Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America, and was awarded 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
First trophy game brings added importance for players
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/JASON IVESTER --10/09/10-- UA vs Texas A&M football @ Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas Arkansas defensive players Jake Bequette (left) and Jerry Franklin lift the Southwest Classic trophy following the Razorbacks' 24-17 win over Texas A&M on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
FAYETTEVILLE — Chad Morris and Jimbo Fisher, both four games into their first seasons at Arkansas and Texas A&M, subscribe to the belief that every game is a big game and the next one is always the biggest regardless of the stakes or opponent.
While that may be true for them, Arkansas players say this weekend's Southwest Classic in Arlington has a bit of added meaning given that there is hardware on the line.
The Razorbacks feel this way because the Southwest Classic trophy has not returned to the program's facility since 2011 when former coach Bobby Petrino was in charge.
Arkansas receiver Deon Stewart, unprompted on Tuesday, said the team is focused on bringing the trophy back to Fayetteville. Offensive lineman Ty Clary, who started at center in the loss at Auburn after starting at left guard the previous two weeks, said the team would be ecstatic to regain traction in the series and hold up the trophy at game's end.
"We need to bring that home. It's not a want to, it's a need to," Clary said. "We have to win this game. We're gonna win this game. That's the mindset and how everyone feels. Since we haven't brought that trophy home in awhile we think it will look pretty good here."
Clary and defensive linemen Sosa Agim and TJ Smith each said bringing the trophy home is on the team's goal sheet heading into Saturday.
"It’s the first trophy game," Agim said. "We’re going to try to make sure we do that."
Clary added that players are bitter about the downfalls in the game in recent years. The Razorbacks have lost six consecutive games against the Aggies dating back to a 48-point drubbing in College Station in 2012. In three of the last four seasons, Texas A&M has edged Arkansas by a single score in either come-from-behind fashion or overtime.
"We don't like those guys. We don't like Texas (A&M) and we want that trophy," he said. "We want that trophy. We want that win in Jerry's World. It's a neutral ground. We're gonna bring it to these guys. We want to win this game bad."
For many players, the game can often feel more like a showcase rather than a typical SEC matchup given the unique venue and atmosphere. Smith, playing in his third Southwest Classic, said he learned early in his career to not make games bigger than what they are.
"Mentally I kind of take myself back to playing little league football because you'll psyche yourself out thinking about all of those different factors," he said. "It's a beautiful stadium. I enjoy it for that, but you line up and you play football. It's always been the same."
He does, though, admit that the AT&T Stadium video board, which measures 180 feet long and 72 feet tall, is surreal upon first look.
"But at the end of the day it's about football, so you've got to line up and play whether it's AT&T Stadium, the backyard or the parking lot, like coach Morris would say," Smith said.
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