FAYETTEVILLE - A new start and new uniforms greet the Arkansas Razorbacks this week.
By some social media accounts, the 1-1 Razorbacks’ football world came to an end in the ignominy of the 28-7 loss to TCU on Sept. 9 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
However with an intervening open date week completed, the Razorbacks life springs 0-0 fresh heading into their SEC opener against the Texas A&M Aggies, 2-1, 0-0, at 11 a.m. Saturday on ESPN from the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“Huge!” Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said Monday of the start fresh psyche opening league play after an obvious disappointment. “You are defined in life more by your reaction to adversity than you are by success and I know these guys have worked very hard to get to where they are. It (losing 21 to TCU after trailing only 14-7 until under 3:00) hurt a lot. Especially when you watch the film. That's why we watched it twice. I want them to realize how close they are.”
Coach Kevin Sumlin and his Aggies, reeling from losing a 44-14 lead in a 45-44 season-opening loss at UCLA, then struggling to defeat lower division Nicholls State, 24-14 and last Saturday trailing Louisiana-Lafayette 21-14 at half before running away with a 24-0 second half and 45-21 victory, also start SEC fresh.
“A&M is a good football team,” Bielema, noting he’s 0-4 against the Aggies and the Hogs 0-5 total against the Aggies since A&M joined the SEC in 2012. “I know that obviously the first game (at UCLA) drew a lot of attention But the team we're facing is the same one since I've been here the last four years. Obviously one of two teams in the West (reigning SEC champion Alabama is the other) we haven't been able to capture since I've been here. Had some close games in Jerry’s World (the Dallas Cowboys’ built by Cowboys owner and former Razorback Jerry Jones.
In honor of Jones, an offensive guard on the Frank Broyles coached 1964 national champion Razorbacks and as Cowboys owner inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Razorbacks are wearing, though in their own Razorback red, replicated Dallas Cowboys uniforms for Saturday’s game.
“I was fully in support of it,” Bielema said. “Then to hear the (wholeheartedly positive) reaction from the Jones family has been very, very positive. The kids saw the uniforms for the first time and really enjoyed it. Tohonor Jerry Jones is another great reason to be a part of that celebration this year with him in the Hall of Fame.
Bielema said the Razorbacks, off Monday, practiced in the Sunday in the new uniforms to see if they all fit. They’ve since been washed and put away until Saturday.
The Razorbacks are back to normal practice gear for their game-week workouts today through Thursday.
Barring a change from practices this week, sophomore letterman kickoff man Connor Limpert of Allen, Texas will be Arkansas’ place-kicker Saturday in Arlington.
Junior Cole Hedlund, the highly recruited kicker out of Argyle, Texas, twice lost the starting place-kicking job that he had opening the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
He lost it again Sept. 9 after missing 23 and 20-yard field goal attempts following the Hogs twice failing to score touchdowns in first quarter and third quarter goal-line situations against TCU.
Limpert and fellow walk-on Blake Mazza of Plano, Texas, compete for the job that Hedlund doesn’t have this week.
Limpert leads Mazza on experience.
“You know right now that's how it would lie out,” Bielema said. “But we still have Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, obviously and then Thursday to see exactly where they are. Him (Limpert) and Mazza were almost a dead heat. The thing Limpert has is he's kicked in a live-game situation. So based on where we're at next Saturday that'll be the deciding factor.”
Whether left-footed Limpert or right-footed Mazza place-kicking, senior snapper Robert Decker of Greenwich, Ct. will continue snapping and junior holder/backup safety Reid Miller of Hollidaysburg, Pa. will continue holding, Bielema said.