Razorback Stadium. (Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, November 22, 2012 8:29 PM
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A fair ration of LSU’s younger lads weren’t even born the last time the Tigers played here on Arkansas’ actual campus, so it’s hard to put it on them.
Not that anybody would recognize this place from back then anyway.
Northwest Arkansas is a boom area these days. It’s almost like Orlando without the traffic snarl and theme parks.
Drive through the area north of quaint little Fayetteville and you see rows of high-rise hotels and all the familiar chain restaurants — for no apparent reason, except to lap up the expense accounts of all the hopeful executives who must visit here to pay homage to Wal-Mart world headquarters just down the road a piece.
It was still nothing but out in the sticks and Ozark hills and hollers the last time LSU played football here.
Some ancient state law requires the Razorbacks to play two games a year in Little Rock, one of them a conference game, even though War Memorial Stadium is basically a cozy, little outdated dump.
But it always made sense to choose the LSU game since school was out for the holidays anyway.
Never mind that, with Arkansas’ largest shopping mall fairly near the stadium, it made for some interesting traffic patterns having a football game compete bumper-to-bumper with Black Friday.
But that’s not why today’s game is here on campus again.
A year ago when the two awkward rivals met in Baton Rouge, they were ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the BCS rankings, which certainly did spice things up more than a contrived trophy for the game. LSU won 41-17, with much Honey Badger input.
A guess is that Arkansas, with star quarterback Tyler Wilson coming back, figured there was no reason that something similar wouldn’t be at stake this year, so why not have such a showcase game in Reynolds Razorback Stadium, which has 25,000 more seats and many more of college football’s creature comforts.
That part hasn’t worked out so well.
LSU is pretty much OK, 9-2 and just on the outside edge of the national title picture, right there on the verge of at least being able to figure out some pipe-dream mathematical possibilities.
Arkansas, which began the season with similar aspirations, is 4-7 and one the season’s more spectacular, flaming flops, with a new coaching search (pipe dreams of Jon Gruden) presumably well beyond the hand-holding stage to replace what was already an interim leader in quirky John L. Smith.
So, frankly, I’m not sure what LSU’s incentive is here.
What is LSU’s Les Miles going to say to say to energize his troops beforehand?
“Hey, guys, (expletive) Auburn might (expletive) beat Alabama tomorrow and get us in the (expletive) SEC Championship game!”
The Tigers are way smarter than that.
The promise of a kiss on the mouth — by a girl?
No, the best Miles may be able to come up with is to right a long-ago embarrassment that has been out there for 20 years, actually long forgotten by LSU’s last decade of regular championships.
But anybody who was here in 1992 won’t forget it.
It came to be known as LSU’s “Rock Bottom Game.”
It was worse than that.
LSU was in the second year of the ill-advised but often comical Curley Hallman Experiment.
Arkansas was in its first year as a card-carrying member of the SEC and wasn’t doing much better — 2-7-1, with a loss to The Citadel that already had the Hogs grumbling along with an interim head coach.
LSU went into the game on a one-game winning streak, but it was just Tulane, and the Tigers were 2-8 going in.
No bowl reps were on hand.
The Boot had not yet been invented.
At the time, Razorback Stadium wasn’t much more state-of-the-art than War Memorial, if at all.
But it sure held the cold very efficiently.
It was in the mid-teens, and I don’t know what the wind chill was, but it was a bunch, and it wasn’t even the worst thing.
The worst thing was that, even in the semi-protected press box, it was that bitterly painful, biting damp cold that snickered at however many layers of clothing you had on and just cut straight to the bone.
It know it was the absolute coldest I have ever been in my life — it did actually hurt — and a January in Minneapolis wasn’t even close.
I don’t remember much about the game.
I just remember the flamed-up heat blower LSU had on its sideline, and the Tigers seemed far more interested in staying close to it than playing any football. It brought to mind Depression-era hobos huddled around burning trash cans in Hoovervilles.
It’s a wonder they didn’t all burn up and they seemed to hold little remorse for the way a really bad Arkansas team whipped them 30-6 without LSU putting up much of a fuss in getting a 2-9 season over with.
Why any LSU fan would stick around to such a bitter end defies the imagination, but at least one did, evidently just so he could station himself above the Tigers’ exit tunnel and wait on Hallman to pass by.
“Rock Bottom, Curley!” he yelled. “We’ve hit rock bottom!” and the game had its name in LSU lore.
Now the Tigers return to the scene of the debacle.
So maybe the Tigers today can atone for what really may have been the low point in its football history.
The forecast, by the way, calls for temperatures in the 50s.
I’ll believe that when I see it.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org