Hogs Accept Cotton Bowl Invite

FAYETTEVILLE — Houston Nutt spent a portion of his final news conference as Arkansas' football coach lobbying for an invite to the Cotton Bowl.

After Nutt resigned last Monday, interim coach Reggie Herring took over the campaigning to get the Razorbacks a trip to Dallas for the New Year.

Apparently, the message got through, even if it came from two very different voices during a particularly uncertain time for the Razorbacks.

No. 25 Arkansas (8-4), ranked for the first time since the second week of the season, accepted an invite Sunday to face No. 7 Missouri (11-2) in the Cotton Bowl.

The game, scheduled for 10:40 a.m. Jan. 1, will continue Arkansas' long-standing tradition of playing in Dallas. That's exactly what Herring — and Nutt before him — wanted.

"Our biggest concern in this bowl selection thing was we had our hopes set extremely high for the Cotton (Bowl)," Herring said during a news conference Sunday night to announce the bowl invitation.

"I think now that we know and it's been confirmed, these players will be extremely fired up and ready to play this game."

Arkansas' regular season was filled with plenty of subplots, perhaps more than Nutt, his assistants and his players would have liked. There is no reason why the Cotton Bowl shouldn't be any different.

For starters, the bowl game will showcase two players — Arkansas running back Darren McFadden and Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel — who could be invited to New York City for Saturday's Heisman Trophy ceremony.

McFadden is considered to be in a tight two-man race with Florida's Tim Tebow for the award, while Daniel could accompany them as a finalist.

"I'm not sure there is another bowl matchup out there that has two star players like we will have in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic this year," Cotton Bowl president Rick Baker said.

Meanwhile, Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles will get to enjoy one more trip to the Cotton Bowl before he retires at the end of the year and officially hands over control to incoming athletic director Jeff Long.

Broyles and the Razorbacks have a long tradition of playing in Dallas, dating back to their days in the now-defunct Southwest Conference.

In fact, Broyles clinched his only national championship as Arkansas' coach when the Razorbacks beat Nebraska 10-7 in the 1965 Cotton Bowl.

"I know how special this is to him, how special the Cotton Bowl is to him," Arkansas executive athletic director Bill Gray said of Broyles. "We couldn't have written a script any better."

Not so for Missouri.

The Tigers were ranked No. 1 in the nation heading into this past weekend, but a 38-17 loss to No. 3 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game ended Missouri's national title hopes.

But perhaps the biggest storyline heading into the Cotton Bowl could be the fact that the Razorbacks are without a permanent head coach.

Nutt turned in his resignation last Monday and quickly turned around and accepted the head coaching job at Ole Miss.

Five assistant coaches, who will be helping Arkansas get ready for the bowl game, have already agreed to join Nutt's staff at Ole Miss. It's a touchy situation.

Herring said the Cotton Bowl invite came as a bright spot in a time "transition" and uncertainty.

"It was imperative that we receive a quality bowl to generate the intensity and the concentration of the players," Herring said. "I can rest now and know that we'll have their full attention."

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