Jim’s Notebook: Here in Houston for Hogs-Horns Texas Bowl


HOUSTON — The Hilton Americans Houston isn’t walking distance from NRG Stadium, not by a longshot — we’re in downtown Houston, actually — but it has provided us a nice spot to set up our live video stream of our radio show. Us, in this case, is myself and Andy Hodges on the broadcast daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and producer Matt Johnson. Eighteen stops (OK, maybe a couple less than that) between Arkadelphia, the home base of the network of stations who carry our show, and Houston, we arrived in one piece by 7 p.m. Sunday, just in time for the media hospitality snacks and beverages across town at the Doubletree of U.S. 59.

Arkansas’s team spent a few days at the Westin Galleria before reconvening at a secluded hotel for the night before the game. The fans are spread out throughout Houston. Plenty of fans were making the trip through East Texas on Sunday to arrive a day before the game.

As for that radio show, I started doing this early in the season on ESPN WPS. You can hear it on a variety of stations, starting with 690 AM out of Benton that you can pick up in Little Rock, to 100.7 FM in Malvern, 99.7 in Hot Springs, and 106.9 FM and 1240 AM in Arkadelphia. Lots of plans in the works to grow that lineup to more of Arkansas outside of Little Rock in the coming year. The network also carries programming from KABZ-FM 103.7 The Buzz or EPSN programming such as The Paul Finebaum Show, depending on the station and city.

If you download the ESPN app ESPN Radio and check out the live radio portion, you’ll find ESPN WPS high up on the list to hear our show as well as all the other programming. Or, without the app but with a computer, you can stream the broadcast at espnwps.com.

BOWLING IN HOUSTON: Arkansas last played in Houston in 1990 at The Astrodome, losing to the high-rolling Houston Cougars 62-28 in Jack Crowe’s first season as head coach (Crowe and the Hogs would get revenge the next season on the way out of the Southwest Conference). The only time Arkansas played in a bowl here was in 1982, when the Lou Holtz-coached Razorbacks rallied from 17 points down to beat Florida 28-24 in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl in the Astrodome.

The Bluebonnet Bowl is long gone, but the Texas Bowl has stepped in for a holiday game in Houston, played now under a roof in NRG Stadium, formerly Reliant Stadium, home to the NFL’s Texans.

For a few weeks late in the regular season, before the bowls were formally set, there was some speculation (nationally, as well as my own) that Texas and Arkansas could be matched in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. And, had both teams won their regular season finales, that might have been the case — instead the SEC’s Texas A&M at 7-5 and the Big 12’s West Virginia, a loser to Texas, were sent to Memphis.

There was some idle speculation that the Texas Bowl would match Texas and Texas A&M, but that was never going to happen.

So, Houston becomes the sixth city to host an Arkansas-Texas game, to join Austin, Fayetteville, Little Rock and, yes, Memphis. Plus the 2000 Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

It’s true, Texas and Arkansas played in Memphis once before and it wasn’t a bowl game. It was more of a power play by then Arkansas athletic director John Barnhill in 1947 to get a stadium finished in Little Rock so that Arkansas didn’t have to play in Quigley Stadium. Arkansas and Texas were set to play in Little Rock in 1947, but Barnhill moved the game to Memphis.

Barnhill had his stadium, War Memorial Stadium, the next year, finished just in time for the opening game against Abilene Christian.

NO NEWS HERE:All that’s come out in terms of news, if you want to call it that, in the run-up to the Texas Bowl was the alleged “downward Hook ’em” hand gesture by Arkansas coach Bret Bielema during a press conference photo session with his counterpart, Charlie Strong. One national college football commentator even made a big case about it, calling Bielema classless. Bielema said first he thought the photo of his hand gesture was photoshopped. When video showed him flexing his middle two fingers with his left arm extended down, it appeared just  twitch if nothing else. It surely didn’t appear deliberate unless Bielema was just messing around with someone else, perhaps his wife.  But we’ll buy that he didn’t even know he momentarily had a Hook ’em sign going, even pointed down.

No, the only real downward Hook ’em by an UA coach was Houston Nutt’s gesture on national TV following Arkansas’ 27-6 win over Texas in the 2000 Cotton Bowl. But what I didn’t realize until this week was, according to former Hog quarterback Clint Stoerner, following the coin flip before the opening kickoff of that game, the four Razorback captains including Stoerner all turned and gave the downward Hook ’em sign toward the Razorback bench in Cotton Bowl Stadium.




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