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Arkansas’ Motivation Should Be Razor-Sharp

Times Staff Writer

So you’re an underdog opening your football season at home against a national championship contender that beat you by 53 points the last time you played and you’re desperate for inspiration?

Turn back the clock far enough and you’re certain to find some.

For Arkansas, which plays host to USC on Saturday, that means going back to 1974, when a highly ranked Trojans team went to Little Rock to open its season and lost, 22-7.

“The atmosphere in Little Rock that day was as good as it gets,” Gerald Skinner, an offensive lineman on that Razorbacks team, told the Associated Press. “The fans were into it from the very beginning of the game to the very end. Things went our way early and the momentum just swung our way for the rest of the game.”

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That USC team, led by running back Anthony Davis and Pat Haden, was coming off a loss in the Rose Bowl, same as this one, and was two years removed from a national title, same as this one.

And if that isn’t enough fodder for the 2006 Razorbacks, how about this? In 1973, USC scored 17 points in a 17-0 victory over Arkansas; in 2005, Arkansas scored 17 points in a 70-17 loss to USC.

Eerie.

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Trivia time: Who served as a ball boy for the 1974 Arkansas football team?

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Thriller: Russian mafia agents? Exploding hips? Collapsing walls?

What sound like outtakes from a new James Bond movie are, in fact, excerpts from the media guide distributed to journalists covering the FIBA world basketball championship in Saitama, Japan.

Excerpt: Nigeria center Olumide Oyedeji had “a tough year in Moscow at 16 where he was kind of kidnapped by agent close to the Russian mafia.” Comment: “Kind of” kidnapped?

Excerpt: Serbia and Montenegro guard Marko Marinovic “exploded in 2004-05" and his rapid athletic upswing was “abruptly halted by a serious hip injury.” Comment: Exploding hips can do that to a player.

Excerpt: Turkey guard Ender Arsian “changes directions so easily that his crossover can make a brick wall fall flat on its back.” Comment: Guide says nothing about Turkish bricks damaging backboards in Saitama.

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Riding the King: The media guide also served as bulletin board material for Team USA, featuring this passage about LeBron James’ performance at the 2004 Summer Olympics: “James was a caricature of himself. Running and banging without much anticipation.”

Point, counterpoint? With James shooting better than 50% from the field, Team USA is 7-0 in Japan, having clinched a berth in the semifinals with Wednesday’s 85-65 victory over Germany.

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Trivia answer: Houston Nutt, Arkansas’ current football coach.

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And finally: This season, Arkansas plays three of the top eight teams in the Associated Press preseason rankings -- No. 6 USC on Saturday, No. 4 Auburn on Oct. 7 and No. 8 Louisiana State on Nov. 24.

“I’ve grown numb to it,” Nutt told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “The SEC alone does that to you.”


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