Temple Of Doom

DALLAS — This is not what the Razorbacks had in mind when they accepted a bid to play in the Cotton Bowl.

Over the past few weeks, Arkansas' coaches and players had talked at length about wanting to give retiring athletic director Frank Broyles a proper send-off.

They spoke about wanting to win one for Arkansas interim coach Reggie Herring and the need to end a rough 2007 season on a high note. None of that happened, though.

It was much worse.

The week leading up to Tuesday's Cotton Bowl was filled with questions about Darren McFadden's eligibility, and the trip ended with an ugly 38-7 loss to No. 7 Missouri that left Herring feeling embarrassed.

"It's frustrating," Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs said. "It's a sick feeling knowing that there are going to be a lot of familiar faces gone next year, and the fact that we went out losing this way, it doesn't sit good on your stomach."

Tuesday proved to be one of the lower moments in Arkansas' history.

The No. 25 Razorbacks (8-5) did just about everything they could do wrong in front of a sellout crowd of 73,114 in the historic Cotton Bowl.

They committed a season-worst five turnovers, including four fumbles and an interception was returned for a touchdown. They stopped themselves early on by calling a timeout during their own successful fake punt.

And they made Missouri running back Tony Temple look like McFadden while rushing for a Cotton Bowl-record 281 yards and four touchdowns.

"We were not crisp tacklers, we weren't very aggressive, we just weren't ourselves," Herring said. "I guess I have to take the blame because I am the defensive coach, and for some reason, we just weren't on snuff as far as tackling and whatnot."

Frankly, it didn't matter that Arkansas' defense held Missouri quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Chase Daniel to a season-low 136 yards passing with no touchdowns.

While the Razorbacks prepared over the past month to stop the Tigers' big-play passing game, they had no answers for slowing down Temple. Missouri outgained Arkansas 323-164 on the ground and racked up 459 yards of total offense.

"They're not the Green Bay Packers, but they are a good football team," Arkansas interim defensive coordinator Louis Campbell said of Missouri. "By the same token, I don't think we could have beaten Woodland Junior High playing the way we played. So somewhere between the two lies the truth."

Arkansas' players came out dressed in all red uniforms in honor of Broyles, who officially stepped down as the school's longtime athletic director on Monday. But it might be awhile before they go with the color scheme again.

Tuesday marked the second-worst bowl loss in Arkansas history, only behind a 42-8 defeat to Oklahoma in the 1987 Orange Bowl.

It was not how McFadden, who was held to only 105 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries, wanted to perhaps end his decorated collegiate career.

And it certainly wasn't how the Hogs wanted to end a season that had been filled with plenty of drama and eventually the resignation of former coach Houston Nutt.

"The bottom line, it just adds to more frustration and more disappointment because you let Coach Broyles down, you let Coach Nutt down, you let the people of Arkansas down, you let yourself down when you go out there and play like that," Campbell said. "And that's certainly not any fun."

The loss was so befuddling that it left Herring quoting both Dr. Seuss and Abbot and Costello during his postgame news conference.

The Razorbacks had costly mistakes in all phases of the game, including a pair of missed short field goals from the usually reliable Alex Tejada.

Arkansas' fans sat in silence after Missouri jumped out to a 28-0 lead after free safety William Moore stepped in front of a tipped pass intended for Peyton Hillis and returned the interception 26 yards for a touchdown with 7 minutes, 37 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

The fans started heading for the exit soon afterward, and by the time Temple scored his final touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, most of the fans in the Arkansas section had left the stadium.

Even when the Razorbacks broke a big play, it was usually followed by a fumble, a penalty or another careless mistake — sometimes on the same play.

"It was very frustrating to move the ball 20, 30 yard down the field, then cough it up like that, especially during clutch situations toward the end of the game," Hillis said. "We had our chances to come back and take the lead, and we didn't do it."

Early in the third quarter, Jones caught a screen pass and started running upfield. He had plenty of open space in front of him, but as he passed midfield, he had the ball stripped out of his hands.

The fumble negated a 41-yard gain that came at a time when Arkansas' offense couldn't get much going.

And it couldn't get much worse.


Why Missouri won:

Running back Tony Temple ran through gaping holes in Arkansas' defense, setting a Cotton Bowl record with 281 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

Why Arkansas lost: The Razorbacks' offense struggled to put points on the board. Two missed field goals and five turnovers resulted in one of Arkansas' worst offensive performances of the season.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories