LITTLE ROCK The very public embrace of Little Rock by the new regime in University of Arkansas athletics has created a different vibe heading into this year's football game at War Memorial Stadium.
UA officials picked a doozy of a game to showcase in Little Rock, with the high-octane Ole Miss Rebels coming to town. And the SEC Network added a jolt to the matchup by setting a 6:30 p.m. kickoff between the Razorbacks (1-5, 0-3 SEC) and the Rebels (4-2, 0-2), the first SEC Saturday night game for the Razorbacks at War Memorial Stadium since 1999.
UA officials announced a sellout of the 54,120-seat stadium Friday.
"It's going to be lit," Arkansas senior guard Johnny Gibson said. "I know it's going to be crazy."
Arkansas, trying to snap a five-game losing streak under first-year Coach Chad Morris, will face an SEC opponent at War Memorial for the first time since a 45-32 loss to Georgia in 2014.
"I cannot wait to go down to our home stadium at War Memorial there in Little Rock on a Saturday night," Morris said. "We're extremely excited about this. I know we're expecting the atmosphere to be incredible. The tailgating will be outstanding. The weather will be fabulous. But we need you in the stands for kickoff."
The "weather" part Morris mentioned might be subject to the beholder. The forecast calls for a good chance of rain for much of the day in central Arkansas.
The Razorbacks are eager to get back in the win column and to show the fans the gains they've made in the past three weeks of conference play aren't a fluke. A night game in the state capital has them revved up.
"Oh, a night game, there hasn't been a Little Rock [SEC] night game in forever," sixth-year defensive back Kevin Richardson said. "These fans have shown us great support. They know we're progressing and getting where we need to get to. I feel like they're noticing that and the turnout in Little Rock will be great. There'll be people out there tailgating probably all day. I know from growing up and experiencing that as a kid."
Arkansas senior safety Santos Ramirez has forced key fumbles in victories over Ole Miss in each of the past two seasons.
"We're trying to come out there and rock it out," Ramirez said. "We're turning this season around. I feel like these last six games we're very capable of going out and winning, and it starts with this one right here. So we need all the support we can out there, get as loud as they can against those guys. Let's go out there and ball and get a W."
The Razorbacks have beaten Ole Miss by a combined six points in the past three meetings, including back-to-back one-point wins in Oxford, Miss., that have featured some of the most iconic moments in the long-running series.
The Henry Heave, with Alex Collins running 31 yards with a lateral on fourth and 25; Brandon Allen's second-chance two-point conversion; Ramirez's strip and recovery to turn the momentum last year; and Richardson's gift fumble return touchdown are all memorable plays from the past two games at Ole Miss. Ramirez also forced a fumble on Chad Kelly's fourth-down scramble to preserve Arkansas' 34-30 victory at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in 2016.
Tack on a 30-0 wipeout of the No. 8 Rebels in the rain in 2014, which included Rohan Gaines' 100-yard interception return touchdown, and Arkansas has won four in a row in the series.
"It's four?" Richardson asked Tuesday. "It's been the turning point in our season the majority of the times we've played them. If we can go out there and get some momentum in this six-game season Coach Morris has emphasized, it could be a big start for the rest of the season."
Redshirt freshman quarterback Cole Kelley threw for 189 yards and 3 touchdowns and rushed for a 15-yard score for his first victory as the starter in last year's 38-37 Arkansas victory.
"We've had some success on them lately and hopefully we can keep it going," said Kelley, now a sophomore.
"They've all gone down to the wire," junior defensive end McTelvin Agim said.
On the other side of the rivalry, the Rebels are looking to halt the Hogs' streak.
"It's important to us players because the past couple of years we've lost by a small margin," linebacker Mohamed Sanogo said. "We're tired of that. Last year we were up, some things happened, they came back and we're tired of that.
"We want to go over there and hit them in the mouth and say, 'We're Ole Miss.' That's the plan."
Sports on 10/13/2018
Print Headline: Hogs aim to Rock the Rebels