Arkansas set to make its case against No. 1 LSU
Bobby Petrino's smile Saturday following Arkansas' 44-17victory over Mississippi State was followed by tears Sunday night.
Now the Arkansas coach must regroup as the Razorbacks try to cope following the death of redshirt freshman tight end Garrett Uekman of unknown causes.
Following No. 3 Arkansas' win over the Bulldogs, a weekend of upsets continued when Oregon and Oklahoma lost. Those losses followed Oklahoma State's loss to Iowa State on Friday night - opening the door for the Razorbacks to move up in the BCS standings and keeping their Southeastern Conference and national title hopes alive.
Arkansas (10-1, 6-1 SEC), which has won seven straight, will have a chance to enhance those hopes when it travels to take on No. 1 LSU on Friday.
''We're excited about it,'' Petrino said Saturday. ''We're really excited about it. This is why we're here. This is what we want to do. This is what it's all about, go play in huge games with a lot at stake. It will be a lot of fun.''
It was immediately unclear how the Razorbacks would mourn the loss of Uekman following his sudden death Sunday afternoon.
What is clear is that his passing followed one of the most exciting nights in Arkansas history - much of which happened following the win over Mississippi State as Oregon and Oklahoma lost.
The Razorbacks, who appeared out of the BCS mix altogether following a 38-14 loss at No. 2 Alabama on Sept. 24, are anything but now. They've won 10 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1988-89 and have responded to the loss to the Crimson Tide in the best way possible - by winning.
The wins haven't always been pretty, such as in comeback wins against Texas A&M, Mississippi and Vanderbilt - but Arkansas appears to have hit its stride in recent weeks. The Razorbacks have outscored South Carolina, Tennessee and the Bulldogs by a combined 137-52 in their last three games.
''Oh yeah, we're playing our best football right now,'' Arkansas receiver Joe Adams said. ''I mean, we can play even better. I don't think that this is our best football yet. We still have more.''
Now the question is are they ready for the undefeated Tigers, who have proven one of only two sure-things - along with Houston - in college football this season. Arkansas has won three of its last four against LSU, including two of three under Petrino.
Last season's 31-23 win in Little Rock allowed the Razorbacks to advance to their first BCS bowl game in school history. This one could have even bigger implications.
''LSU is an unbelievable team,'' Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette said. ''But I don't think we look at them like some people look at them. We look at them as a rival, a team that we should play very competitive with every time we show up.
''It's an emotional game for us. I don't know if they are as emotional about it as we are, but it seems like we're always really jacked up for that game. I can guarantee Friday will be no different.''
The Razorbacks appeared plenty jacked up in their prelude to LSU against the Bulldogs. They outgained Mississippi State 539-211 and limited the Bulldogs quarterback duo of Tyler Russell and Dylan Favre to 15 of 31 passing for 127 yards.
Mississippi State (5-6, 1-6) must win its regular-season finale against rival Ole Miss to gain bowl eligibility.
Russell started the game before giving way to Favre, who ran for a touchdown, while quarterback Chris Relf sat out after suffering a concussion last week. Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen didn't wait to settle any quarterback controversy heading into next week, answering his own question immediately after the Arkansas game.
''Tyler Russell, before you even ask a question about it, will be the starting quarterback for us next week,'' Mullen said. ''I expect Chris to play next week (and) maybe Dylan as well. We'll see how that goes in practice.''