Rivalry Returns After 20 Years

By: Joel Walsh
Published: Saturday, November 24, 2012
Mike Moffett of Fayetteville checks on a piece of meat he was smoking Friday while tailgating with friends before the University of Arkansas football game with Louisiana State in front of Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Mike Moffett of Fayetteville checks on a piece of meat he was smoking Friday while tailgating with friends before the University of Arkansas football game with Louisiana State in front of Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

— Friday’s football game was a welcome homecoming for many University of Arkansas faithful.

The Razorbacks hosted LSU in Fayetteville for the first time since 1992. Every year since, the rivalry game has been at either War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock or in Baton Rouge, La.

GAME COVERAGE

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Page 1C

The change of venue meant a longer drive for fans traveling from south and central Arkansas. And with a disappointing season, Razorback Stadium didn’t fill up and tickets for good seats were easy to find shortly before kickoff.

But having The Battle for the Golden Boot in town gave many Northwest Arkansas residents something to cheer about.

“This is 20 years overdue,” said Mike Moffett of Fayetteville.

“I have no problem about going to Little Rock,” Moffett said from a tailgate party southeast of Bud Walton Arena. “But this is our biggest day. It should be here. That’s the way we should send our seniors out: on campus.”

Mike Senko of Stuttgart said it makes sense to play the LSU game in central Arkansas during the Thanksgiving holiday when many students go home to spend time with family.

A larger stadium in Fayetteville, however, makes it a more attractive venue, Senko said.

Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium seats about 72,000 people. War Memorial Stadium’s capacity is about 54,120.

“With this facility, it’s inevitable to have the game here,” Senko said. “You can’t fight that.”

Plenty of people wearing LSU purple packed the parking lots around the football stadium prior to Friday’s game, which LSU won 20-13.

Allen Hebert of Baton Rouge said he was at the last matchup in Fayetteville 20 years ago, a game that Arkansas won 30-6.

Hebert, who camped at Devil’s Den State Park, said he preferred the scenery of Northwest Arkansas to Little Rock.

“I like the mountains. I like to go camping,” Hebert said. “For us, it’s nicer. This is a much better stadium than the one in Little Rock. I know they renovated it, but they didn’t renovate the visitors section.”

Sally and L.J. LeBlanc of Breaux Bridge, La., said Friday was their first time watching an LSU game in Arkansas. L.J. LeBlanc said the couple is trying to visit every SEC campus and would have been less likely to travel to Little Rock.

“The fanfare is more genuine on campus,” he said.

One question on many peoples’ minds Friday was who the Razorbacks’ next head coach will be.

Dale Gossien of Little Rock said University of Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long should have announced the Razorbacks’ next head coach at halftime of the LSU game. University officials would have had a better chance of a sell-out in that case, Gossien said.

Tommy Fisher, who traveled from Maumelle, said it’s more convenient for him to go to games in Little Rock. But, he added, Interstate 540 and improvements to I-40 have made it much easier to travel to Northwest Arkansas than it was 20 years ago.

“I’m not a fan of Little Rock or Fayetteville,” Fisher said. “I’m just a fan of the University of Arkansas.”

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