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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Hog Calls

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

FAYETTEVILLE -- For veteran Razorbacks fans, this likely seems the most heartbreaking loss to a nationally ranked No. 1 team since losing 15-14 to Texas in the 1969 Shootout.

And to the reigning national/SEC champion Florida Gators, the 23-20 win last Saturday at their Swamp in Gainesville, Fla., it was like a "Rocky" remake.

Breaking a 20-20 tie on Caleb Sturgis' 27-yard field goal with nine seconds left, the Gators prevailed in shock like a battered, bewildered Apollo Creed. At the postgame handshake with Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, you could visualize Florida coach Urban Meyer in Apollo Creed character muttering "Ain't gonna be no rematch."

And there won't be. A 1-3 SEC record surely disqualifies the Razorbacks from representing the West against ever closer to presumptive SEC East champion Florida, 6-0, 4-0, in the SEC Championship game in December.

But at this juncture, the victoriously dazed Gators might even rather face unbeaten national No. 2 reigning SEC West champion Alabama in the championship game at Atlanta.

At least today they would prefer rematching No. 10 LSU, 3-1 in the SEC West after Florida beat them 13-3 on Oct. 10 at the Tigers' Death Valley in Baton Rouge, La. than Arkansas.

"If we had to play them again," Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett said, "I don't think they would agree to it this year."

Unless it's a near future SEC Championship game, all those Razorbacks going the distance like Rocky last Saturday in the Swamp, will be post collegians come the next regularly scheduled Arkansas vs. Florida meeting in 2013.

"Thank, God for graduation," Meyer must think.

As it was, the Florida coach said, "I am relieved it's over."

Oddsmakers thought that would be Petrino's line. His Rocky like underdog Hogs were deemed anywhere from 24 to 27 down to the Gators in the pregame betting lines.

They figured the Hogs would like the accordion Alabama tuned 35-7.

From the October 47-19 and 43-23 victories over Texas A&M in Dallas and then 17th-ranked unbeaten SEC West rival Auburn in Fayetteville, anyone following the Hogs knew they had grown considerably since Alabama thrashed them Sept. 26 in Tuscaloosa.

However, for them to grow enough to outplay Florida most of last Saturday's 60 minutes defies belief, even as Petrino said all last week, this time his Hogs believed after saying post Alabama they didn't believe going into their meeting with the Crimson Tide.

The Hogs would play better, we knew, but after all these are the champion Gators at home, not only quarterbacked by golden boy Tim Tebow but with THE best defense, even better than Alabama's, most stats said.

Arkansas played so well the Gators needed help from the striped shirts.

Even the CBS announcers, in love with all things Tebow, seemed aghast at the mystery penalties called on Arkansas cornerback Ramon Broadway and Arkansas defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard that propelled the Gators on their touchdown drive, tying it 20-20.

That said, don't get those glasses so Razorback red colored not to give the Gators their due.

Remember, it wasn't just Rocky but Apollo Creed making those movie bouts fights to remember. Once knocked down, Florida got up and did its part.

Tebow lives a life casting a heavenly image but he is one hell of a player and one hell of a competitor.

He had to be bouncing back despite Arkansas sacking him like groceries.

An unprecedented six sacks, including two each by Arkansas end Jake Bequette, fast becoming an All-SEC candidate as he also dislodged from Tebow one of four Florida fumbles, and blossoming true freshman tackle D.D. Jones.

Wendel Davis didn't sack Tebow alone. The previously often maligned secondary of previously often maligned defensive coordinator/secondary coach Willy Robinson did their part, too.

"Some of those sacks were coverage sacks," Petrino said. "We had a good game plan. We worked hard, we just came up a little short."

Speaking of short, how about one Arkansas little big man replacing the starting little big man?

Arkansas senior tailback Michael Smith, last year's 5-foot-7 1,000-yard rusher, couldn't play in Gainesville after injuring his hamstring while rushing a season high 145 the week before versus Auburn.

Dennis Johnson, the 5-8, 205 kick returner from Texarkana, subbed for Smith as the first in 2009 to rush triple digits (107 yards on 14 carries) against Florida.

The Hogs could wear themselves out patting themselves on the back but no time for that.

Former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt and his Ole Miss Rebels await Saturday morning in Oxford, Miss.

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