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Great moments in War Memorial history

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Great moments in War Memorial history

The stadium scoreboard read “:34,” and a number four was posted in the box just to the right of “QTR.” On to the field stepped a confident purple and gold defense that could almost smell a birth in the SEC title game. Across the line of scrimmage was an offense that had been beaten up for 59 minutes plus, but had one final shot at redemption.

Trailing by six with the ball 81 yards from pay dirt, Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones, who had a flair for the dramatic, wandered his way to the huddle and rallied the troops.

On the first play of the drive, Jones found a hole in LSU’s prevent defense as he connected with receiver Richard Smith 50 yards downfield. As the Hogs charged the line of scrimmage, 55,000 screaming Hog fans stood in unison, sensing that their unorthodox, 6-6 quarterback could somehow overlook his 2-13 passing day, and find a way to get six.

After Jones’ attempt to connect with receiver Carlos Ousley failed, he knew he had two more shots at the end zone—two shots with his weary arm to push the sun back into the sky and give Hog fans one more day of autumn.

He only needed one.

Razorback tailback DeCori Birmingham was lined up in the slot, and wasn’t about to let 31 yards of turf and seven LSU defensive backs stand in his way of a trip to Atlanta and Arkansas’ second appearance in the SEC Championship game.

As Jones handled the snap, off Birmingham went, making a beeline for the end zone. A sharp cut to the right gave him separation on the LSU defensive back, and Jones let it fly. Standing six yards deep in the end zone, Birmingham, who was sandwiched between a pair of defenders, caught the ball with his gut and fell to the turf.

Arkansas had tied it 20-20.

Lifting his hands to the sky and unbuckling his chinstrap, Jones breathed a sigh of relief and slowly wandered his way back to the sideline.

A penalty for excessive celebration cost the Hogs 15 yards on the extra point, but David Carlton, one of the three kickers the Hogs had exercised throughout the season, was true from 35 yards and the Hogs would hold on, 21-20.

This was the scene at War Memorial Stadium Nov. 23, 2002; a game deemed the “Miracle on Markham” by the Razorback faithful. Though it may stand out as the most memorable contest that has occurred in Little Rock, the Hogs have provided the fans in Central Arkansas numerous other reasons to cheer throughout the years.

Saturday, Oct. 3, 1998, the No. 22, 3-0, Razorbacks and Hal Mumme’s Kentucky Wildcats were primed for an old fashioned SEC brouhaha that ignited one of the loudest crowds War Memorial has ever housed. Kentucky snapped the ball 92 times and had four shots at the Razorback end zone as time was winding down, but Arkansas prevailed, 27-20.

Coach Broyles’ classic notion that the loser of the turnover battle will lose the war held true on this day. The lone takeaway came early in the fourth quarter as Kentucky led, 20-13, and was driving for more. Osceola, Ark., native David Barrett intercepted a Tim Couch pass attempt deep in Arkansas territory, and returned it to the Kentucky 12-yard line. The Hogs would go on to score 14 unanswered en route to a 4-0 start.

From the 3-0 upset victory against No. 10 Rice in 1960 to the 60-0 shellacking of Wichita State in 1970, War Memorial Stadium has seen it all. Since the facility’s dedication in 1948, the Hogs have knocked off 16 ranked opponents on Markham, including upsets of top-five teams Southern Cal, Texas A&M and Texas in consecutive years from 1974 to 1976. Arkansas holds a winning percentage of .727 (141-52-2) at War Memorial, and is 159-65-4 all-time in Little Rock.

War Memorial Stadium has welcomed The Razorbacks to its confines for 60 years, and has seen some of the most memorable contests of Arkansas’ storied past. However, the atmosphere and pageantry of a college football game at the corner of Interstate 40 and West Markham cannot be expressed in words—you must listen closely to the roar of 53,727 that fill its grandstand. They’ll tell you everything you need to know.



Sports Category : Football