A Tearful Ending To Long Season For Razorbacks

FAYETTEVILLE -- SpongeBob Squarepants might have had a difficult time soaking up all the tears which flowed freely Friday in War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

After Arkansas lost 43-14 against No. 14 LSU in front of the CBS eye and 55,829 fans, a lot of tears dripped from saddened faces.

One of the most notable was Arkansas senior reserve quarterback/holder Dowell Loggains, whose eyes were Razorbacks-red once he reached the locker room.

UA wide receiver Steven Harris also was crying.

"We're not used to not going to a bowl," Harris said. "We seniors have been every year."

Consider it an emotional epic.

That was understandable, really. Those seniors poured their hearts out all season to provide yet another trip to a postseason bowl game. A win against LSU would have done it.

"This is a close group," said Razorbacks senior defensive end Jeb Huckeba. "We wanted to go out with a win and get (Arkansas) coach (Houston) Nutt back to a bowl."

Arkansas failed to become bowl eligible for the first time since Nutt signed up to coach the Razorbacks on Dec. 10, 1997.

Nutt's hiring came less than a month -- the exact date was Nov. 28, 1997 -- after the Hogs were beaten 31-21 by LSU, in Baton Rogue, La., in the season finale.

Until Friday, the very last time Arkansas had been beaten in Little Rock was Nov. 15, 1997. That's when Tennessee won 30-22.

Nutt's 17-0 record in Little Rock went snap, crackle and plop on the floor of War Memorial Stadium on Friday in a game many believed was winnable before kickoff.

"We wished we could have helped keep the streak alive," Loggains said. "It's a tough way to finish up, especially for our seniors.

"It hurt."

Perhaps the most wounded player was senior was quarterback Matt Jones. Because of an injured right hamstring, Jones absorbed most of the punishment and mathematically it showed. Jones rushed 11 times for (minus)-10 yards. He was 12 of 29 passing for 152 yards and 2 interceptions and got sacked 3 times.

Really, it was kind of painful to watch.

Jones, who's got enough records to fill a New York City phonebook, never had a chance to demonstrate why he's the SEC's all-time leading rusher among quarterbacks.

Handicapped by that injured hammy slowed him to pedestrian speed.

Still, as he left the field, loyal Razorbacks fans chanted things like, "We love you Matt!" and "Thanks for the memories, Matt!"

And he heard them.

"It was awesome knowing the fans still love you," Jones said. "We've got the greatest fans in the world."

Many of those fans really shouldn't have been surprised with the final arithmetic of this long, unpredictable season (5-6 overall record, 3-5 in the Southeastern Conference) because this was such a young, untested football team.

Many predicted final records as low as 3-8 and as high as 7-4, and all combinations in between. At the end, qualifying for another bowl seemed possible.

Until Friday.

Realistically, from the dog days of August until the whistles of October -- Arkansas was 0-3 in that month -- Razorbacks fans should have seen this coming. This was a young and talented group suffering from a season's worth of growing pains which should be cured with more experience.

Sure, it could have been better but it wasn't.

"It's over and there's nothing you can do about it now," Jones said.


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