In Arkansas’ first-ever game as an official SEC team, running back ED Jackson had 167 yards in a memorable performance.
In Saturday night’s shootout against Missouri State, current Arkansas running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders had a memorable 167-yard run.
In that game, Jackson had a fumble on the field at a crucial time and point.
On Saturday night, Sanders also had a fumble at a crucial time and point on the field.
In Jackson’s case, despite their best efforts, Arkansas lost to an FCS team.
In Sanders’ case, Arkansas avoided an upset by an FCS school because of their best efforts.
The scenario once played out as the most infamous loss in Razorback history, a loss to The Citadel that prompted a disgruntled Frank Broyles to fire head coach Jack Crowe before NFL afternoon games were over the following Sunday.
The other led to the initial boos that Arkansas coach Sam Pittman had to face, but ended on a positive note and a chance to continue working as an undefeated team towards a showdown with Texas A&M at Cowboys Stadium.
Sanders knew he couldn’t undo a fumble in the first quarter, but what he did was turn the team on its back when things started to get out of hand and turn the tide when his team needed it most needed.
With the game now 20 minutes old and Missouri State on the verge of ending the game with a 17-0 lead, Sanders took over. He hit runs of 27, 15 and 8, giving hope to Razorback fans who spent over a quarter watching Bears quarterback Jason Shelley rip their hearts out and show them Indiana Jones style .
He then fought his way two yards to score a first down at the Missouri State 3-yard line before literally going into the end zone to cut the lead to 17-7.
It was the start of a clear message to the country and all running backs hoping to steal playtime from the 6-2, 227-pound back that’s more like a muzzleloader ball than the rocket its nickname suggests, through the defense plows.
Working harder. This is the world of Rocket Sanders right now.
“I definitely feel like I’m making a statement,” Sanders said. “I feel like I had a lot in this game [missed assignments] and that started in the first quarter. Just trusting my offense and trusting my reads helped me with that.”
With the Hogs still behind in the fourth quarter, Sanders once again seized the opportunity to add momentum to Missouri State. Shelley had just led the Bears on a 10-play drive to the Arkansas 14 that resulted in a field goal to give Missouri State a 27-17 lead.
Petrino could smell blood in the water. He spent most of that ride playing against his natural instincts, calling running plays that messed up the clock and hit the heart of the Razorback defense.
If Arkansas didn’t respond, another Haymaker would put the nation’s No. 10 football team on the mat forever.
“If we just look at their defense, we know they’re charging the box,” Jefferson said. “They were ready for the run, so we knew we could open the passing game and the running game would come after that.”
Luckily for the hogs, Sanders spent a lot of time in the movie room.
He’d learned from his mistake the previous week on a discreet script that sees Sanders run into the line of scrimmage and spin around hoping the defense lost him while Jefferson slipped a shuttle pass that was a sneaky one at best glorified surrender is.
As Sanders shot open through traffic and found the angle needed to stop the lone defender from catching him on the final leg of his 73-yard touchdown run, it was clear Arkansas wasn’t going to lose that game.
“I actually played that against South Carolina and it didn’t work,” Sanders said. “Well it worked, but I didn’t read it the way I was supposed to read it.
“I got chills because I knew I would go far if not for a touchdown. Watching that in South Carolina makes me feel like I could have scored that game and watching that game helped me today.”
Arkansas was now within striking distance at 27-24 and the house was rocking so badly that the press box was literally swaying back and forth.
If Sanders had to put the ball between his teeth so he could toss linemen and tight ends into Missouri State defenders to clear the path to victory, he would. His fumbling wouldn’t join Jackson’s dark annals or Razorback history.
A punt return later, the Razorbacks clung to a 31-27 lead. Pittman once again turned his attention to his fiery running back.
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Sanders for six.
Sanders for seven.
Sanders for 43 and fielded the Hogs at Missouri State’s 5-yard line.
Meanwhile, the clock was melting like a little kid’s ice cream cone in July.
Jefferson finished the drive with two carries, including a one-yard touchdown, to finally slam the door on history.
There would be no infamous fumble for Sanders, just a glitch that had already been forgotten by most Arkansas fans and needs to be fixed before next week.
“I feel like I didn’t make it up to you,” Sanders said. “Yes, I did great tonight but I feel like I have to work on it. We work a lot on ball security, so I think that was one thing [missed assignment] To me. Having my team there for me was a down play for me. Making great plays after that helped me.”
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DID HOGS COACH SAM PITTMAN’S PLAN WORK FOR DOMINIQUE JOHNSON AS HE WANTED?
TEXAS HAS A LOT TO LEARN FROM ALABAMA, ARKANSAS BEFORE IT SEC
BOBBY PETRINO, JASON SHELLEY PERFECT COMBINATION TO CAUSE SATURDAY’S PIGS PROBLEMS AND FANS, BUMPER POOL KNOW IT
PITTMAN DISCUSSES IF DOMINIQUE JOHNSON WILL PLAY SATURDAY
SEC ROUNDUP: DAWGS, VOLS CANCEL ON OU, AUBURN HAS TEMP AD, MANNING CALLS TENNESSEE, JAY-Z PROTEGE EARNS SHOE DEAL AT LSU
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WHAT OFFENSIVE LINEMAN BRADY LATHAM, RUNNING BACK AJ GREEN, SAID AFTER TUESDAY’S PRACTICE
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