The Washington Post

College slate offers up lunacy, near-lunacy and galloping Hogs trampling Texas

- chuck.culpepper@washpost.com

Because Texas has almost 10 times the population of Arkansas, more than five times the square miles and several million times more arrogance, it might prove enchanting to some people if Arkansas were to defeat Texas in a pursuit such as, say, American football.

If Arkansas were to lead by 26 points after three quarters and rush for a staggering 333 yards in a 40-21 manhandlin­g, that might ladle on further appeal for some.

Now, let’s say the game happened on a Saturday night in Arkansas about a month and a half after Texas announced it would join an SEC that already includes forgotten old Arkansas, causing a heap of fanfare owing to Texas’s bigness as opposed to forgotten old Arkansas.

Might the Arkansas fans even storm the field?

They just might.

Might the Arkansas coach and players appear at an interview lectern before a backdrop of galloping red hogs — sorry, Hogs — and say fetching things?

They just might.

Might we all revel in the very idea that we have a place in our national culture for galloping red Hogs?

We just might.

So much of college football, after all, happens in a caste system, with the overlooked straining for morsels of victory against the overly resourced. That whole concept just about exploded on one of those Saturdays that went just about wild.

It had plenty as it was. It had Oregon going into titanic Ohio State and winning, 35-28, in the outcome of the year so far, opening up a giant can of whoknew, Pac-12 physicalit­y on the Buckeyes. It had Jacksonvil­le State (Ala.) of the Football Championsh­ip Subdivisio­n getting a mind-boggling 59-yard touchdown pass on the final play to win, 20-17, at Florida State, from Zerrick Cooper to Damond Philyaw-johnson, who caught the ball 19 yards shy of the end zone and still managed to zigzag in through two defenders who appeared to lack GPS to find him. It had the lately troubled Stanford, which really ought not go into Southern California and lead 4213 in the fourth quarter, going into Southern California and leading 42-13 in the fourth quarter (before winning 42-28).

Imagine what it might have had if Colorado had held on to that 7-3 lead with three minutes left against No. 5 Texas A&M, or Toledo had kept that 29-24 lead with 90 seconds left at No. 8 Notre Dame, or Appalachia­n State had sustained that 23-22 lead with three minutes left at No. 22 Miami, or Tulsa had kept that 17-14 lead with 10:56 left at Oklahoma State.

But when A&M drove 77 yards in 11 plays for a 10-7 escape on Zach Calzada’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Spiller, and when Notre Dame drove 75 yards in three plays for a 32-29 escape on Jack Coan’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Michael Mayer, and when Miami drove 55 yards in 10 plays for a 25-23 escape on a 43-yard field goal from Andres Borregales, and when Oklahoma State escaped immediatel­y on LD Brown’s 98-yard kickoff return, well, the night did have Hogs.

Those Hogs have been fussing at football with their haughty neighbors since 1894 (a 54- 0 Texas win), and the conference shifts through history have had them playing the Longhorns all the time, then playing the Longhorns hardly ever, and now set to play the Longhorns all the time again when Texas joins the SEC by 2025, at which point Texas will hope to start holding Arkansas somewhere under the 7.1 yards per carry of Saturday night.

So Sam Pittman, Arkansas’ glorious 59-year-old, secondyear coach, the antithesis of the absurdity known as the sexy hire, came in and spoke in front of some Arkansas reporters in front of him with some galloping red Hogs on the tapestry just behind. He began, “I just want to thank the people of Arkansas, and I hope tomorrow they wake up and are excited about Arkansas football again.” He said, “You know, we’re going to lose a game eventually, you know, and people aren’t going to like me so much, but most of them like me now, and I like that.”

He went on to say, “We’ve got a long way to go, but tonight sure was nice,” and, “The one thing about our guys: They like to be coached, and they like to be told the truth,” and, of a punt block, “That was awesome, wasn’t it?” Of the “Horns Down” gesture some count as a habit because it belittles the rich Longhorns, Pittman said: “I ain’t doing that. That isn’t my style. Anybody want to do it, you can do it, but that’s not my style.”

He looked an awful lot like authentici­ty, and he said: “I hope it was a big one for us. I hope the state wants to come see the Hogs play. . . . When you go see entertainm­ent, whether it be a movie or whatever, you know, you want something to inspire you, and hopefully we did, and hopefully they’ll come back. I expect them to.”

Hayden Henry, the linebacker who had just finished making 15 tackles, told reporters, “Our defense, we were playing out of our minds.” He said: “I was just looking up in the second half, and our offensive line, they were just mauling them. They were just mauling them. I mean, [center] Ricky Stromberg was blocking people like 20 yards down the field.” And he said: “I don’t think they could block Grant [Morgan] or Bumper [Pool] or me tonight. We were making a lot of plays — I mean, we were in the backfield like crazy.”

At the other end of it staggered Texas, entrenched enigma. It has that skyrocketi­ng quotient of resources over major wins — and that 79-61 record since 2010 at a place that does not print T-shirts for 79- 61. One mauling does not end the Steve Sarkisian era after two games, but it does fling a ration of familiar drama, and it does raise one of the more intriguing specters, that of Texas wallowing in the SEC. “This was not a performanc­e I was anticipati­ng,” Sarkisian said to reporters, “but we’ll find out about ourselves and what we’re made of.”

He sounded for a moment like maybe that other coach, or that other coach before that, or that other coach before that. It could make you wonder if a win like the season opener, the impressive 38-18 victory over then-no. 23 Louisiana, might inflate the old, outdated selfimage even among the young players. It’s hard to play when stuffed.

“If you want to enter this conference,” Henry said, “you’re going to get a little taste of it tonight. You’re going to play a team that, you know, we’re not the biggest, baddest team in the SEC physically, but we play really hard. We play really tough. We don’t back down from anybody. We like competitio­n. We like playing. So, I guess, welcome to the SEC.”

They’ve got some galloping Hogs in that league.

 ?? WESLEY Hitt/getty IMAGES ?? Dominique Johnson and Arkansas gave Texas a glimpse of life in the SEC with a 40-21 upset Saturday.
WESLEY Hitt/getty IMAGES Dominique Johnson and Arkansas gave Texas a glimpse of life in the SEC with a 40-21 upset Saturday.

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