Razorbacks Looking To Halt Trend

FAYETTEVILLE -- His eyebrows furrowed, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt shook his head when informed of the trend. Mike Marksuon, the Razorbacks' offensive line coach, had a similar reaction.

Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs started laughing.

"That's true?" Luigs said, chuckling.

Sure is. To the surprise of the Arkansas football team, the continuance or end of an interesting streak will take place after the Razorbacks' home game Saturday against Kentucky.

In each of Nutt's nine seasons at Arkansas, the Razorbacks have lost the next Southeastern Conference game played after their first conference loss. The trend could be a sign of disturbing reactions to initial SEC defeats under Nutt. Or it could be mere coincidence.

Luigs doesn't care one way or the other.

"I wasn't aware of that," Luigs said. "But that's why we're out here practicing so hard -- to put an end to that trend. You never want losses to snowball like they did (in the past)."

The trend continued last season when Arkansas followed its loss to LSU with a defeat to No. 4 Florida in the SEC title game. Other losses in the streak have come against tough opponents.

The Razorbacks lost at 10-win Alabama in 2005. They fell at No. 4 Auburn in 2004. They dropped a six-overtime thriller at No. 10 Tennessee in 2002.

Some defeats, however, weren't against top-notch competition. Arkansas lost at home to unranked Florida, during thie lowest point of the Ron Zook era, in 2003. The Hogs got blown out by a mediocre Alabama team in Tuscaloosa in 2001. They lost at unranked South Carolina in 2000, to former Razorback coach Lou Holtz.

And upsets, as a ranked team, started this trend. Ranked ninth, Arkansas was upset in the final seconds at Mississippi State in 1998. Ranked 20th, the Razorbacks were upset at Kentucky in 1999.

Saturday's game with Kentucky falls right in the middle of those two categories. The Wildcats are immensely talented at some positions. Quarterback Andre Woodson should be a first-round draft pick. After beating No. 9 Louisville on Saturday, Kentucky even cracked the top 25 in both major polls this week for the first time since 1984.

Kentucky (3-0) is not elite, not like the top-10 squads Arkansas faced in some years, but Markuson stressed that no team can be taken lightly in the current-day SEC.

"People beat each other up in this conference," Markuson said. "Anybody can go down on any Saturday."

Four times, the trend nearly ended. The four closest calls came:

* In 1998, when Arkansas lost 22-21 at Mississippi State on Nov. 21. After Clint Stoerner was sacked twice as Arkansas tried to run the clock out, the Bulldogs booted a game-winning field goal with seven seconds left. The ninth-ranked Razorbacks had been undefeated in Nutt's first season but lost by four points at Tennessee the week before.

* In 2002, when Arkansas lost 41-38 at Tennessee on Oct. 5. A week after losing 30-12 at home to Alabama, the Razorbacks scared the 10th-ranked Volunteers in a 41-38 loss in Knoxville. Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen nailed tight end Jason Witten for a 25-yard touchdown pass in the sixth overtime, ending the third-longest game in NCAA history.

* In 2003, when Arkansas lost 33-28 to Florida on Oct. 18 in Fayetteville. The 11th-ranked Razorbacks scored 21 points in the game's last seven minutes on three touchdown passes by Matt   Jones. But they couldn't fight all the way back from a 26-point deficit. The Hogs started a three-game SEC losing streak the previous week with a 10-3 home loss to Auburn.

* In 2006, when Arkansas lost 38-28 to Florida in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 2 in Atlanta. Reggie Fish's muffed punt early in the fourth quarter, which resulted in a Florida touchdown, swung the game's momentum. The eighth-ranked Hogs had finished SEC regular-season play seven days earlier with their first conference loss of the season, a 31-26 defeat to LSU in Little Rock.

Markuson remembers every one of them. Markuson, who has been at Arkansas as long as Nutt, can recall the team's awful mindset entering the game that began the trend.

"We were still really hungover from Tennessee," Markuson said. "We were boo-hooing about Tennessee the week before, and we went down to Starkville, and our minds weren't right."

He stressed that he didn't see the same reaction in the past few days. Markuson saw the long faces on Sunday. He heard the griping. He witnessed the anger. He subsequently thinks the Hogs have put the Alabama loss behind them.

So does Nutt, who evidently doesn't want to hear about this trend next season.

"I'm not worried about that," Nutt said. "It's brand-new news to me. I've never known that stat. I hate that I even heard it. But you know what, now that I have, we're going to break it."

Loss Trend

In each of Houston Nutt's nine seasons at Arkansas, the Razorbacks have lost the next Southeastern Conference game played after their first conference loss.

Year First SEC Loss (Date) Next SEC Game (Date)

2006 LSU, 26-31 (Nov. 24) vs. Florida, 28-38* (Dec. 2)

2005 Vanderbilt, 24-28 (Sept. 10) at Alabama, 13-24 (Sept. 24)

2004 at Florida, 30-45 (Oct. 2) at Auburn, 20-38 (Oct. 16)

2003 Auburn, 3-10 (Oct. 11) Florida, 28-33 (Oct. 18)

2002 Alabama, 12-30 (Sept. 28) at Tennessee, 38-41 (Oct. 5)

2001 Tennessee, 3-13 (Sept. 8) at Alabama, 10-31 (Sept. 22)

2000 Georgia, 7-38 (Sept. 30) at South Carolina, 7-27 (Oct. 14)

1999 at Alabama, 28-35 (Sept. 25) at Kentucky, 20-31 (Oct. 2)

1998 at Tennessee, 24-28 (Nov. 14) at Mississippi State, 21-22 (Nov. 21)

* SEC Championship Game

Hawgs Daily Top Stories