‘What More Could You Ask For?’

The Morning News/Razorback Central
Posted Nov 26, 2004


LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas defensive end Jeb Huckeba admits he can’t help but walk into an empty War Memorial Stadium, gaze around and wonder how it has become a pillar of strength the past seven seasons.





After all, there’s nothing fancy about this 56-year-old mound of concrete in the city players affectionately call, “The Rock.” The 53,727 capacity makes War Memorial Stadium one of the smallest venues in the Southeastern Conference, almost half the size of Tennessee’s cavernous Neyland Stadium.

Huckeba said it looks like nothing more than an oversized high school stadium when the Razorbacks step inside to conduct a pregame walk through.

But the senior said there’s no other setting he’d choose for today’s critical game against No. 14 LSU.

“Game day comes, you get in there, that place fills up and it is so loud,” Huckeba said. “Those people in Little Rock are so excited. They’re ready. I just feel like there’s extra energy when we play in there. I don’t know why.

“Obviously, a place to play is not just going to hand you the win, but it’s definitely an advantage. We’re glad we get to play this important game in Little Rock.”

The Hogs (5-5, 3-4) place their 17-0 record under coach Houston Nutt in War Memorial Stadium -- as well as their streak of six consecutive bowl games -- on the line during today’s regular-season finale against the Tigers (8-2, 5-2).

Arkansas faces a must-win game for the third straight week, but has loads of confidence because it takes place in a setting that has produced magical and memorable moments the past few seasons.

“People have been asking me, ‘Are ya’ll nervous? Are ya’ll scared?’” Arkansas tailback De’Arrius Howard said about the prospects of playing the defending national champions, who beat the Hogs 55-24 in Baton Rouge, La., last November. “They’ve got to come to Little Rock this time. We don’t have to go down to LSU.

“We’ve got the fans on our side. What more could you ask for, seriously?”

Arkansas has won three straight against LSU in Little Rock, including the miraculous 21-20 win that sent the Hogs to the 2002 SEC Championship Game. Quarterback Matt Jones completed a 30-yard touchdown pass to receiver DeCori Birmingham with nine seconds left to beat then-No. 18 LSU. The play was nicknamed “The Miracle on Markham” and is regarded as one of the most memorable in school history.

The stakes were also high in 2000, when the Razorbacks needed a win to become bowl eligible against then-No. 24 LSU. Linebacker Quinton Caver intercepted a pass on the Tigers’ first possession, returned it 33 yards for a touchdown. The Hogs relied on tailback Brandon Holmes’ 143 rushing yards and squeezed out a 14-3 win.

“I was getting recruited by Arkansas there and that was one of my unofficial visits,” Huckeba said. “That was an unbelievable game. Then, when we went back to Little Rock my sophomore year, obviously, everybody remembers the 21-20 victory.

“Positive things have happened there for us. It’s a place where you really can get momentum and take it into the game.”

LSU and coach Nick Saban have a clear understanding after both games booted the Tigers to four-loss seasons. LSU has fallen short in its national title defense, but has a chance to entice the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., with a nine-win season.

Saban said War Memorial Stadium has plenty of character and passion despite its size, but hopes LSU can stop Arkansas’ streak today.

“They obviously have a tradition of playing pretty well at home and we have to take care of business in a special way when we go there and play,” said Saban, whose team has won five straight games. “Even though they’re 5-5, three of their losses have come to what were top 10 teams at the time they played them.

“I think that history speaks for itself in terms of how they play at home.”

Arkansas receiver Steven Harris played in the 2000 game. Much like this season, he said the Hogs weren’t given much hope to win. But Harris said the victory, which clinched a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl, felt like “winning the Super Bowl.”

Harris predicted another win against the Tigers would generate similar feelings.

“You’ve got to defend your home turf,” Harris said. “We’ve been great in ‘The Rock’ and it’s something that we’ve had to our advantage. We want to continue that, make sure teams coming in, they know that it’s going to be very hard for them to come out with a win.”

LSU and South Carolina are both 0-3 in Little Rock since 1998, while SEC foes Kentucky and Mississippi State lost in their only appearance. Arkansas has beaten eight nonconference teams in War Memorial Stadium during the streak. They are Louisiana-Monroe (two losses), UNLV, Boise State, Southern Methodist, Southwest Missouri State, South Florida, Troy State and North Texas.

Arkansas hasn’t lost in Little Rock since the 1997 regular-season finale, when LSU beat the Razorbacks 31-21 in former coach Danny Ford’s final game on the sideline.

The Hogs are 0-4 against ranked opponents this season, but the home team has won every game in this series during Nutt’s tenure. Tailback Brandon Kennedy said Arkansas intends to do everything possible to keep that streak alive in Little Rock.

“Everybody knows what they’ve got to do if they want the season to continue,” Kennedy said. “You live for these kind of moments when you’ve got your backs against the wall and you’ve got to come out fighting. It’s all or nothing.

“But if you don’t prepare, just saying we don’t lose in ‘The Rock’ isn’t going to get it done. Especially against the caliber team we’re going to play (today). You know the crowd is going to be behind you 100 percent. We’ve just got to do our part.”


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