FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas faces a two-time defending conference champion this Saturday at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Ark.
The Hogs’ opponent at 11 a.m. CT has won at least nine games the past two seasons and even has a victory at War Memorial more recently than Arkansas.
“Alcorn State is obviously a very successful team the last two years,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. “Winning titles and everything that they’ve done.”
Yes, mighty Alcorn State (1-2) is what looms for Arkansas (3-1, 0-1 in SEC). The FCS school from the Southwestern Athletic Conference defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff 61-14 at War Memorial last October, one month after the Razorbacks fell 16-12 to Toledo in the same venue.
Alcorn State is no doubt viewing Saturday as an opportunity to pull a massive upset, especially with the Razorbacks coming of a tough loss to Texas A&M and a matchup with No. 1 Alabama looming a week later.
Arkansas defensive line coach Rory Segrest has recent experience in the position Alcorn State currently finds itself. Segrest was an assistant at Samford, also an FCS program, in 2013 when the Bulldogs led Arkansas heading into the fourth quarter at War Memorial before the Hogs rallied to win, 31-21.
“It’s just like any game you go into,” Segrest said. “You don’t schedule a game you don’t feel like you can at least compete. We came in a couple years ago and obviously it was big. It was an SEC opponent.
“It’s big for them, obviously. Some of them have a chip on their shoulder because they felt like they’re Division I talent or maybe they’re a Division I transfer. So, they’re out to show that they can compete with that caliber of athlete. They are definitely going to give everything they’ve got.”
Further exasperating the concern among Arkansas fans is the Hogs’ recent struggles in their annual Little Rock game. Arkansas has dropped two straight in its home away from home and has become notorious in recent years for playing poorly in the annual game at War Memorial.
The reason behind the run of bad play at War Memorial is inexplicable. The three-and-a-half-hour bus ride and the nearly 18,000 less fans from Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium have been easy explanations. Not many SEC programs, if any, make that long of a trip via bus these days. And sacrificing that many fans for a home game is unheard-of.
“We have to go down there and take care of business,” said wide receivers coach Michael Smith. “Last time we played there, War Memorial was 100 yards long and had two end zones and two goal posts. We just have to take care of our business. The last time we were down there we didn’t take care of our business. There is not a curse on War Memorial. It’s something that we control.”