photo by DAVID SCHOOK
Arkansas sophomore Jonathan Williams leaps over a Samford defender during the Sept. 7, 2013, game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. The Razorbacks host Southern Miss Saturday starting at 11:21 a.m. Sports writers and columnists covering the Razorbacks are hoping that team takes care of the game in time for the 2:30 p.m. start of the Texas A&M-Alabama game.
LITTLE ROCK — Consulted about deadlines for copy from the Arkansas-Southern Miss game, the correct answer is 90 minutes too early for those of us who want to see Alabama—Texas A&M from start to finish without leaving the pressbox.
The Razorbacks’ kickoff is 11:21 a.m. and Arkansas will do its part to run the ball and the clock for a final gun around 2:30 p.m., kickoff time at College Station. Having thrown 90 passes and run the ball 51 times in its first two games, Southern Miss is more apt to prolong the ordeal in Fayetteville. Still, 2:30 is doable and, if the Razorbacks perform as expected, the column should be finished before Johnny Manziel touches the ball.
With a 6 p.m. deadline — all reporters tend to take as much time as is allowed — I could retreat to the third row of the pressbox and watch Alabama try to corral Manziel while the editor/driver worked on quarter-by-quarter highlights, top performers, notes, and other material for the Hogs postgame page. Instead, we settled on 4:30 p.m. for the copy.
Like many, I believe Alabama will win. Unlike many, I do not believe the Crimson Tide will shut down Manziel just because he got the best of them last year in Tuscaloosa or because defensive genius Nick Saban has had months to plan the young man’s comeuppance. I believe Alabama will win because A.J. McCarron, T.J. Yeldon, and Amari Cooper will make more big plays combined than Manziel, whose improv skills are the best in college football.
With a camera dedicated to Manziel, we will see his every move. Maybe the 4:30 p.m. departure is okay after all. I’m not sure I can stomach up-close and personal with Manziel for three hours plus. The radio broadcast will suffice for the second half.
Former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne’s appearance at the Little Rock Touchdown Club and Georgia’s victory over South Carolina are reminders about erroneous labels hung on coaches and quarterbacks.
For more than 20 years, Osborne couldn’t win the big one. First, Oklahoma was the nemesis. Then, came six straight bowl losses. No matter that each of the winning teams finished No. 1 or No. 2 in the Final Associated Press poll or that his 1984 team could have finished unbeaten by kicking an extra point and tying Miami at 31 in the 1984 Orange Bowl instead of going for two.
Can’t win the big one, folks said. Those naysayers couldn’t be found after Osborne-coached Nebraska won national championships in 1994, 1995, and 1997.
Leading up to the South Carolina game last week, count the ways that Murray’s failures were detailed. Most prominent was his 1-10 record vs. top 10 teams, including the 32-28 loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game when a receiver made a mental error and caught a deflected pass. Forget the fact that Murray completed passes of 15, 23, and 26 yards in the final minute to get to the Alabama 12.
Another chapter in Murray’s documented futility was the 38-35 loss to Clemson in the season opener. Never mind that a high snap ruined a gimme field goal attempt.
On Saturday, when another loss would have eliminated Georgia from any shot at the BCS title game, Murray was 17-of-23 for 309 yards and four touchdowns against the vaunted South Carolina defense.
The Atlantic Coast Conference is making a statement with Clemson over Georgia and Miami over Florida, with lots of help from the Gators. Those sorts of results will put an unbeaten ACC champion in the BCS title game.
Top-notch recruiting classes cut both ways. Alabama signs ‘em and wins. Then there are Texas and USC, both 1-1 after embarrassing losses.
ESPN’s rankings of recent recruiting classes:
2010: UT, 2; USC, 7.
2011: UT, 5; USC, 4.
2012: UT, 3; USC, 13.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau.