Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Arkansas can’t underestimate anyone
FAYETTEVILLE Even if corporate persists allowing the Razorbacks to disguise themselves in a color that’s not theirs, Tulsa will know who they are.
Doesn’t matter if it’s anthracite gray or whatever Nike hue that can be conjured to discolor the University of Arkansas tradition of cardinal and white, Tulsa will battle its opponent from the state next door with the same zeal it reserves whenever matched against the big boys from within its state, the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.
Though a fine private university with a fine athletic tradition, Tulsa has had to battle OU, OSU and Arkansas for attention in its hometown.
So Saturday’s 11:20 a.m. kickoff, even for Arkansas’ homecoming at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, is center stage for Tulsa.
The Missouri Valley Conference, the league where Tulsa formerly played, and Conference USA, the league where the Golden Hurricane play now, never received the attention like the Southwest Conference, Arkansas’ old league, and certainly not like the SEC, Arkansas’ league since 1992 that is so avidly followed by the Razorbacks’ large contingent of Tulsa-based alums.
So when matched against Arkansas, as the Golden Hurricane used to be annually for most of their football existence and still are periodically, Tulsa vows to prove its not out of its league.
Although Arkansas lists a 53-15-1 series lead, including 17 consecutive victories since Tulsa last won at Fayetteville in 1976, Tulsa seldom has seemed out of its league against the Razorbacks. Close games abound, including the most recent when Arkansas escaped 30-23 in 2008 in Fayetteville.
Arkansas finished 5-7 in 2008 when it barely survived Hurricane Tulsa. Now Arkansas struggles at 3-5 is about to face a Hurricane gusting 7-1 after seven consecutive victories.
Even if the records were reversed, Arkansas Coach John L. Smith knows Tulsa would come storming into Fayetteville.
Smith knows that well even though he’s never coached an Arkansas-Tulsa game, having first joined former Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino’s staff as special teams coordinator in 2009. Smith coached Conference USA stepchild Louisville against SEC member Kentucky, and the feelings are similar.
“I have been in that position several times where you are the Big Brother Syndrome guy next door,” Smith said. “I’d be selling, ‘We’re as good as they are. We get an opportunity to show the world we’re as good as the SEC.’
“Why wouldn’t you sell that? Why wouldn’t you be fired up?”
Smith knows he must sell his team on preparing for what Tulsa is buying. Of course, underestimating an opponent should not be a concern for a team that is 3-5 and lost to 30-point underdog Louisiana-Monroe back in September.
“Our guys are not going to the field and overlook anybody,” Smith said.
There should be no shades of gray when it comes to that.
Sports, Pages 14 on 10/31/2012