Rehire of Petrino, defeat of Duke lifts Hog fans’ spirits

Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino answers a question during media day at the Broyles Center in Fayetteville, Ark., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008. (AP Photo/April L. Brown)

The old joke about how quickly the weather can change in Northwest Arkansas also seems to apply to the fans’ thoughts and feelings about the Arkansas Razorbacks.

The attitude among Hog fans on Monday of this week was about as low as I’ve ever experienced since moving to Fayetteville in the late summer of 1986 for college.

Very little positive was said about the Hogs’ football or basketball teams after thud performances by both during the week of Thanksgiving, and even the truest of Razorback fans were down in the dumps on Monday when it seem the program was lost in the darkest of forests with little hope of finding their way out of the woods.

Frankly last week through much of Monday wasn’t a fun time to be a Razorback fan or supporter.

But, the worm began to turn Tuesday when word that Razorback head football coach Sam Pittman was in the process of hiring ex-Razorback head football coach Bobby Petrino as his next offensive coordinator.

I have to say my first thoughts on the hire was: Why?

Yes, I’ll admit that Petrino the best play-caller I’ve seen on the Razorback sidelines, and though I was very young I remember the final years of Frank Broyles’ tenure as head coach as well as Lou Holtz and Ken Hatfield’s, and I have followed the rest as a reporter and columnist in some form or fashion ever since.

However, the negatives surrounding Petrino were huge. I’ll not bore you by reciting the details of his fateful 2012 April Fool’s Day motorcycle ride near Elkins in which he either wrecked his bike or had his butt kicked by an angry boyfriend.

You know the ins and outs of stories as well as I do. No sense in a blow-by-blow replay.

That whole situation as well as the lies to cover it up cost Petrino his job with the Razorbacks and sent the program into a tailspin it has never fully recovered from more than a decade later.

Putting on my Razorback Red-colored glasses, my hope is that this all works out for the best, and we see the Razorback football program rise again from where it had fallen. Every time the Hogs get off their knees as a football program, it seems like something blindsides it, and it gets further mired in the mud.

While there is a segment of the fanbase upset about Petrino’s return, it seems the majority are ready to get on board. I hope that’s not false hope on their part.

Honestly the word about Petrino was initially hard for me to reconcile, but as Jesus once told a crowd who wanted to stone an adulterous woman, “He that is without sin among you, cast the first stone at her.”

That’s in John 8:7 if you’d like to look it up, but the long and short of it is that no one threw a rock at the woman.

There’s no reason for me to chunk a rock, either.

I’ve certainly been forgiven of much and have no pious ground to stand upon.

However, there is no getting around the fact that this looks like a desperate move by the Razorbacks from the outside and maybe even from the inside.

If this situation pans out for Pittman, Petrino and the Razorbacks, it will make a fabulous redemption story that very few national sports reporters and columnists will snub their noses at writing.

Defeating Duke

Arkansas guard Khalif Battle (0) reacts after hitting a three-point shot against Duke during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

As for Razorback basketball, there’s no way to truly make up for the games the Hogs lost to Memphis and North Carolina last week in the Battle 4 Atlantis, but hanging on to upset the No. 7 Duke Blue Devils, 80-75, Wednesday in Walton Arena was an excellent way to turn the page.

The fact they did it without the services of leading scorer Tramon Mark for the entire game and senior leader Devonte “Devo” Davis out for some of the game with a head injury is truly stunning.

Davis smacked his head on the floor in a scramble for the basketball. He did play some minutes after the injury, but also spent time recovering on the bench.

Next up for the Razorbacks

Opponent: Furman
When: 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4
Where: Fayetteville, Ark.

Next 5 games

Dec. 9 – Oklahoma in Tulsa, 5 p.m. (ESPN2)
Dec. 16 – Lipscomb in Little Rock, 5 p.m. (SEC+)
Dec. 21 – Abilene Christian, 6 p.m. (SEC Network)
Dec. 30 – UNC Wilmington, 6 p.m. (SEC Network)
Jan. 6 – Auburn, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)

It was a huge victory for a talented Razorback squad that had been struggling of late, losing three of their previous four games.

The game was head coach Eric Musselman’s 100th win as a Razorback coach, and the crowd of 20,344 set a new Arkansas basketball attendance record that we may not ever see topped. There is a plan to take seats out of Walton Arena to make room for a premium seating area that will reduce the total seating capacity by several thousand seats.

Fans rushed the court after the victory, and the SEC has already levied a $100,000 fine against the UA. While the PR from the footage of the court storm might be valuable in some form or fashion, it might be a good idea for fans to make this the last time.

While the money to pay the fine comes from a different source, when the UA is lagging in money to provide NIL inducements for players, is it really wise to fritter away $100,000 on a floor rush?

Still, what a great victory for the program in the first ACC/SEC Challenge. Defeating Duke might be just the catalyst for pulling this Razorback squad together.

Several Hogs had standout nights, but it was a solid team effort with each Hog filling their role.

Senior sharp-shooting guard Khalif Battle came off the bench to lead the Hogs in scoring with 21 points, but he also had 5 assists and 5 rebounds. Trevon Brazile picked up another double-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks.

El Ellis packed his stat line with 9 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, bouncing back from a tough showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis, where he did not score in three games. Chandler Lawson scored 7 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and blocked 6 shots.

The Hogs seemed to be finding their roles on defense and filling them after their lackluster play in the Bahamas. That might be the upside from Arkansas’ struggles the last two weeks.

The Razorbacks led Duke by as many as 14 with 8:55 left in the second half, thanks to holding Duke to 35.8 percent shooting from the field and knocking down 49.1 percent of their own shots.

The victory should soothe most of the mental wounds inflicted by Memphis and North Carolina in the Bahamas last week, and give the Hogs confidence as they move forward in their non-conference schedule.

The Razorbacks play host to Furman at 7 p.m. Monday before heading to Tulsa to face Oklahoma at 3 p.m. Saturday in the BOK Center.

Arkansas then takes a break from competition to concentrate on final exams before they return to action against Lipscomb on Dec. 16 at Little Rock at the Jack Stephens Center.