Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Home at Tulsa, but heart at UA
Arkansas junior safety Eric Bennett is one of several Razorbacks players with Oklahoma ties who will play against Tulsa today.
FAYETTEVILLE The last time Eric Bennett Sr. attended an Arkansas-Tulsa football game at Razorback Stadium, he was on the field playing linebacker for the Golden Hurricane and trying to help them break a losing streak against the home team.
Today, he will be sitting in the Arkansas section, cheering for the Razorbacks to extend their winning streak to 18 games against his alma mater.
His son, Eric, is a starting junior safety for the Razorbacks.
“Once you have kids and you see what their expectations are and what they want do in your life, things change,” said Bennett Sr., who works for UPS in Tulsa. “When Eric decided he was going to Arkansas, I became a Hog fan. This is Eric’s time now, and I’m really proud of him.”
Bennett Sr. played in Arkansas-Tulsa games in 1988 and 1989 after transferring from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Junior College.
In 1988, the Razorbacks hung on to win 30-26 when Tulsa quarterback T.J. Rubley fumbled on a second-and-4 play at the Arkansas 8 with 1:05 left. The fumble was caused by Kerry Owens and recovered by Wayne Martin.
“We just knew we were going to win that game,” said Bennett Sr., who had 135 tackles in his two seasons with the Hurricane. “Then we fumbled the ball at the end.”
The No. 9 Razorbacks opened the 1989 season by beating Tulsa 26-7 to extend Arkansas’ winning streak in the series to 13 games. Bennett started and had five tackles after playing as a reserve and making one tackle against the Razorbacks the previous year.
“We always felt like when we played against Arkansas - even though we weren’t expected to win - that we could win,” Bennett Sr. said. “It’s always been a big game for Tulsa.”
It’s also a big game today for several Arkansas players from Oklahoma, including Bennett (Tulsa Washington), senior linebacker Terrell Williams (Tulsa Union), junior guard Alvin Bailey (Broken Arrow), junior defensive tackle Robert Thomas (Muskogee), senior linebacker Jarrett Lake (Jenks), freshman cornerback Jared Collins (Tulsa Washington) and freshman receiver Keon Hatcher (Owasso).
“I know a lot of those guys are fired up, our Oklahoma guys, our Tulsa guys,” Arkansas Coach John L. Smith said. “They want to show well and they want to go get after these guys.”
Today is the 72nd game between Arkansas and Tulsa, but the first since 2008.Arkansas leads the series 53-15-3.
“It is going to be exciting playing against my hometown,” Bennett said. “I know most of the guys on their team. I played against them growing up. I know at least six on both sides of the ball.
“I can’t lose to my hometown team. We’ve got to be able to go out there and beat them.”
Williams played at Tulsa Union with Hurricane offensive tackle Brian DeShane and receiver Thomas Roberson.
“They’re on the opposite side of the ball, so we get to hit each other,” Williams said. “So it should be a lot of fun.”
Williams said he was recruited by Tulsa Coach Bill Blankenship, who previously coached at Tulsa Union.
“Tulsa’s a great school,” Williams said. “You can get a great education, and they’ve picked up their football program a lot over the past years.”
Bennett wasn’t recruited by Tulsa, which surprised his father.
“It’s probably worked out for the best,” Bennett Sr. said. “I know Eric’s happy at Arkansas.”
Bennett Sr. attended Tulsa’s homecoming game Oct. 20, when the Hurricane beat Rice 28-24 before having an open date last week.
“A lot of guys I played with were back in town, so I got to sit down and talk with them about all our lives and families,” he said. “It was a nice time.”
Today is Arkansas’ homecoming game.
“I think it’s going to be a great game,” Bennett Sr. said, “a real barnburner.”Oklahoma Hogs
Several Arkansas players from Oklahoma will be playing friends and former high school teammates when the Razorbacks face Tulsa today. Here’s a rundown of the Razorbacks from Oklahoma:
PLAYER, POS. SCHOOL
Alvin Bailey, G Broken Arrow
Austin Beck, OT Nowata
Eric Bennett, S Tulsa Washington
Cameron Bryan, K OKC McGuinness
Jared Collins, CB Tulsa Washington
Keon Hatcher, WR Owasso
Jarrett Lake, LB Jenks
Donovan Roberts, RB Norman
Robert Thomas, DT Muskogee
Terrell Williams, LB Tulsa Union
Sports, Pages 23 on 11/03/2012