Fall is always special in the Ozarks, but the hills and hollers are never more alive than when the football Razorbacks are winning.
For more than 100 years, University of Arkansas fans have held lofty expectations for their beloved Hogs. And one would be hard- pressed to identify a time when excitement was higher than now. Most preseason polls put the Razorbacks within the nation’s top 20, and some prognosticators believe they might con- tend for the national championship.
“It’s fun for our players to start the season off again this year ranked in the top 20. We take pride in that,” fourth-year head coach Bobby Petrino told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for a recent article. “But I still think it’s a situation where talk is cheap. We have to show it. We have to establish that we’re going to be there year-in and year-out.”
After struggling to a 5-7 record in Petrino’s debut season, UA improved to 8-5 in 2009, clos- ing with a 20-17 victory over East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl.
The Hogs were even better in 2010, finishing the regular season 10-2 and earning a Bowl Championship Series bid. Despite a 31-26 loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl last Jan. 4, the 10-3 effort earned UA the No. 12 spot in the final AP Top 25 poll.
“I felt like we were really close last year,” said Petrino, who resigned as head coach of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons to take the Arkansas job. “And that motivates me to work harder and get there, and before it’s over with I want to have a national championship. That’s something that really motivates me.”
Certainly, no issue looms larger in the coming season than how effective redshirt junior Tyler Wilson will be in replacing NFL-departed star quarterback Ryan Mallett. But Wilson has indicated the past two springs and in occasional game appearances that he is more than capa- ble of directing Petrino’s wide-open offense.
Wilson’s offensive supporting cast includes one of the nation’s speediest and most talented receiving corps, an all-Southeastern Confer- ence performer in running back Knile Davis and an experienced tight end in Chris Gragg. Graduation left holes in the offensive line, but size and talent is abundant among the candidates.
Meanwhile, with seven starters back, the senior-laden defense appears rock solid. De- fensive end Jake Bequette and safety Tramain Thomas both earned All-SEC honors last season and return as seniors.
UA home games are played at two locations. Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fay- etteville is the Hogs’ on-campus home. It seats about 72,000 and underwent major renovations in 2000-01. The Razorbacks will open there Sept. 3 against Mis- souri State.
The Razorbacks’ “other home” is 54,000-seat War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, site of two games each year. For 2011, Little Rock games are New Mexico on Sept. 10 and Mississippi State on Nov. 19.
Ticket information for all UA sporting events is available by call- ing (800) 982-4647 or online at arkansasrazorbacks.com.
The basketball Razorbacks will have a fresh look this season, but one that will have a familiar ring for longtime fans.
Seeking an answer to more than a decade of mediocrity that has seen the Hogs advance no fur- ther than the second round of the NCAA tournament, UA officials lured Mike Anderson away from Missouri to become head coach.
Anderson, 51, was an assistant throughout Nolan Richardson’s 17 years (1985-2002) as UA head coach, during which the Razor- backs made three Final Four appearances, including winning the national championship in 1994 and finishing second in ’95.
Anderson is a firm believer in his mentor’s up-tempo style of basketball, so UA fans can expect plenty of action when the Hogs take the floor in late fall.
“When people come into this building, I want it to be two hours that’s sheer entertainment,” Anderson told the Democrat-Gazette shortly after his hiring. “If you leave from your seat to go to the restroom, you’re going to miss out on something. That’s the kind of atmosphere we want here.” Home games are played at BudWalton Arena on the UA campus in Fayetteville. The 2011-12 schedule is not yet set but will appear in Northwest Arkansas Newspapers as soon as it is finalized, and also online at nwaonline.com and wholehogsports.com.
With one of the finest stadiums in the nation and a consistently competitive team, baseball is far more than a spring pastime for the Razorbacks and their fans.
The 2011 team finished 40-22 overall and 15-15 in SEC play, advancing to NCAA Regional competition at Tempe, Ariz., before eventually bowing out to Arizona State.
Roughly, the baseball season runs mid-February through the end of May, when the SEC Tour- nament is held. NCAA post-sea- son play is held in June.
UA home games are played at the plush Baum Stadium, with its 10,737 seats (8,237 chairbacks) and other amenities that are second to none.
Other UA Sports
Other varsity UA sports in- clude track and field and cross- country, in which the Razorbacks have won an unprecedented 40 NCAA national championships, including 12 straight NCAA indoor titles from 1984 to 1995.
That success played a role in the construction of top-shelf facilities including the Randal Tyson Track Center for indoor competition and John McDon- nell Field, named for the Hogs’ legendary former head coach.
Additionally, UA fields teams in women’s basketball, golf (men and women), gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis (men and women) and volleyball.