State of the Hogs: Deep Roots

I'd like a piece of some sacred sod, but I probably waited too late. Old grass has great memories.

The sod cutters were cranking in the background as the media interviewed Bobby Petrino after the Red-White game. A few fans lined up to buy the squares of turf coming from the southwest corner of the grass field in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

I wanted to break away, instruct Pat Berger to cut me a piece from the south end zone.

There was too much work to be done, too many interviews. I never got to Patty to point him to the spot deep in the end zone where Anthony Lucas hauled in that pass to beat Tennessee in 1999. The going rate for squares was $10 and I would have paid it.

What would I have done with it? Plant it in my front yard, nurture it and let that bermuda grass spread throughout the yard. It would be sacred turf.

Well, maybe not, but it would be something like what my mother did in 1964 in Austin, Texas. I have great memories, as do my brothers of that game, the spring board for Arkansas' only national championship.

It wasn't soon after that we moved out of southwest Little Rock, away from 36 Westmont Circle. But before we did, my father thinks he established some bermuda in the front yard, just a few feet away from my bedroom window.

Back to 1964, the Hogs were clinging to the lead when Texas went for two in the closing minutes.

With Jim Finch on a fierce rush, UT quarterback Marv Kristynik tried to hit Hix Green near the goal line on what would have been a winning two-point play. It fell low and short. Several Arkansas fans went to the spot after the game, scooping turf. My mom said she was first on the scene. She tucked away a chunk, complete with roots. She wrapped it in tissue paper and presented it to my father.

It was transplanted in the front yard. It was the first piece of the yard watered by my father each night after dinner. I was 10. It wasn't soon after dinner, that I was sent to bed.

I had the top bunk, above my younger brother in that front bedroom. In those days, there was no air conditioners. The windows were open in the fall evenings and a breeze came through courtesy of the attic fan.

Sometimes, there was conversation through the window. I can still remember the flickering of the his Lucky Strike cigarette -- my father was a three-pack man. I'd ask him if he got the sacred grass good and soaked.

For the second time, the grass will be gone in our stadium. I'd heard Petrino talk of his wish to practice more in the stadium, partly for the improved timing that comes from using your game surface daily. I also know he thinks the stadium setting is more intimate.

By that, I mean it's easier to keep the spies from watching practice during game week. Yes, coaches are more than a little paranoid when it comes to protecting secrets.

I knew an old defensive coach who had a notebook that he didn't let anyone see. Years after he retired, I asked him what the tattered notebook contained. He said he had a name and phone number for every town for every opponent. He could have a report of practice in the enemy camp each night.

Petrino talked about other reasons for installing the newest variety of artificial surface. Why not practice on what you'll play on nine times a year, counting the new stadium in Arlington and twice in Little Rock.

"I'm excited about it," Petrino said. "It's definitely going to help us. It will help us be more precise, help us play better, help us utilize the stadium more."

That turf from Memorial Stadium in Austin was free, but I'm guessing what my mom took that night in 1964 was about a quarter's worth by today's monetary standards. As they say on the TV commercial, the memories are priceless.

The turf comes up at Reynolds Razorback Stadium just after the Red-White game.

Photo by Marc F. Henning

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