Hogs’ in­terim coach knows the sit­u­a­tion all too well

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - By Nate Allen Ra­zor­backs Re­port

FAYETTEVIL­LE - If any coach un­der­stands Arkansas’ in­terim coach­ing sit­u­a­tion, it’s the one cho­sen for this in­terim.

Barry Lun­ney Jr., the

Fort Smith na­tive and since 2013 Arkansas Ra­zor­backs tight ends coach, on Sun­day be­came Arkansas’ in­terim head coach with first­hand Arkansas ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing for an in­terim coach.

Lun­ney was named Sun­day by Arkansas Ath­letic Direc­tor Hunter Yu­rachek to head coach start­ing this open-date week and two games sea­son-end­ing in­terim.

On Sun­day morn­ing Yu­rachek fired Coach Chad Mor­ris, 2-8 over­all and 0-6 in the SEC this sea­son after a 2-10, 0-8 2018 de­but.

In 1992 as a

Ra­zor­backs true fresh­man quar­ter­back via Fort Smith

South­side, Lun­ney watched Jack Crowe’s Ra­zor­backs lose the sea­son-opener to The Citadel. Lun­ney was stunned the next day to find that Ath­letic Direc­tor Frank Broyles fired Crowe and pro­moted de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Joe Kines to in­terim head coach.

Lun­ney still laughs, mar­vels and says he’ll try to adopt Kines’ in­terim ap­proach.

“When Joe Kines so fa­mously took over as the coach in his press con­fer­ence, he was asked about be­ing the in­terim,” Lun­ney said. “And he quipped, ‘We are all in­terim.’ I think he said it best. At that point in time, his at­ti­tude was one that was in­cred­i­ble to watch as a player.”

Other than it be­ing Game 2 than Game 10, the cir­cum­stances post Citadel don’t dif­fer much for the play­ers fol­low­ing Mor­ris’ exit flogged in Fayettevil­le 45-19 by the Western Ken­tucky Hill­top­pers of Con­fer­ence USA.

“We had just come off a loss to the Citadel, which ob­vi­ously was a black eye on our pro­gram, and we didn’t even know who the coach was go­ing to be,” Lun­ney re­called. “We ex­pe­ri­enced all the range of emo­tions that our guys are go­ing through right now, con­fu­sion, anger, dis­ap­point­ment, happy, sad, mad, what­ever they are, all those ranges of emo­tions are on our foot­ball team right now. I ex­pe­ri­enced those same feel­ings, and as I was telling the play­ers last night, I learned and I saw first-hand what it looked like for a guy that was ap­pointed as an in­terim coach to come in and to right the ship and to breathe life into our foot­ball play­ers. He gave us hope.”

Un­der Kines the ral­ly­ing Ra­zor­backs in their next game en­tered the SEC rout­ing South Carolina 45-7 in Columbia.

They weren’t a very good team, those up and down 3-7-1 Ra­zor­backs. But with Lun­ney mak­ing his de­but Ra­zor­backs start in Knoxville, Ten­nessee, against 5-0 na­tion­ally No. 4 Ten­nessee, Arkansas stunned the Vols 25-24.

“Twenty-seven years later peo­ple still talk about that game,” Lun­ney said. “It’s an ex­am­ple, he said of a team stay­ing to­gether even with the head coach parted. And that team’s fresh­men weath­ered 5-5-1 and 4-7 sea­sons to be the se­niors on Danny Ford’s 1995 SEC West cham­pi­ons.

Even that 1992 na­tion­ally note­wor­thy achieve­ment in Knoxville would be sur­passed if the Ra­zor­backs some­how won their next game Nov. 23 at AP No. 1 ranked LSU be­fore clos­ing host­ing the Mis­souri Tigers Nov. 29 at War Me­mo­rial

Sta­dium in Lit­tle Rock.

“We are go­ing to do our darn­d­est and ev­ery­thing we can to pump some life back into these guys and go and play our best foot­ball game of the year when we go to Ba­ton Rouge,” Lun­ney said.

While he’d cher­ish a miracle in Ba­ton Rouge, Lun­ney will take what Yu­rachek re­al­is­ti­cally wants. That’s a Ra­zor­backs team com­pet­ing like Yu­rachek said he last saw com­pet­ing in the first half of the 24-20 SEC loss at Ken­tucky since dis­si­pated by the 51-10, 48-7, and 54-24 SEC losses to Auburn, Alabama and Mis­sis­sippi State and last Satur­day’s 45-19 hu­mil­i­a­tion.

“My sole fo­cus is get­ting our coaches and our play­ers to play their best foot­ball game that they’ve played all year long when we go to Ba­ton Rouge,” Lun­ney said. “What­ever that looks like, I just want it to be our best game - of­fense, de­fense, spe­cial teams, to­gether. If we’ll do that and then we’ll do it again the next week when we go to Lit­tle Rock, we’re go­ing to have a chance to win a foot­ball game.”

In the mean­time even with the coun­sel which he re­lies upon from his fa­ther, Barry Lun­ney Sr., the re­tired state cham­pion high school coach at Fort Smith South­side and Ben­tonville, Lun­ney said he most craves “en­er­giz­ing” these Hogs as their in­terim coach like Kines en­er­gized the 1992 Hogs.

Ac­cord­ing to Yu­rachek, at­tend­ing Lun­ney’s first team meet­ing Sun­day night, he al­ready has.

“He did a great job en­er­giz­ing our young men last night un­der a very dif­fi­cult set of cir­cum­stances,” Yu­rachek said. “He’s al­ready hit the ground running and has been very im­pres­sive in his first 24 hours.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.