New Arkansas-Mizzou Rivalry Namemakers Choose Not Cross the Line

Somewhere, Razorback fan “Latarian” is sighing.

For those of you who do not know, Latarian is a pigskin prophet and gridiron Gaudi. Two and a half years ago, on an SECRant.com thread you need to read right now, he proposed two trophy ideas for a permanent Arkansas-Missouri rivalry game:


“Battle for the Crystal Meth Pipe”

crystal meth

“Battle for the Golden Banjo”

golden banjo

Alas, Latarian cannot be happy today. As he wanted, University of Arkansas and University of Missouri officials have since announced a permanent rivalry game. But this morning it became clear, unfortunately, they are not Breaking Bad fans:

Battle line rivalry

BATTLE LINE RIVALRY ANNOUNCED FOR ANNUAL MIZZOU-ARKANSAS FOOTBALL GAME

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Southeastern Conference foes Arkansas and Missouri will meet on the football field next month in the first edition of the Battle Line Rivalry presented by Shelter Insurance. The new football series pits the SEC’s Eastern Division against the Western Division and provides a natural rivalry between Missouri and Arkansas.

This season’s game will mark the first conference matchup between the two schools. Arkansas and Missouri will play each season as SEC cross-divisional opponents.

The rivalry clashes against both geographic and historical boundaries – from disputed demarcations of the border separating the two states to notable alumni and former personnel with ties to both storied athletic programs. The historic rivalry between the two states will take on even more meaning now, as every Thanksgiving weekend the Battle Line will be drawn on the gridiron. The Razorbacks or Tigers will ultimately stake claim to the “Line” – until the next meeting.

“We are appreciative of Shelter Insurance for stepping forward to help us start the Battle Line Rivalry, an annual series that will soon become a much anticipated competitive rivalry for fans of both programs,” said Jeff Long, University of Arkansas Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics. “With the close proximity of the institutions, fans of each school will have the opportunity to travel to both campuses for games in the series. It is a budding rivalry that will provide outstanding athletic competition while further enhancing the reach of both institutions and the SEC within our region and throughout the country.”

“We are pleased for Mizzou’s fans to have the chance to embrace this annual rivalry game with Arkansas,” said Mike Alden, University of Missouri Director of Athletics. “The partnership with Shelter Insurance for the Battle Line Rivalry really brings together two outstanding athletic departments and fan bases for an excellent matchup that we are looking forward to seeing develop into a rivalry.”

“Shelter got its start in Missouri and Arkansas, so our roots are deep in these two states,” said Rick Means, President and CEO of the Shelter Insurance Companies. “We hope that this new rivalry will be a fun new tradition for college football fans in both states.”

The inaugural Battle Line Rivalry presented by Shelter Insurance kicks off Friday, Nov. 28, at Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo.  The game is set for a nationally televised broadcast at 1:30 p.m. on CBS.
Fans of both schools are encouraged to stay tuned for more exciting news regarding how the Battle Line Rivalry will be contested in a variety of ways in the near future.

For more information regarding Razorback Athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com or follow on Twitter @ArkRazorbacks.

Whatever trophy may come from this, it’s not going to be meth pipe. Perhaps it will represent the geographic section of southweast Missouri known as the bootheel.

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Sebastian Tretola and a History of Linemen Throwing Touchdown Passes

On October 25, 2014, it’s fair to say Sebastian Tretola made history.

In one of the SEC’s most meme-able moments of 2014, the Razorbacks’ 350-pound offensive tackle threw a 6-yard touchdown to a long snapper/wide receiver to blow open a game against Alabama-Birmingham. National acclaim followed. With tongue just slightly in cheek, Tretola said of his shining moment: “I got out there and did what I needed to do. I made a play, and made a great one … I don’t think any other play is up there with it.”

That quote’s from the SEC’s best Heisman plug video of the year, courtesy of the Arkansas athletic department. But the time spent crafting this mocku-masterpiece might have prevented the UA folks from finding out if Tretola actually was the first lineman in major college history to pass for a touchdown.

Here’s your answer: In modern history, yes he is.

A nice, OCD-y stroll down Data Verification Lane says so. Since 2000, there have been 776 games in which a player has completed a single pass which counted for a touchdown. As you can imagine, a majority of the passers who completed only one pass throughout an entire game are non-quarterbacks. Picking through the rest of the players – wide receivers, running backs, tight ends – I confirmed Tretola was the only full-time lineman to meet this criteria.

In 2011, a former defensive lineman from Colorado State threw a touchdown pass against No. 5 Boise State. Crockett Gillmore, a 6’6″, 260-pound tight end who’d converted from defensive end only five months before, threw a 27-yard touchdown off a lateral in a 63-13 loss.

Two other notable unique passers came in the form of converted defensive backs. In 2003, San Diego State’s Hubert Caliste threw a 25-yard TD pass on his first collegiate play as wide receiver. Three years later, Miami’s Lavon Ponder threw a 37-yard TD pass against North Carolina on the only offensive snap of what would be a four-year career.

Has a lineman ever thrown a touchdown pass in the NFL?

Not in modern times. Nor has a lineman even completed an attempt. There have been two such stabs, btw:

1) Down by three points near mid-field, Indianapolis center Jeff Saturday was involved in some last-second Colts trick-play shenaniganery in 2004. It didn’t work; Saturday’s pass attempt was illegal and Jacksonville won.

2) In 1980, Tampa Bay tackle Charley Hannah also failed to even get off a legitimate attempt. At the end of a close game against Minnesota, the Tampa Bay QB was trying to avoid a pass rush when he “dumped a pass to tackle Charley Hannah, who threw the ball to the ground when he saw an official waving his arms. Vikings end Randy Holloway picked up the ball and ran it into the end zone for an apparent touchdown,” according to the St. Petersburg Evening Independent as cited in Wikipedia. The officials needed several minutes to sort out the situation, and eventually penalized Tampa Bay 14 yards for an illegal forward pass.”

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The Many Sides of Arkansas Sports Legend Marcus Monk: An Exclusive

It’s a weekday morning in early September. Why is Razorback legend Marcus Monk driving to a place in southwest Arkansas that translates to “skull crusher”?

No, the 28-year-old Monk isn’t trying to resurrect his football career by challenging All-Pro NFL defensive end J.J. Watt to a “Hunger Games”-style wrestling match. Nor is he heading to Cossatot River High School to raft the equally dangerous whitewaters nearby that inspired the French to call it “cassé-tête.”

Instead Monk, Arkansas’ all-time leader in touchdown catches, is traveling Interstate 49 to help with a camp his former high school basketball coach organized. The coach, Kevin Kyzer, coached Monk more than a decade ago at East Poinsett County High School in Lepanto, Ark. Monk was one of the most decorated athletes the area has ever produced, a top-100 prep basketball player heading into a senior year in which he averaged 20.8 points, 16.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 3.8 blocks and 2.5 steals a game while leading EPC to a 35-1 record along with its first Class AAA state title.

Monk lives in Fayetteville, where he starred for the Hogs as a wide receiver 2004-07, but firmly believes he owes time and support to the people he knew growing up in northeast Arkansas. Most every year since he graduated college, he’s organized benefit games or camps to help raise funds for school supplies for elementary schools in Poinsett County. “Education is really important. It can change lives,” says Monk, an EPC valedictorian. “I do it to try to show my appreciation and try to give back.”

This mindset – whether applying to community, team or family – isn’t new. In 2004, he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: “The first thing I’m going to do if I go pro in either football or basketball is to make sure my mother and Malik [his 6-year-old brother] are taken care of. I’m going to pay her back for all she’s done for me and give this town someone to be proud of.”

Since 2012, all three Monks have moved from northeast to northwest Arkansas for better job and education opportunities.  Whether they will remain there two years from now is something millions of college basketball fans around the nation want to know.

                                                                                      ***

Heading into summer of 2007, the storybook ending seemed so close: The millions of dollars, the endorsement deals, the wonderful new home mom always deserved. Monk been been a dual sport athlete as a freshman, playing spare minutes in basketball but announcing himself as a star in football. He had a junior season for the ages, helping Arkansas soar to 7-1 conference mark and the SEC title game while tallying 50 catches, 962 yards and a school-record 11 touchdowns. At 6-6, and 220 pounds, Monk was plenty physically imposing. Mix in his uncanny field awareness, high IQ and soft hands, and he had the makings of a top NFL prospect.

Then, during an August practice, Monk suffered a knee injury that required two surgeries and knocked him out of the first seven games. He returned to finish his senior season, but was never the same on the football field. The Chicago Bears drafted Monk in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft, but he didn’t make the team. Stints with the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers also didn’t pan out. “I did get cut from the game I love, but I knew that I had my education and I could pretty much do whatever I wanted to as long as I put my mind to it,” he says. “I’ve always known that you can’t play forever. One advantage I did have was I stayed on top of my schoolwork.”

Indeed, Monk graduated college with a business degree in three and a half years. He came back in the late 2008 to take graduate courses in real estate and finance, and to give basketball another shot – this time primarily to keep in shape for NFL tryouts. Nearly four years after he’d last played, Monk rejoined the Hog basketball program. While taking graduate courses in real estate and finance, Monk averaged 4.5 points and 3.1 rebounds in the 2008-09 season. He helped the Razorbacks knock off No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 7 Texas at home.

Behind the scenes, he was a valuable leader for a young squad that included six freshmen and was at one point down to 10 scholarship players. “He brought that kind of calm, cool and collected mindset and attitude and you could tell he was the most mature one out there,” recalls Nick Mason, one of the six freshmen. “He was talking to guys in the locker room, making sure everybody had their grades straight – or whatever problems they had. I can remember him talking to guys – especially the freshmen – about girls, if they were having girl problems.”

Monk also developed respect for then-Razorback head coach John Pelphrey that developed into friendship. He said Pelphrey has been “a mentor,” checking in with him while he was playing professional basketball in Germany in 2010-2012. They remained friends when Monk briefly moved back to northeast Arkansas, and started helping train his friend, former Razorback and NBA player Ronnie Brewer, Jr. John Pelphrey is now a University of Florida assistant coach. When he calls now, it’s to check up on Monk as well as his younger brother Malik.

The Monks near their northeast Arkansas home.

The Monks near their northeast Arkansas home. Courtesy Marcus Monk

Malik Monk, a 16-year old junior at Bentonville High School, is one of the nation’s most highly recruited basketball players. Almost every major program, including Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina and Indiana, has offered him a scholarship. Pelphrey, who met Malik when he was a boy tagging behind Marcus Monk at Bud Walton Arena, now recruits him.

The bigger star Malik becomes, the more Marcus is known as Malik’s older brother as opposed to Marcus’ younger brother. This kind of perception change doesn’t disorient Marcus in the least. In his eyes, his role is crystal clear: Help protect Malik’s time, ensure he maintains his grades, allow him to be as much of a kid as possible. This means it’s often Marcus, or his mother, who take calls from college coaches and media on behalf of Malik.

While Marcus is a Razorback in so many ways, he doesn’t intend to sway Malik toward his own alma mater. The Monks monksare weighing which programs best suited to provide Malik both with the start of a good college education as well as what Malik hopes is a one-year preparation for a successful NBA career. Marcus is able to provide Malik – along with Malik’s summer league teammates – with advice borne of his own experience of being a highly recruited student-athlete. “I get a chance to spend time with my brother, but I also have 12 other guys that I’m responsible for and I’m a big brother to them as well.”

Last basketball season, Marcus helped mentor some of the current Razorback basketball players. He was finishing a Master’s of Business Administration degree at the University of Arkansas and volunteer assisted with the team, helping in various ways such as cutting film and devising scouting reports. The experience was valuable for any possible future college coaching. It also allowed him to spend more time with his cousin, Rashad “Ky” Madden, also a Lepanto, Ark. native.

Madden, a senior guard, is the team’s leading scorer and its most experienced player. Between Malik and Marcus in age, he is essentially like a middle brother. All three frequently talk with each other. “That’s like my little brother,” Marcus says of Madden. “I love him. I’ve been knowing him a long, long time. We’re from the same place, the same neighborhood … It’s more personal between me and Ky.”

Just as Malik prepares for a transition into the world of college basketball, and Ky prepares for a potential pro basketball career, Marcus too finds himself at a crossroads. In May, he graduated with an MBA and stays connected to his classmates for potential job leads. He spent much of this summer on the road with Malik and his summer travel team, and in September was working on the launch of his brother’s Web site. He says he doesn’t yet know if he will stay in northwest Arkansas for the next year or two, although he does want to be around Malik as he finishes high school.

Some see Marcus settling into a full-time job in northwest Arkansas as a sign that Malik would be a Razorback. Marcus says just as he and Malik haven’t yet settled on an eventual college destination, nor has he decided what career path he’ll venture down next.

“I’m in a transition stage,” he says. Whether a job in training, coaching, business or something else, “if something appears that is hard for me to turn down, then I definitely have to consider it.” But, he adds, “as far as priorities, my family is first come.”

Marcus Monk is no longer the spectacular receiver who seemingly could catch anything thrown his way. Instead, these days, Marcus Monk the giver pursues something much higher.

The above article originally published in the October/November issue of 2njoy magazine.

LeBron James Enters Savior 2.0 Era

Like Dr. J, Bird, Magic and Jordan before him, there is a timeless quality to LeBron James’ game. Future stars will be bigger, stronger and quicker, but we won’t again see his specific combo of skills, flow and panache.

There is also a timelessness in his life story, a tale of hardship, perseverance and camaraderie which seems to stay fresh no matter how many times it’s retold. With every twist of his career, each rendition gains an extra layer of meaning. The latest example, a 30-minute TV show, premiered Sunday night on Disney X D. It highlights the joyous reception James received from his hometown community of Akron, Ohio as he enters a Savior 2.0 Era leading the nearby Cavaliers from conference bottom dwellers to championship contender.

The show, the first in a series named “Becoming” about the lives of popular athletes, spotlights the neighborhoods in which LeBron grew up and his alma mater of St. Vincent – St. Mary High School. Much of the material will be familiar to LeBron fans – the hard-knock beginnings in a single-parent home, early dominance on the AAU circuit and finding lifelong friends there who would form the nucleus of one of the greatest prep basketball dynasties ever.

While the themes are familiar, it appears this is the first time some of the footage shown from James’ elementary and middle school days has been made public. It helps the video was co-produced by ESPN Films and James’ own Springhill Production Company, which has an office in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. “Becoming” is meant to appeal to younger viewers, but this show’s sharp production quality and rare footage make it worth any NBA fans’ while.

While this episode – which premieres on ESPN November 7 – is the latest LeBron bio, there have been a handful of accounts which involved direct access to James and his inner circle.

Each one offers something new – fragments of anecdotal gold not found in the others that are worth recalling as James and the Cavaliers start the 2014-15 season as the feel-good story of the year. Here are some of the most interesting:

Book: The Rise of a Star: LeBron James

Author: David Lee Morgan, Jr.

Publication Date: 2003

###

One reason James became so good, so fast, was that a former Division I head coach pushed him early on. Keith Dambrot, former coach at Central Michigan, was James’ high school head coach during his freshman and sophomore years.

Less known is that a woman coached James during his freshman season. Amy Sherry, a two-time MAC Player of the Year from Kent State, was one of two paid assistant coaches on Dambrot’s staff. It has taken 15 years, but the NBA is now following suit. In August, the San Antonio Spurs hired Becky Hammon as the league’s first full-time female assistant coach.

###

It seemed everyone wanted a piece of LeBron his senior year. He got calls seeking his presence from the likes of The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show , Good Morning America and Live with Regis & Kelly. A packed schedule meant LeBron often had to say “no.”

Comedian Martin Lawrence sought more than just a guest spot, according to Morgan, Jr., then an Akron Beacon Journal reporter. Lawrence’s production company called about a movie Universal Studios would finance. Although LeBron hadn’t yet announced he was skipping college, Lawrence’s movie would star him as a baller going directly into the NBA from high school. “Even LeBron laughed about this one.”

###

Pre-NBA LeBron was a beast of historic proportions in both high school and the summer circuits. Among his most impressive feats came after his sophomore season, when he dominated two age groups at Pittsburgh’s prestigious Five-Star Camp.

He excelled in his own age group and the one for rising seniors, playing in both leagues’ All-Star games. “No one has ever played in both before LeBron, no one has done it since, and I doubt if anyone will ever do it again,” said Howard Garfinkel, the camp’s longtime director.

Until that point, Garfinkel had seen about 125 players from his league eventually make the NBA. James was in the mix for best prep player he’d ever seen, but another No. 23 edged him out. “I’m not going to say he’s the best, because I saw Calvin Murphy score 34 points in an All-Star game one night, then have to travel to Allentown, where he scored 62 points in 29 minutes the next night in a major All-Star game. On the next level, you have Wilt Chamberlain and Connie Hawkins.”

Murphy, a 5’9” dynamo who would go on to star for the Houston Rockets in the 1970s, became the first Hall of Famer to wear No. 23 throughout his career.

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Razorbacks’ Latest Baseball Signees Nationally Ranked No. 2

Little Rock native Blake Wiggins bypassed the MLB for a shot to make history with the Hogs. He's off to a good start.

Little Rock native Blake Wiggins bypassed the MLB for a shot to make history with the Hogs. He’s off to a good start.

Chances are the University of Arkansas baseball team’s most recent recruiting class is better than your most recent recruiting class.

Want proof? The class, which consists of 20 players (14 true freshmen and six junior college transfers) has now been nationally ranked at No. 2 by Perfect Game, No. 4 by Baseball America and No. 16 by Collegiate Baseball.

“We held our class together maybe the best since I’ve been here,” head coach Dave Van Horn told the UA Sports Information department. “We have a lot of talent coming in and plenty of returners who can help them gain some experience and they can push each other a little bit.”

Four players in the class were selected in the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and put their pro careers on hold to attend the University of Arkansas and become Razorbacks. Outfielder Luke Bonfield (Skillman, N.J.) was selected in the 21st round by the New York Mets, first baseman and right-handed pitcher Keaton McKinney (Ankeny, Iowa) was taken in the 28th round by the New York Mets, infielder and catcher Blake Wiggins (Little Rock, Ark.) was a 36th round selection by the Philadelphia Phillies and Nathan Rodriguez (Yorda Linda, Calif.) was taken in the 39th round by the Colorado Rockies.

In addition to the drafted newcomers, Arkansas welcomes outfielder Jack Benninghoff (Overland Park, Kan.), infielder Matt Campbell (Chesapeake, Va.), right-handed pitcher Cannon Chadwick (Paris, Texas), left-handed pitcher Ryan Fant (Texarkana, Texas), infielder Cullen Gassaway (Bedford, Texas), infielder Keith Grieshaber (St. Louis, Mo.), right-handed pitcher Mark Hammel (Cypress, Texas), infielder Max Hogan (Belton, Texas), infielder Rick Nomura (Waipahu, Hawaii), left-handed pitcher Kyle Pate (Fayetteville, Ark.), right-handed pitcher Jonah Patten (Indianapolis, Ind.), catcher Tucker Pennell (Georgetown, Texas), left-handed pitcher Sean Reardon (Smithville, Mo.), infielder Kevin Silky (Dublin, Calif.), outfielder Darien Simms (Spring, Texas) and catcher/first baseman Chad Spanberger (Granite City, Ill.).

The Razorbacks are one of just seven teams in the country to advance to each of the last 13 NCAA Tournaments as they look to make it 14 straight during the 2015 season. Arkansas has appeared in seven College World Series, five Super Regionals and 27 NCAA Tournaments in program history.

Arkansas opens the season at home on Feb. 13 against North Dakota, one of 35 games at Baum Stadium during the 2015 season. The Razorbacks will play 22 games against 2014 NCAA Tournament teams, including eight opponents that appeared in NCAA Regional finals in 2014, three that played in NCAA Super Regionals and two that advanced to the College World Series.

The above is a modified press release from the UA.


Bo Pelini on ESPN and SEC: “I don’t think that kind of relationship is good for college football”

Evin Demirel:

Nebraska’s head coach was asked about the strength of the SEC West, which has an unprecedented four teams in the Top 5 this week. “It’s hard to say because you just don’t see, unfortunately, in this day and age, a lot of crossovers,” he said. “So you don’t get a lot to make that decision on, to be able to compare and contrast.”

Apparently, Pelini forgot the four games below – all from this season. The SEC West is 4-0 against teams from the Big 10, ACC, Big 12 and Pac 12. Two of the vanquished have proven to be especially good – Big 12 leading Kansas State (which beat Oklahoma) and West Virginia (which beat Baylor) squads.

Alabama 33 West Virginia 23

LSU 28 Wisconsin 24

Arkansas 49 Texas Tech 28

Auburn 20 Kansas State 14

Originally posted on The Big Lead:

Image (1) Bo-Pelini-Nebraska.jpg for post 241347

ESPN is the major media outlet covering college football. With the SEC Network, ESPN has a clear vested interest in the SEC being perceived as the superior conference. Bo Pelini, coach of a 5-1 team outside the SEC, is not a fan of that partnership.

From his press conference.

“I don’t think that kind of relationship is good for college football. That’s just my opinion. Anytime you have a relationship with somebody, you have a partnership, you are supposed to be neutral. It’s pretty hard to stay neutral in that situation.”

To be fair, ESPN also has a clear financial interest in the ACC, the Big 12, the Pac 12 and the Big Ten being perceived as awesome (or at least notable) too. The WWL has regular season deals with those conferences, not to mention the playoff and miscellaneous bowl games to promote.

We’ll see what happens should the…

View original 56 more words


Matt Stinchcomb: Arkansas’ 2014 Offense is a Gridiron “Valhalla”

References to Norse mythology’s Great Hall of the Slain, Residence of the Supreme God Odin, do not every day percolate the chatter of the Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly afternoon radio show based in Northwest Arkansas.

But not every day does Matt Stinchcomb, a former All-American tackle at Georgia who analyzes college football for the SEC Network, chime in with Bo about the way Arkansas’ offense is grounded in its historically massive offensive line.

“That offense is like Valhalla,” Stinchcomb told Bo earlier this week. “When we all get off this mortal coil, anybody who was ever unathletic enough to have [had to play] offensive line, that’s what we would spend eternity doing – is just running double-team blocks and just cramming tailbacks down a defense’s throat. It’s an incredibly explosive offense.”

Stichcomb was speaking to Bo about Saturday afternoon’s Georgia-Arkansas game in Little Rock. “Arkansas, I’m convinced, is a very good team and may better than any team in the SEC East. That’s what I think we’ll find out this Saturday.”


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