaign to fire Nutt, which put me at No. 1 on that list.)


Send your heartbreak to fromthebench@yahoo.com

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

From the Bench

Opening Loss to Heavy Favorite Auburn Could Put Pall on Rest of Season

Robert Shields

With the Razorback spring game over and baseball fizzling out, there is little to do for Arkansas sports fans but start looking ahead to the next football season. And the fans were given something to consider this past week.

Auburn opened on the books as a 21-point favorite against the Razorbacks in the opening game of the season. The game is at Auburn, which for whatever reason has not been the toughest road spot for the Razorbacks as Bobby Petrino found a way to win there in is his terrible first season and John L. Smith also found a way to win a Jordan-Hare Stadium. The legend of Fred Talley left such a mark that Auburn still has trouble there against Arkansas.

Traditionally, the Razorbacks have had the luxury of opening against weak teams like last season with some team from Louisiana that calls itself Louisiana. Outside of Ole Miss as an opener, the Razorbacks have really only had three big team openers in modern history and they lost every time. The last one against USC in Fayetteville in 2006 is better just forgotten.

In 1980, the Razorbacks coached by Lou Holtz opened with Texas and both teams were ranked in the top 10. The young Razorback team fought hard in Austin but lost 17-23. The team struggled that season to a 6-5 record earning them a spot in the Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham where they got to beat the crap out of a lesser Tulane team.

In 1991, the Razorbacks coached by Jack Crowe opened against the Miami Hurricanes and lost 31-3. It ended up being Jack Crowe’s finest year finishing the regular season at 6-5. The Razorbacks took down a powerful Rice team in Little Rock to finish the season and earn a spot in the Independence Bowl against the Georgia Bulldogs. This was the Razorbacks’pre-introduction into the SEC that speed really does matter as Andre Hastings took it to the house a couple of times early. Yet the Hogs battled valiantly and lost only 24-15 because they could not overcome five interceptions.

In both seasons, the opening loss put a pall on the season for Razorback fans who were used to opening with wins and then padding the record against an easy non-conference schedule usually done against Tulsa.

That precedent could be bad news now that the SEC has sold out its schedule to the SEC Network in a never-ending lust for money, which will require more tough openers like the one against Auburn.

To kick off the new network for the Razorbacks, Arkansas draws the Tigers of Auburn and is the reason the fragile Hogs do not get to start with a patsy to get their feet under them before heading into the daunting SEC.

You will get to know early what type of team the Razorbacks have in store for you. The 21-point underdog role for the opening game against Auburn is not a good harbinger. Auburn, the national runner-up in football last year under Gus Malzahn, will probably have some things in store for the game as they look to make an immediate splash on the national pollsters and algorithms.

The Razorbacks lost to Auburn 35-17 last year in Fayetteville as an 18-point underdog. So the 21 points is not out of line and may be an indicator that the odds makers don’t believe the Razorbacks will be a much different team and neither will Auburn.

If an actually victory is not attainable for Arkansas, this game with Auburn is a must-win in the moral victory department. As stated earlier, a bad loss to Auburn by 21 or more very well may put a cloud on the upcoming season right out of the gate, and fans have already stayed away from the Red-White game in droves compared to the previous season.

It’s a fair question to ponder how ticket sales are going for the upcoming season. And it’s a fair question to ask if Frank Fletcher is willing to lay down the bet again to give away cars if the Razorbacks do not win a conference game. I think fans should at least give him the benefit of watching the first game against Auburn before fans harass him to do it again.


Send your preseason Auburn score to fromthebench@yahoo.com.

Monday, April 28, 2014

From the Bench

Razorbacks Must Find Way to be One of 78 Teams to Make a Postseason Game

Robert Shields

The crowd was down this year at the Razorback Red-White game compared to last year. The optimism of a new coach has passed, and after only winning three games and no SEC games last season, the excitement level is naturally tempered.

Coming out of spring practice, here is one sentence to sum up what needs to happen for this football program in the fall: The Razorbacks have to find a way to win six games and make a bowl.

Sounds like an easy task when you consider that a record-high 78 Division 1 schools will make it to the postseason.

But that three-game improvement for the Razorbacks will have to come against a very difficult schedule.

Anyone who watched last season unfold knows the Razorbacks need to improve in two areas at a minimum to pick up those three extra wins. One is the defense and to be more specific the defensive secondary. While everyone wants to talk about a quarterback, a good player at safety has to emerge or you can forget the season.

Speaking of quarterback, that is the Razorbacks’ second most-important need. Even with the SEC losing several great quarterbacks from last season, a recent ranking had Arkansas 12th out of 14 in the SEC heading into next season. There has to be improvement at that position for the offense to flourish. Imagine the gasket Bobby Petrino would be blowing right now with the current quarterback production.

The receivers will be better next year, but they are going to need a quarterback to take advantage of their potential. The tight ends should be a positive on the team as well, but again they will need a quarterback who can effectively deliver the ball in crucial situations.

The question Razorback fans have to ask themselves after watching the Red-White game on Saturday is, was either one of those concerns answered heading into the summer.

Just like last year, this Razorback football team cannot have any mistakes and then expect to overcome them and win a game. It will be too fragile of a team to overcome a lot of adversity. An interception in the Texas A&M game put it away for the Aggies, a fumble against Mississippi State led to the game going into overtime and a loss, and a punt return staged a comeback for Rutgers.

The turnovers that led to defensive scores this year in the Red-White game are not a positive sign. Some might want to say the defense is better, but it’s more than likely a sign the offense still has the same quirks. Three touchdowns in a 16-second period with two of those by the defense is more than likely a bad indication that things still need to improve a lot before the Razorback tee it up against Auburn.

The fact that Brandon Allen had twice the number of interceptions in the spring game compared to touchdowns is sad and has to get better. He knows that, as do the coaches. If you want a positive, Rafe Peavey put the ball in the air nine times on the lesser White team, completed four of them, and did not throw an interception.

On another positive note, the first-team defense of the Red team held the White offense to negative 42 yards with most of the losses credited to the quarterbacks (55 negative to be exact). Maybe, this is a sign the starting defensive front is solid along with the linebackers being improved. Yet, some kid named Evans was the one carrying the ball most of the time for the beleaguered White offense.

The bright spot of the scrimmage was the 83 points scored. It’s a video-game number that goes over great with the kids and makes you believe the Razorback offense is going to be explosive. If nothing else, it was a great marketing ploy to get people excited about this high-powered run and shoot offense.

The real bright spot of the scrimmage and the one thing everyone talked about was the emergence of Korliss Marshall as the big play maker. This comes as a no surprise if you saw his flashes of brilliance last year. Somehow, the coaches overlooked him a lot. Now it’s obvious to everyone, he’s the one player that can take it to the house.

In the end, it was probably hard for fans if they were honest with themselves that this is a team destined for great things. It’s a team that has to find a way to win six games, not all of them that easy.




Send your seating assignment next year to fromthebench@yahoo.com.

Monday, April 21, 2014

From the Bench

New Logo and Color Warranted for This Era of Razorback Football

Robert Shields

Fans this time of year are starved for football and in its absence will find things to talk about. Two recent items got their attention. One was the establishment of a new color being Pantone 201, which is a shade of red that supposedly is closer to Alabama’s red. Hopefully, this will transcend to the field where the Hogs will play more like the Crimson Tide.

This change from Pantone 200, which was a lighter color, probably is insignificant but the change was apparently made to standardize the color – like anyone would have been able to tell the difference after your kid’s shirt has been through the wash a few times.

But I don’t get the worry about standardizing a color when out of the blue last year you got introduced to anthracite as though that was a traditional Razorback color.

If there is one thing that has been standard about the Razorback colors, it’s that it’s not standardized. I fully expect them to wear green next year if it meant a miniscule increase in revenue.

As we talk about standardizing colors, one would think the logo of the charging Razorback would be one thing that would be standard. Especially after the enormous backlash the fans leveled against the UofA when it developed a Razorback that had popcorn smoke coming out of its mouth.

The rumor making the rounds was that the UofA was about to come out with a “secondary logo” of a Razorback coming at you similar to the way Alabama does the Elephant logo with it facing forward.

ASU also has a Red Wolf logo that faces forward, and their program is also winning so it might be a good idea to follow Jonesboro’s lead. Plus, it’s a great way for the UofA to make money to make sure your old logo item is not the latest to stay up with the cool kids when you’re wearing your Dockers game-day red khakis with logo above the pocket.

Also, since the UofA has moved toward the same color as Alabama, why not take their logo idea and copy it because it might help transcend to play on the field. It’s progress. Kind of like when they developed that new Hog hat because that iconic Uncle Heavy’s Hog Hat needed to be remade because who wants to be stuck back in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s when the Razorbacks won with the traditional logo.

Now that I think about it, maybe a new logo is warranted for this era of Razorback football.

The rumor of the new logo was met with praise and spite. I heard some compare it to Pumba the Warthog from the Disney Classic, “The Lion King.”

Regardless, Pumba is not Pantone 200 or 201 and one can only hope the Razorbacks do not enter the circle of life next year when play starts in the SEC on the first weekend.

In the meantime, spring practice for the Razorback football team is winding down with the Red-White extravaganza next weekend, so make the trip up to see your favorite team.
If stats mean anything, then one might deduce that Austin Allen is closing the gap on his brother as their completion percentages get closer (though both threw interceptions in their two-minute drills). This in some ways is good and bad.

It’s bad that Brandon Allen is throwing picks in a two-minute drill since he struggled terribly last year when forced into similar game situations.

But on the other hand, it’s good that maybe Austin Allen is getting better on the off chance his brother goes down. That drop-off between number one and two at the quarterback position is not as dire as was the case last year.

The team should be loaded for bear with Jonathon Williams, Alex Collins, and Korliss Marshall in the back field. Marshall, coming off a medical issue, has apparently impressed the coaches the UA tells us through its sports dissemination office. But in scrimmages, the running backs have struggled to find room to run. You can read this as the defensive front is becoming dominant or the offense lacks the ability to run-block right now.

Regardless, next weekend promises to be a fun one with the Red-White game. Get up there and soak in northwest Arkansas. And don’t forget to buy your new officially licensed logo items to support the NCAA and member institutions!



Send your logo ideas to fromthebench@yahoo.com and trademark them before the UofA can.

Monday, April 14, 2014

From the Bench

Cheap Pops: Time to Wipe Away the Tears of Last Season and Get Ready for Winning Again

Robert Shields

Since it is spring practice and all you can have right now as a fan is hope, this column will take the positive spin to bring you new expectations of promise. After leaving the silvery white winter of the Razorback football team’s worst season in history, it’s time for it to melt away into a blooming spring.

Speaking of blooming, Brandon Allen has blossomed into an SEC-caliber quarterback. Back in the fall of 2013 when Allen was struggling mightily on the field, Bo Mattingly made the proclamation on his radio show that before Allen left Fayetteville he would be as good as or better than Connor Shaw was at South Carolina. Allen’s trip to that high point starts now. His marks during spring have been good, and he has been deadly accurate. Looks like Mattingly is on the money as usual.

Let’s assume that Allen has become an extremely proficient passer even as the Razorback defense has become even stronger in its coverage. Both may be happening simultaneously, but Allen is progressing at a faster rate, which is a bad sign for Auburn and the rest of the schools in line for an upcoming air raid. Turn on the sirens because the Razorback offense is fixing to blow through the SEC.

Running back Alex Collins is back in the coach’s good graces after violations of team rules and Twitter policies and is going to be a more polished runner improving on the high bar he set last year as a true freshman. He will be one of the elite running backs in the SEC next season. Any talk of him ever thinking about transferring is hogwash and was probably hatched by someone in Wisconsin shut in for the winter with nothing better to do.

Tight end Hunter Henry is going to be even more solid than he was last season and will probably be one of the best tight ends in the SEC next year in spite of playing catch up after coming in from the playground attack of Pulaski Academy. Henry will be an easy target for Allen and gather several touchdowns in his sophomore campaign. Along with Henry, receiver Keon Hatcher will continue to come on and be a dependable receiver who fans can complain doesn’t get enough touches.

Last season, Arkansas was very close to going to a bowl game, but the breaks just went against them. We all know the Razorbacks easily could have been 6-6 last season and enjoying the spoils of a trip to the BBVA Compass Bowl along with a busload of grateful fans.

If Allen is healthy, the Razorbacks would have clobbered Rutgers, which finished the season 6-7 in the always tough American Athletic Conference. Even with Allen out and using a quarterback with no experience on the road, the Scarlet Knights still had to mount a furious fourth-quarter comeback including a punt return to upset the Hogs. The game could have gone the other way if just a few breaks would have gone the Razorbacks’ way. The first break would have been for the athletic director not to schedule this game.

The Razorbacks definitely showed improvement in the last two games of the season. In Little Rock, they had Mississippi State on the ropes and were about to put the game away. The Hogs drove the field and had victory in their grasp but fumbled it away at the goal line. The game should have been a win right there with fans emptying out into the golf course to set fire to every porta-potty in the way. Instead, Mississippi State drove the field and sent the game into overtime. And in overtime, the Bulldogs used their third string quarterback to score the game-winning touchdown and no porta-potties were harmed.

The next week against a much more talented LSU team on the road in Baton Rouge, the Razorback led the Tigers throughout most of the game. They had LSU pinned deep with 99 yards to stop them. They had the victory until LSU got some breaks and their second-string quarterback drove them the distance with much of it coming on blown defensive coverage in the secondary.

Had those three games turned out as they should have, the Hogs go to a bowl game and the outlook for most fans would be much rosier right now. So for the Hog faithful, wipe away the reasons why the losses happened and pretend the Razorbacks won as they really should have in the first place. The reward of buying tickets and making a trip to a mid-level bowl will be there next season.

In September when the ball is kicked off for the first game in front of sellout in the luxury boxes, the Razorback coaching staff on the defensive side will have its act together and the defense will improve to make Texas A&M the worst defense in the SEC. They will get the younger players to step up and limit their mistakes to improve from the disaster of last season that you should forget about right now.

There is only one place for this team to go, and that is up where Petrino had them.



Send your reasons why I am wrong about the positive outlook for next season to fromthebench@yahoo.com.