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Plenty to play for

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Arkansas Razorbacks made an enormous deal about trophy video games in 2021.

More particularly, coach Sam Pittman positioned a variety of emphasis on successful trophies final 12 months, particularly because the University of Arkansas received the Southwest Classic, Golden Boot, Battle Line and Outback Bowl trophies, in that order, whereas going to a 9-4 -season stormed.

There is an image of Pittman in a go well with and seated on a throne surrounded by these trophies and Larry the bowling ball on the within again cowl of the UA Media Guide.

This season has made a unique story on the trophy entrance. An injury-related and unlucky run by means of the center of the schedule has value the Razorbacks the primary two of these trophies, 5 factors whole in losses to Texas A&M and LSU.

Larry the bowling ball confirmed up final week when the Razorbacks (6-5, 3-4 SEC) defeated Ole Miss 42-27 to qualify for the bowl. But all that is left to defend within the common season is the Battle Line Trophy, an eight-year-old creation of entrepreneur and former Razorback David Bazzel, awarded to the winner of the burgeoning rivalry between the Razorbacks and Missouri.

“They’re important, we just don’t have them,” Pittman stated of the Hogs’ trophy haul. “We have this one. They are really important to our football team. I brought the trophy to the team meeting and I didn’t have it. I uploaded a picture of it when we won it last year.”

The comparatively new frontier opponents will begin at 2:30 p.m. at present at Faurot Field, with multiple main trophy at stake.

The Razorbacks are wanting to salvage that one remaining piece of {hardware} of the season, probably transfer up the bowl pecking order and win in Missouri for the primary time in 78 years.

“It’s extremely important,” Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson stated of the sport. “I mean we take it very seriously just being able to try and keep that trophy at home just knowing it’s the last one here.”

Arkansas had robust motivation to qualify for the Bowl final week, beating Ole Miss by leaping 42-6 early within the third quarter. The Tigers might have comparable gas this week.

“I have a feeling they’re going to come out like their hair is on fire,” Jefferson stated. “They will come out and hit us with everything they have.”

Linebacker Drew Sanders, who was named one in every of 5 finalists for the Butkus Award this week, stated the Razorbacks will focus.

“It’s always a big deal to win a rivalry game, especially a trophy game,” Sanders stated. “Ending the regular season with a win would be great for everyone too. Because of how big this rivalry is and how much it means to our team, it would be a great thing to beat these guys.”

The Tigers (5-6, 2-5) need a win to qualify for the Bowl, but third-year coach Eli Drinkwitz said that’s not the team’s focus.

“This week is all about Rivalry Week, Arkansas, the Battle Line Trophy,” said Drinkwitz, an Alma native and Arkansas Tech graduate. “And what happens after that happens. We are just concentrating on winning this trophy.”

Sophomore quarterback Brady Cook is aware of that attaining one aim for the Tigers will lead to one other.

“Obviously we know what happens when we get that trophy,” stated Cook. “So let’s just focus on the trophy. That’s the most important thing: to establish that rivalry and make sure we’re one step ahead of it.”

Arkansas tight end Trey Knox speaks as if the intensity of the rivalry is already on its way.

“We know they’re going to gossip a lot and try to hit us after the whistle with a few hits and stuff, so let’s just stay calm,” Knox said. “Just play our football and don’t let anyone tell you what we’re going to do.”

Missouri has dominated the series against Arkansas despite being only in its 11th season in the SEC. The Tigers lead the all-time series 9-4, and have held a 6-2 lead since joining the SEC.

Arkansas broke a five-game losing streak in the series with a 34-17 win in Fayetteville last year, but the Razorbacks have never won in Columbia, Mo.

“There’s a lot of differences between 7-5 and 6-6 bowl-wise,” Pittman said. “Of course we can get 4-4 in the conference like last year and finish in the top half of the conference like a year ago.

“I think just because it’s our rival game it’s a big deal and we haven’t beaten them there since we joined the SEC. I think there are a lot of things. We didn’t beat them in a row. I think there are a lot of things we have to play for and our kids understand that.”

There are ties between the programs, the strongest of which is Arkansas defense coordinator Barry Odom. Odom, a former Missouri linebacker, was the Tigers’ head coach from 2016 to 2019 before being fired with a 25-25 record after a 24-14 win over the Razorbacks at Little Rock in the 2019 season finale.

He is now Pittman’s right-hand man as the first associate on his staff.

Arkansas might have already clinched a win at Columbia if Odom hadn’t dared in 2016. Trailing 24-14, Odom claimed a fake punt from his own 7-yard line in the third quarter.

The Tigers converted on Anthony Sherrils’ 14-yard run, scored a touchdown on Drew Lock’s 67-yard pass to Johnathan Johnson two plays later, and were on their way to a 28-24 win.

Odom went 4-0 against the Razorbacks and Pittman believes he’s forced to beat his alma mater.

“I think if you put yourself in his shoes and someone lets you go and you feel like you did a good job of what they did, they probably have a little chip on their shoulder,” Pittman said. “I imagine he would do that. And then you go to the other side and they still have kids on the team that he recruited, so you obviously know there’s a great love for those kids that he trained and recruited.”

Current Tiger Tauskie Dove was asked if it would feel odd to face Odom.

“No, not really,” said Dove. “Unless you’re one of those people that’s kind of weird about it. But at the end of the day, it’s just football. It’s nothing personal. Everyone knows football is a business. Every team tries to win.”

Odom has one of many strongest motivations on the sphere. On his first return to the stadium after his layoff, Arkansas took a 48-47 lead on Jefferson’s 14-yard landing move to Mike Woods, adopted by a 2-point conversion move by the identical tandem with 43 seconds remaining.

However, the razorback protection allowed Missouri quarterback Connor Bazelak to transfer the Tigers 60 yards within the ultimate 43 seconds in seven video games to go 50-48 after time was up on Harrison Mevis’ 32-yard discipline aim to win.

Arkansas has held double-digit leads in three of its 4 video games at Columbia because the Tigers joined the convention. The Razorbacks are up 14-3 in 2014, 24-7 in 2016, and 40-26 in 2020.

Pittman was there for the primary and final.

“I remember Game 14 because Brandon Allen … he was injured now going into the game,” stated Pittman, who was the UA offensive line coach on the time. “In fact, at the start of the game we didn’t know if he was going to play.

“He just stuck it out, you know. So he was hurt. I remember it. I think we were halfway, maybe 14 or something. And they came back and they actually won [East division] this year if I’m not mistaken.

“The final time we had been up there we had a lead on them too. Then they got here again and we went to 2 and took the lead and clearly that they had a pleasant experience there on the finish. Rivalry video games, it was supposed to be shut video games for me suppose we’re two fairly even groups.

“It looks like the outcomes had been the identical up there. But I believe our children shall be prepared. I’m certain Missouri shall be due to bowl eligibility.”

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