After what can only be described as a tumultuous five months, the #10 ranked Arkansas Razorbacks will finally kickoff the season Saturday against an old friend when the Jacksonville State Gamecocks visit Fayetteville. The 6:00 kickoff will be the Hogs lone pay-per-view contest in 2012.
Razorback fans will remember that day forever. As for Crowe, many fans seemingly look at him now as a victim, if you will, of the program’s prior successes. And, more than anything else, as a casualty of athletic director Frank Broyles’ ego.
Twenty years later, Jack Crowe (81-52, 12th year) returns to Razorback Stadium as coach of the Gamecocks. And we suspect he will get a warm welcome from the Arkansas faithful.
“When they march that ‘A’ out there, I’ll know the fight song, I tell you that,” Crowe said. ”It’ll be ringing in my ear. There’s nothing but goodwill. I just wish we weren’t playing such a great football team.”
Since becoming the Jacksonville State coach in 2000, Crowe has built a successful program, winning three Ohio Valley Conference championships since 2003. JSU is picked to finish second in that league this season, and comes in ranked #22 in the TSN FCS Preseason Top 25.
Crowe will have at least one bullet in his gun Saturday — former Georgia running back Washaun Ealey is toting the rock for the Gamecocks. Ealey (5-11, 215), who rushed for over a 1,000 yards last year for JSU, has great speed and is elusive in space. And, as you may remember, Ealey had a pretty good game against the Hogs in 2010.
Without question, Ealey will get a shot at the NFL after this season. He is currently ranked as the 10th best running back in the 2013 class by NFLDraftScout.com.
Back to quarterback the Gamecocks this year is senior Marques Ivory (6-1, 235), who broke his leg in last year’s season opener against Tennessee-Martin. Ivory has a stocky build, but a strong arm and can move in the pocket. He threw for 2,248 passing yards and 18 TDs in 2010.
On the other side of the ball, like most FCS teams, the Gamecocks are very undersized on defense. They will have their hands full trying to slow down the Razorbacks. Junior linebacker Rashad Smith (6-1, 210) led JSU in tackles last season, and is probably the best of the bunch.
Two years ago, Crowe and Jacksonville State turned the tables and upset the Right Reverend and Ole Miss 49-48 in double overtime.
Arkansas is not Ole Miss. The Hogs, and new coach John L. Smith, should roll in a much needed tune up. And we’ll all go home happy…unlike that Saturday twenty years ago.