With no bowl in sight, Hogs eye finish line

By: Matt Jones
Published: Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Austin Allen, Arkansas quarterback, walks off after Arkansas's loss to South Carolina Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.
Photo by Ben Goff
Austin Allen, Arkansas quarterback, walks off after Arkansas's loss to South Carolina Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.

— For the second consecutive year, the regular-season finale between Arkansas and Missouri features a team on its way to a bowl game, and one playing its final game.

The roles have reversed from last season's matchup in Columbia, Mo., which the Tigers won 28-24 with 21 unanswered points in the second half. Missouri entered that game with three wins overall and one win in the SEC.

Arkansas (4-7, 1-6 SEC) enters this year's game in a similar spot. The Razorbacks had held out hope for a six-win regular season that would have put them in a bowl game, but that dream ended with last week's 28-21 loss to Mississippi State.

That has changed Arkansas' perception in a short time.

"It's really disappointing," quarterback Austin Allen said. "You always want to play 13, 14 games in a year. That didn't happen for us, so I look at it as my last go around. You can't leave anything to chance and leave it all on the field.

"I feel like the guys want to send us seniors out the right way and they're going to play hard."

There is a sense of finality for Friday's game. Not only will be the last for the seniors, but it could be the last for the entire Arkansas football staff with Bret Bielema's job security in question, especially since the firing of former athletics director Jeff Long last week.

"We're definitely playing for Coach B," cornerback Henre Toliver said. "That's my coach, man. I love him to death....I hate to see it."

Any change in leadership would not only affect the head coach, but just about anyone else within the program, including assistants and support staff.

"We're playing for Coach B, our coordinators, our position coaches," nickel back Kevin Richardson said.

"Coach B has kept us positive all year, so we're going to go play for him.

"It has been a tough season. The best way to cap that off would be with a (win) in a trophy game."

Missouri (6-5, 3-4 SEC) enters the game with a hot hand. The Tigers have won five straight games by a combined 177 points.

The win streak, combined with the rivalry component, might cause some teams to characterize this kind of finale as a sort of bowl game. Allen said he doesn't feel that is the case for the Razorbacks. This isn't the type of trophy game they envisioned as their last in 2017.

"It's just kind of bittersweet for me and all the seniors," Allen said.

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