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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Bowl win caps good week for Hogs, their fans

by Wally Hall | January 4, 2022 at 2:32 a.m.

They came by motor homes, cars, planes and maybe even trains.

Arkansas Razorback fans ended their five-year bowl drought heartily.

A safe estimate was 20,000 found tickets to be there. They were a loud crowd, although most had to be thinking Arkansas had opted out of the Outback Bowl and Vanderbilt had opted in for those first 30 minutes.

The Razorbacks were out of sync, and it took the first two quarters and halftime for them to get back to the basics and run the ball down Penn State's throat.

The Hogs ran left, they ran right and they ran up the middle.

By the time the game ended they had run 58 times for 361 yards.

All total, four players had more than 60 yards rushing led by KJ Jefferson's 110. Add 90 throwing and he was the clear cut MVP, a trophy that was his goal going into the game.

In years to come, no one will look back at that game and talk about the slow start, the 24-10 score will be enough.

It appears the only people who knew what was wrong were the coaches and they adjusted at the half.

Yes, Penn State had six starters opt out, but Arkansas lost one of the greatest receivers in school history in Treylon Burks.

Part of what happened in the first half might have been that Jefferson missed his top receiver too much.

Arkansas was also without Tre Williams who led the team in sacks with six, which he might have doubled against the Nittany Lions.

So Arkansas was without huge parts of its team, too.

Some teams took players to bowl games who opted not to play.

For Sam Pittman once you opt out you are still a former Razorback, but not a current one. He appreciates all they gave and wishes them luck, but opt-outs could also be a distraction.

As for those who did make the trip to Tampa, they had a great time. Everything a bowl is supposed to be.

They had bowling, beaches and Busch Gardens in four days.

They got $400 Amazon gift cards and tons of new Razorback gear to wear when away from the game.

Opt-outs were not the only thing going on with Penn State. For whatever reason, the school's athletic director, Sandy Barbour, had a news conference in Tampa.

According to some who attended, she said a lot without saying anything.

The Nittany Lions are 11-11 the last two seasons and the fans are a little restless, but head coach James Franklin has a $12 million buyout that drops to $8 million next year and $6 million the year after.

Most likely he's safe for at least a year.

The players were not distracted, and Franklin seemed to be hitting on all cyclinders as well.

The difference in the game was execution, at least in the second half.

Arkansas dominated the second half and could have run the score up with a late touchdown, but Pittman is not that type of coach.

When the game ended, Pittman stood on the podium and announced that they'd had so much fun they'd like to do it again real soon.

That got a huge smile from the Outback folks who had never really considered inviting the Razorbacks before because it is such a long way from Arkansas.

The drive from Little Rock to Tampa was almost 1,000 miles and took 14 1/2 hours.

Judging from the number of cars with Arkansas license plates that were driving north on Interstate 75 on Saturday afternoon and evening a whole bunch of folks drove.

It was a long drive that a few times came to a standstill for no reason, like outside of Ocala, Fla., going and coming.

It had to be worth every minute for the fans to see Arkansas win its first bowl game since the 2016 Liberty Bowl. They came for the game and howled the Hogs home.

Print Headline: Bowl win caps good week for Hogs, their fans


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