No rea­son to Crowe

SEC first for Hogs was fi­nal for coach

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - BOB HOLT Arkansas coach Jack Crowe

FAYETTEVILLE — The day be­fore the Arkansas Ra­zor­backs played their first foot­ball game as mem­bers of the SEC, Coach Jack Crowe called quar­ter­back Barry Lun­ney Jr. into his of­fice.

Crowe told Lun­ney, a touted true fresh­man from Fort Smith South­side, that he’d play the third se­ries of his first col­lege game.

The Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayetteville was open­ing against The Ci­tadel — an NCAA Divi­sion I-AA team from the South­ern Con­fer­ence — so it fig­ured to be a good game for Lun­ney to gain some ex­pe­ri­ence as sopho­more Ja­son Allen’s backup the week be­fore the Ra­zor­backs played at South Carolina, the SEC’s other new­comer.

Lun­ney was sur­prised by what Crowe told him.

“I didn’t sleep at all that

night be­cause I wasn’t ex­pect­ing that,” said Lun­ney, who is now the Ra­zor­backs’ tight ends coach. “I was sit­ting there think­ing, ‘I’m about to make my col­lege de­but.’

“Back then I had been on cam­pus for three weeks. It’s not like I had come in Jan­uary or in the sum­mer. We had three ex­tra days of prac­tice in the fall, and then we started go­ing. So it was all very new to me.

“I’m think­ing, ‘Man, this is go­ing to be a big deal.’ ”

The game in­deed was a big deal, but not the way Lun­ney — or any­one else — could have ex­pected.

“We went three-and­out the first two se­ries, and then ba­si­cally Coach Crowe shook me off like a pitcher shakes off a catcher,” Lun­ney said. “He looked at me like, ‘No, this hasn’t gone the way I wanted it to go.’ ”

Lun­ney never got into the game. It was the only time in four sea­sons at Arkansas he didn’t play.

The Ci­tadel beat the Ra­zor­backs 10-3 on Sept. 5, 1992, in a shock­ing up­set at Ra­zor­back Sta­dium.

Things got cra­zier the next day when Arkansas Ath­letic Di­rec­tor Frank Broyles fired Crowe — though it was an­nounced as a res­ig­na­tion — and made de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Joe Kines the in­terim head coach.

Arkansas play­ers found out about the coach­ing change the same way fans did.

“I’m watch­ing NFL foot­ball on CBS, and it came scrolling across the screen,” Lun­ney said of the news Kines was re­plac­ing Crowe.

Lun­ney was watch­ing TV in his dorm room.

“You could tell the peo­ple who were watch­ing NFL games at that time, be­cause one by one guys start­ing com­ing out of their dorm rooms and look­ing down the hall­way say­ing, ‘Did you see what I just saw?’ ” Lun­ney said.

Arkansas fi­nally broke a score­less tie against The Ci­tadel and took a 3-0 lead on Todd Wright’s 25-yard field goal with 14:08 left in the fourth quar­ter.

The Bull­dogs punted on their next pos­ses­sion, then took ad­van­tage of a rule change ap­proved by the NCAA eight months ear­lier that al­lowed the de­fense to ad­vance a fum­ble re­cov­ered be­hind the line of scrim­mage.

Arkansas run­ning back E.D. Jack­son, who rushed 29 times for 167 yards, lost a fum­ble when he took a hand­off on sec­ond-and-4 from the Ra­zor­backs 37.

De­fen­sive end Gar­rett Sizer got a hand on the ball and knocked it loose, and de­fen­sive end Jud­son Boehmer had it bounce into his arms at the 34. He ran un­touched into the end zone to put The Ci­tadel ahead 7-3 with 9:47 left.

“De­fen­sively we were play­ing pretty good,” said Kines, who is re­tired and liv­ing in Tuscaloosa, Ala. “If we’d been out there all day, I don’t think they’d have got­ten much.

“But the fact they were able to get that fum­ble and run it in for a touch­down changed the whole out­look of the sea­son.

“If it had been the year be­fore and they had the ball at our 34, who knows what would have hap­pened? There were a lot of ifs. But you can stack those ifs up from now to Christ­mas and it wouldn’t change any­thing.”

The Bull­dogs made it 10-3 on Jeff Trinh’s 25-yard field goal with 3:28 to play af­ter cor­ner­back Det­rick Cum­mings in­ter­cepted an Allen pass that was de­flected.

Arkansas drove to The Ci­tadel 27 but was stopped on downs. The Bull­dogs, who gained 276 yards in their Wish­bone of­fense, ran out the game’s fi­nal 1:21.

The Ra­zor­backs had seven drives in­side The Ci­tadel 40, but they were held to 287 to­tal yards in Greg Davis’ first game as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor.

It was the first time the Ra­zor­backs had lost a sea­son opener at Fayetteville since 1906, when Chilocco (Okla.) In­dian Agri­cul­ture School beat Arkansas 6-0.

“My dad had been a col­lege and high school coach, and the first thing he said af­ter the game was,

‘Man, this isn’t good,’ ” said J.J. Meadors, a 5-6 re­ceiver from Rus­ton, La., who played for the Ra­zor­backs from 1992-1995. “At the time I was like, ‘Of course it’s not good that we lost to The Ci­tadel.’

“But I didn’t re­ally un­der­stand how bad it was un­til the next day when we found out that Coach Crowe had got­ten fired. That was tough, be­cause Coach Crowe re­ally took a chance on me be­ing so small. He signed me when schools like Louisiana Tech passed on me. So I still have a great deal of re­spect for Coach Crowe.

“But at the same time, when you’re at Arkansas, you can’t lose to The Ci­tadel. It re­ally taught us fresh­men what col­lege foot­ball was about that first week. I went from the ex­cite­ment of play­ing my first game to a coach­ing change. It was just a crazy time.”

Twenty years af­ter Arkansas lost to The Ci­tadel, Crowe was back in Ra­zor­back Sta­dium as Jack­sonville (Ala.) State’s coach to open the 2012 sea­son.

In an in­ter­view with the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette be­fore the Ra­zor­backs beat Jack­sonville State 49-24, Crowe said he wished he had talked to Broyles on the Satur­day night af­ter The Ci­tadel game in­stead of wait­ing un­til Sun­day.

“I should have got­ten in my car and driven straight to his house, be­cause Frank didn’t need to sleep on that game,” Crowe said. “I mean, the guy I got to on Sun­day, it was done. There was noth­ing I could do or say. The bread was toasted.”

Broyles and Crowe ar­gued about the di­rec­tion of the pro­gram, some of Crowe’s staff hires and whether he should have turned over play-call­ing du­ties to Davis.

“He vented, and I vented back, and the hot­ter he got, the hot­ter I got,” Crowe said. “I think I said, ‘Frank, this is go­ing to be a lot dif­fer­ent a week from now, be­cause we’re go­ing to South Carolina, and I guar­an­tee you we’re go­ing to win. If we don’t, you can fire me.’ He said some­thing like, ‘I don’t know if I can wait that long,’ and that ticked me off.

“I said, ‘I’m go­ing to lunch. Call me if I’m still your foot­ball coach.’ He didn’t call.”

Crowe was right about the South Carolina game. The Ra­zor­backs won 45-7.

Los­ing to The Ci­tadel dropped Crowe’s record at Arkansas to 9-15 af­ter he’d been pro­moted from of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in 1990 to re­place Ken Hat­field, who left to take the Clem­son job.

Broyles said at the time of Crowe’s fir­ing it was an “ag­o­niz­ing” de­ci­sion, but he was con­vinced a change needed to be made.

“It’s ob­vi­ous our pro­gram isn’t where it should be,” Broyles said.

Kines said he was watch­ing game film Sun­day when Broyles came to his of­fice and said he wanted him to take over as in­terim coach.

“We lost the game and knew we let one go we should have won,” Kines said. “Af­ter­wards, you can’t sit around and mope.

“We were get­ting ready for the next game when all that came down. You can plan all this stuff, but plans some­times have a way of tak­ing a road of their own. That was one of those days.”

As trou­bling to Broyles as los­ing to The Ci­tadel was the an­nounced crowd of 35,868. He said fans needed hope for the fu­ture by ral­ly­ing be­hind a new coach rather than spec­u­lat­ing about Crowe’s job se­cu­rity.

“Dur­ing the Sun­day meet­ing, Frank said that our sup­port was more crit­i­cal than it ever had been and that we couldn’t let low ex­pec­ta­tions keep the fans from sup­port­ing our move to the SEC,” Crowe said. “He felt a lot of pres­sure about that move. He thought it was all on him for that to work.”

Arkansas was the fifth con­sec­u­tive Divi­sion I-A team to lose to The Ci­tadel, which since 1988 had beaten Navy twice along with Army and South Carolina.

The Bull­dogs fin­ished the 1992 sea­son 11-2 and were ranked No. 1 among I-AA teams be­fore los­ing in the play­offs to Youngstown State.

Arkansas fin­ished 3-7-1, but in ad­di­tion to win­ning at South Carolina the

Ra­zor­backs beat No. 5 Ten­nessee and LSU, and tied Auburn.

“Coach Kines just had a way about him,” Lun­ney said. “You be­lieved in him. You wanted to play for him.

“He did a more than ad­mirable job that year. He breathed life into us. He made it fun all the while get­ting some good re­sults.”

Hous­ton Nutt, Arkansas’ re­ceivers coach in 1992 and later head coach from 1998-2007, said the staff was shocked by Crowe’s fir­ing but ral­lied around Kines.

“I al­ways ad­mired Joe be­cause of his abil­ity to mo­ti­vate play­ers and his en­thu­si­asm and pas­sion for the game, plus he was such a good de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor,” Nutt said. “When Joe took over as head coach, I felt like we were in good hands.”

Broyles de­cided to hire Danny Ford — whom Kines had added to the staff af­ter three games — as head coach af­ter the 1992 sea­son be­cause he be­lieved the pro­gram needed some­one who had won and was na­tion­ally prom­i­nent.

Ford fit the bill with a 96-29-4 record in 12 sea­sons as Clem­son’s coach, which in­cluded win­ning the 1981 na­tional cham­pi­onship.

Kines stayed at Arkansas as de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in 1993 and 1994 be­fore leav­ing to take the same po­si­tion at Ge­or­gia.

“What I re­mem­ber about it was we played the hand we were dealt,” Kines said of the 1992 Ra­zor­backs. “Our kids did the best they could and came to­gether and played good at times un­der some re­ally dire cir­cum­stances.

“Do I wish it had gone bet­ter? Sure. Did I quit and slit my wrists be­cause it didn’t? No. You take what God gives you and go with it.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette file photo

De­fend­ers for The Ci­tadel swarm Arkansas run­ning back E.D. Jack­son dur­ing the NCAA Divi­sion I-AA Bull­dogs’ 10-3 vic­tory over the Ra­zor­backs at Fayetteville in 1992. It was a grisly loss for the Ra­zor­backs in their first game as a mem­ber of the SEC and it re­sulted in coach Jack Crowe’s fir­ing the next day.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette file photo

said he met with ath­letic di­rec­tor Frank Broyles the morn­ing af­ter the loss. “I said, ‘I’m go­ing to lunch. Call me if I’m still your foot­ball coach.’ He didn’t call,” Crowe said.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette file photo

Arkansas quar­ter­back Ja­son Allen is dragged down dur­ing the Ra­zor­backs’ loss to The Ci­tadel at Fayetteville in 1992. The next week, the Ra­zor­backs and new in­terim head coach Joe Kines won 45-7 at South Carolina.

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