Bob Holt is a sports reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he sits on the board of directors for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Razorback Report: Paul wants in on pick-6 club, CFP odds
Arkansas linebacker Antonio Grier (3) returns an interception for a touchdown, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, during the first quarter of the Razorbacks’ game against the Kent State Golden Flashes at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Antonio Grier’s interception return for a touchdown last week was the second for the transfer from South Florida.
Grier grabbed a Mike Alaimo pass near the line of scrimmage on Kent State’s third possession and brought it 25 yards back to give Arkansas a 7-3 lead.
Grier was asked this week how cool it was to add another score to his total after he also had a touchdown on a 69-yard interception return in South Florida’s 32-31 home loss to Tulsa on Oct. 16, 2021.
“To be honest with you, I’m looking to score more,” Grier said. “That was just a start, a great start that I had. Grateful for my D-linemen and my DBs that were out there covering very well and the D-line getting a great push so I can jump in the window and catch a ball. Even them blocking for me to get me in the end zone.”
Grier said the best part of the return was what he heard from the stands.
“The best thing I liked was the crowd,” Grier said. “It was crazy. I mean it was unbelievable. I can’t wait to get to BYU this weekend and see the atmosphere. I know the fans are going to be out there, it’s not going to be as hot and it’s going to be great. I can’t wait.”
Fellow linebacker Chris Paul piped in when he and Grier were asked about linebackers having two returns for scores in each of the first two games. Freshman Brad Spence had an 85-yard return in his college debut against Western Carolina on Sept. 2 at Little Rock.
“I’m glad you said that,” Paul said, getting animated. “I sat back in the linebacker room the other day and I said, ‘Man, I got to be next.’ I’ve got to be next to catch a pick six.
“I was just messing around with those guys and telling them Brad Spence’s first series out there he caught a pick six. And then Antonio’s first play of him being a Razorback was a pick six, so I was like, ‘Man, I got to be next.’ ”
Paul said the touchdown scoring by linebackers isn’t really a competition.
“We’re all happy for each other,” he said. “Like I said, when Antonio caught his pick six, you could see the happiest people out there was the linebackers because we like to see success from each other. But yeah, I want to be next.”
BYU food drive
The Northwest Arkansas chapter of the BYU alumni association is hosting a tailgate party from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Wilson Park in Fayetteville at which donations will be accepted for the St. James Missionary Baptist Church Food Pantry.
Arkansas fans are welcome to attend the party along with BYU fans and anyone who would like to donate non-perishable food items. All items are appreciated, said Blaine Douglas, president of the Northwest Arkansas chapter of the BYU alumni association, but there is a need for food for the Latin and Marshallese communities.
Those items include dried and refried beans, bouillon cubes, cooking oil, tortillas, rice, salt, sugar, baking powder, chicken broth or stock, coconut oil, flour, ramen noodles, soy sauce, canned meats (corned beef, Spam, Vienna sausages) and canned fish (mackerel, sardines, tuna).
“It’s going to be a fun environment, and we’re hoping to gather as much food as we possibly can for St. James and the local community,” Douglas said. “There will be music and games as well as food for those who purchase a tailgate ticket.”
The Razorbacks played their second turnover-free game last week to remain one of nine teams in the country without one. The others are Navy, Oklahoma, Oregon, Oregon State, Penn State, Purdue, Texas and Western Kentucky.
The Razorbacks remain at the top of the list in turnover margin for the second consecutive week at plus-6, tied with Liberty and Western Kentucky.
BYU Coach Kalani Sitake has faced many of the same questions about his team’s running game as those posed to Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman through two games.
The Cougars are 118th in the FBS with 79 rushing yards per game, compared to the Razorbacks ranking 84th with 138.5. BYU ran for just 46 yards on 23 carries in last week’s 41-16 win over Southern Utah.
Arkansas stuck with its ground game more, accumulating 172 yards on 45 carries in its 28-6 win over Kent State.
“That’s what Southern Utah was planning to do, was take away the run game,” Sitake said. “They put their safeties in the box unaccounted for as far as a blocking scheme goes, so guys that were supposed to play deep were playing and making hits at the line of scrimmage.
“And you’ve got to make them pay. We can react on what they’re giving us and what we’re seeing, or we can just keep banging our head against the wall and forcing it. Eventually, when it was time to make some plays, we found ways to get the points on the board.”
Homecoming for 1
BYU is playing at Arkansas for the first time, but Cougars nose guard Caden Haws will be in familiar surroundings at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Haws, a redshirt junior who grew up in Little Rock and played at Pulaski Academy, said after a practice this week he has attended many games in Fayetteville.
“It’s cool to go play in the stadium you grew up going to as a kid,” Haws said. “I’m excited to go back.”
A converted offensive lineman, Haws has played off the bench the first two games and has five tackles. He started 13 games last season and had 40 tackles.
“He had to battle some injuries, but he’s looking really, really good right now, and I like the way that he’s being physical at the line of scrimmage,” BYU Coach Kalani Sitake said. “It’ll be a great matchup against the Arkansas O-line.”
Haws said BYU defensive end Tyler Batty asked him about the Razorbacks’ “Hog Call” after getting a question from an Arkansas reporter.
“Tyler asked me what it was, and I explained it to him,’ ” Haws said. “He said, ‘How often are they going to do that?’ I was like, ‘All the time. That’s just part of it.’ ”
Batty said he and Haws are close friends.
“I know Caden is really excited to come home and play there,” Batty said. “He’s going to play a big role for us. He’s always held it down in the middle for us and will continue to do so. He’s a tough, hard-nosed dude and it shows when he plays. He gets after it.”
The Razorbacks will shift their weekend routine slightly to accommodate their first night game of the season against BYU on Saturday, including the introduction of a movie night on Friday.
The Hogs have plans to attend a screening of “Equalizer 3” starring Denzel Washington.
“The first time we played on the road in a night game we went to the movies and we won, didn’t we?” Pittman asked Kyle Parkinson, UA associate athletic director for communications. “We beat Mississippi State. So that was kind of a staple. We did it all the time when I was at Georgia, you go to the movies.”
Arkansas dropped to the 29th-best odds to win the College Football Playoff title with odds of 250 to 1 as given by betonline.ag. The Razorbacks, who had been listed at 200 to 1 last week, fell into a tie with Kansas and Kentucky at 250 to 1 and just behind fellow SEC teams Auburn (175 to 1), Mississippi State and Texas A&M, who are both 200 to 1. Auburn and Mississippi State’s odds improved from last week, when they were 200 to 1 and 250 to 1, respectively, while the Aggies fell from 33 to 1.
Two-time defending champion Georgia held the best odds at 5 to 2, followed by Michigan (21 to 4), Florida State (13 to 2), Texas (10 to 1) and Ohio State (11 to 1) in the top five. Among other SEC teams, Alabama is now 20 to 1, LSU remained at 33 to 1, Tennessee stayed steady at 50 to 1, and Ole Miss improved to 100 to 1.
BYU has a tight-knit university community with many alumni in positions on campus and on the football staff and team, including Athletic Director Tom Holmoe (1978-82), who wrapped up his career two years before the Cougars won their lone national championship in 1984.
There are 17 former BYU football players on the football and athletic administration staffs, including Coach Kalani Sitake, a running back and fullback in 1994 and 1997-2000.
There are a dozen players on the current roster whose fathers played at BYU and five sets of brothers on the team. The Cougars have 31 players on the roster who are married and 10 who have children.
The average age on the BYU roster is 21.7 years.
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