Evin Demirel: When Will A-State Notch Its First Win Against the SEC?


Is This the Year A-State Beats SEC Foe?

Visit Evin's Author PageRome wasn’t built in a day. Nor, for that matter, was Boise State or Northern Illinois.

Mid-major powerhouses take time to build. Their BCS bowl game appearances are results of many years of hard work. Greatness arrives by little steps.

Ten years ago, this week, Northern Illinois took one of those steps. The program, which had suffered through a 23-game losing streak only a few years before and was unranked, defeated No. 21 Alabama on the road. The Huskies’ Michael Turner ran for 156 yards as the 14-point underdogs shocked the Crimson Tide for the program’s first win against an SEC team.

Northern Illinois had been 0-8 against SEC teams. [University of Alabama sports information, Sept. 3, 2003]

Arkansas State hasn’t beaten an SEC team in recent memory, according the database stassen.com. A-State has tied one SEC team (Mississippi State in 1993) and it did beat Texas A&M in 2008 – but the Aggies were then in the Big 12, not the SEC. The same situation applies to ASU’s lone victory over Ole Miss in 23 tries. In 1915, 18 years before the SEC formed, the “Arkansas Aggies” visited Oxford to beat the Rebels 10-0.

Since 1990, ASU is 0-22 against SEC teams. The program doesn’t need a win against an SEC team to validate it as the up-and-comer it

Is this the year A-State Beats and SEC Foe?

A-State Beat Texas A&M in 2008, before the Aggies were members of the SEC.

is. But knocking off an SEC foe – a regional high major who’s recruiting the same players ASU is – would signal the Red Wolves have arrived at a national level. Notching a headlines-grabbing upset like ULM did last season against Arkansas would accelerate the Red Wolve’s path toward becoming the Boise State of the South.

The Red Wolves have already played one SEC team this season, Auburn, and lost. But Auburn’s undefeated in three games and may not end up being as bad as people expect. A-State’s next two SEC opponents are on the road, against Missouri on Sept. 28 and likely against Tennessee next year. Mizzou has a strong offense but doesn’t appear as strong on defense as Auburn after its last game – a 38-23 win over Toledo.

Arkansas State’s recent Sun Belt championship teams improved as the last two seasons wore on. Do you think Bryan Harsin has this team on the same kind of upward trajectory, and, if so, will they be clicking on enough cylinders by the end of next week to defeat Mizzou?

When do you think A-State will notch its first win over an SEC opponent?

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10 years ago…

Darren McFadden, a junior at Oak Grove High School, broke open a road game against Beebe with an 86-yard touchdown run play that came on a third-and-30. The Hornets were up 7-0 midway through the second quarter and facing a second down and 20 yards when their quarterback was sacked by Beebe’s Devin Branch for a 10-yard loss.

With Oak Grove on its own 14-yard line, its coach knew Beebe would be expecting a pass. So he called a sprint draw to his rising star and caught Beebe off guard. “He’s [McFadden] able to pop it from anywhere. I think the momentum changed right there. They thought they were going to get it around midfield, and we get six.”

“McFadden took the handoff on the play called “23 Belly” and outraced the Oak Grove pursuit to the left sideline, then outran the defense to the end zone,” the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Chris Givens wrote.

“The play is called “23 Belly”, and a giant belly flop probably would have felt better to the Beebe Badgers.” Oak Grove (1-2) defeated Beebe (1-2) 28-0. [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; Sept. 20, 2003]


McFadden wasn’t the only Arkansas prep running back to drop jaws on that Friday night.

Conway senior Peyton Hillis rushed for 305 yards and 6 touchdowns on 14 carries to lead his team to a 55-34 win over Van Buren. Hillis, 6-1 and ½ and 245 pounds, runs a 4.68 40-yard-dash and flashed all his speed, power and skill for a Razorback assistant coach Danny Nutt, who was in attendance on a recruiting trip.

“I love playing the game,” Hillis said. “It’s fun, like, here. You know after high school you’ve got a career. It’s great to come out here and have fun, especially when you have an O-line that I have. That makes it easy.”
Indeed: In three games this season, Hillis has rushed for a total of 833 yards and 11 touchdowns, with an average of more than 13 yards per carry. [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; Sept. 21, 2003]

What if Hillis had kept up this kind of production – 278 rushing yards per game – for an entire season? He would have smashed all kinds of Arkansas prep records, but where would that production have placed him on a national scale?

Hillis finished the 2003 season playing in 13 games (11-2 record). If he’d played 13 games at 278 yard per game, he would have totaled 3,614 rushing yards in 2003. That’s a lot of yards. But only enough to rank 9th all-time for most rushing yards in a single season by a high school football player, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Here’s the top five:

Yards Stud State School Games Year
4756 John Giannantonio NJ Netcong 8 1950
4495 Tyler Ebell CA Ventura 14 2000
4265 Derrick Henry FL Yulee 13 2012
4087 Travis Henry FL Frostproof 14 1996
4045 Ken Hall TX Sugar Land 12 1953

Hillis also would have finished 9th all-time in the yards per game category had he kept averaging 278 rushing yards per outing. Here are the top five high school rushers based on average-yards per game played. 

Yards/game Stud State School Year Total Yards Games Played
594.5 John Giannantonio NJ Necong 1950 4756 8
356.9 Wes Danaher TX Corpus Christi Calellen 1995 3569 10
337.1 Ken Hall TX Sugar Land 1953 4045 12
321.1 Tyler Ebell CA Ventura 2000 4495 14
320.3 David Dotson CA Moreno Valley View 1991 3523 11

25 years ago…

University of Arkansas:

Hurricane Wayne Martin hit the Ole Miss Rebels last weekend.

The Razorbacks’ 6-5, 272-pound defensive lineman overwhelmed the Rebels’ offensive linemen to the tune of five tackles behind the line of scrimmage for minus 34 yards – including four quarterback sacks – and three forced fumbles. One of those fumbles occurred with the Hogs up 18-13 in the fourth quarter and Rebels on Arkansas’ 35 yard lines. Arkansas recovered and Kendall Trainor eventually kicked his third field goal of the half.

Martin, who was awarded SWC Defensive Player of the Week honors, already has nine tackles for losses in three games. No Hog has had more than 10 such tackles in a single season since two-time All-American Billy Ray Smith in 1982. “I think Wayne Martin is one of the best if not the best defensive lineman in college football, Arkansas head coach Ken Hatfield said.[Associated Press; Sept 21, 1988]


Arkansas is 3-0 after beating Ole Miss 21-13 in Little Rock, and Tulsa and Pacific in preceding weeks. But Arkansas still hasn’t cracked the AP’s Top 20 list after getting points from about 25 voters. This exclusion is borderline ridiculous when one of the teams in the Top 20, Michigan, is 0-2 after a 19-17 loss to Notre Dame and a 31-30 loss to Miami, writes sports columnist Mark Bivens. Perhaps, after an off week, Arkansas will be voted in. [Blytheville Courier News; Sept. 21, 1988]

Fast forward to 2013, and Arkansas is also 3-0. The Hogs have yet to beat a team the caliber of Ole Miss, but this week did receive points in the Associated Press poll for the first time this season. One media member in Miami selected Arkansas at No. 24 on his ballot.

50 years ago…

Ed Hayes, former sports columnist for the Blytheville Courier News, looked out for his people. Most of the time, that was through giving his readers a mix of opinion and news that can only come from knowledgeable fans/scribes with deep roots in, and knowledge of, a particular place. It’s not unlike what we at Sporting Life Arkansas strive to do for you.

In a column 50 years ago, Hayes gives his readers some of the backdrop for an upcoming game involving Blytheville High and visiting North Little Rock High. He explains that NLR’s new head coach, Ken Stephens, is good friends with Blytheville head coach Bill Templeton.

It’s going to be a big game, Hayes writes. And it may get a little chaotic: “A chartered busload of about 40 NLR parents and fans are scheduled to arrive shortly before game time and hope BHS officials might have a stadium space saved for ‘em … There’s a pay telephone now in Haley Field press box for emergency use. In case you want to jot it down, Doc, it’s POplar 3-9668.” [Blytheville Courier News; Sept 20, 1963]

Part of me wants to try calling that phone number right now. Just to see if Hayes picks up, and shares a story or two of how our state once was.

The other part of me isn’t even sure how to dial the number.

No need to ring anything to reach Demirel. He’s right here.

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