Sports

Thursday November 16, 2017

(TSX / STATS) — FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — No. 16 Mississippi State came oh-so-close to handing Alabama its first loss of the season last week. Beyond that heartbreak is the realization that the Bulldogs have plenty to play for the rest of the way.

They travel for their final road game Saturday at Arkansas.

“We have the opportunity to still have a great season ahead of us and do a lot of really good things,” said coach Dan Mullen.

“We have three losses to teams in the top seven. We want to finish this season strong and hopefully put ourselves as a Top 10, Top 15 program in the country. If we can do that, we’re going to have to be much better this week than we were last week.

“If that focus changes, then we won’t have a special year. We won’t be considered at the level we want our team to be at.”

Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3 SEC) got blown out by Georgia and Auburn earlier this season but led Alabama in the fourth quarter before losing 31-24. The Bulldogs, who finish at home against rival Ole Miss on Thanksgiving, could finish with nine regular-season wins for the second time since 1999. They also accomplished that in 2014 under Mullen.

For Arkansas (4-6, 1-5) — which had its two-game winning streak snapped in a 33-10 loss at LSU last Saturday — the Mississippi State game is a chance to keep its faint bowl hopes alive and ease some pressure on embattled coach Bret Bielema.

Bielema has come under fire for his 11-27 record in SEC games; he’s 29-32 overall with the Razorbacks. He points to Mississippi State’s ascension as evidence that the Razorbacks aren’t necessarily that far away from similar success.

“Dan has done a tremendous job there,” Bielema said. “The situation that we’re in, we’re a 4-6 team. Last year, they were 5-7, got into a bowl game, won it and that propelled them to where they are today. It’s a sign those things can happen.”

For Arkansas to upset Mississippi State on Saturday, the Razorbacks will have to find a way to slow down Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. A 6-5, 230-pound junior, Fitzgerald has thrown for 1,617 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. He also has rushed for 867 yards and 13 TDs, including eight in the past five games.

Fitzgerald had a big game against Arkansas in 2016, completing 23 of 33 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns and running for 131 yards and four TDs in a game that Arkansas won 58-42 in Starkville.

With Fitzgerald running the offense, Mississippi State has averaged 32.9 points and 418.9 yards of total offense per game this season.

“They are very good at what they do,” Bielema said. “When their quarterback is playing well, they’re playing well.”

Fitzgerald’s counterpart, Arkansas senior quarterback Austin Allen, also had a big game when the Razorbacks and Bulldogs met in 2016. Allen completed 18 of 25 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns, part of a season in which he led the SEC in passing yards and threw for 25 touchdowns.

This season has been more difficult for Allen. He injured his throwing shoulder in a loss at South Carolina on Oct. 7 and missed the next four games. He returned last week to start against LSU, completing 13 of 23 passes for 140 yards before being relieved in the second half by redshirt freshman Cole Kelley.

Kelley was indefinitely suspended Monday after charged with suspicion of driving while intoxicated and careless driving.

Arkansas’ passing attack has been limited to mostly screens and short passes for the past several weeks, but Bielema said he expects Allen to play better this week, which could lead to more downfield throws.

“We’ve got to connect on them when we’ve got them,” he said. “If we’ve got to throw the ball more vertically Saturday, then we will. It was a little bit of both on Saturday. For us to loosen up the coverage a little bit, we’ve got to take those shots down the field.”

Mullen is also bracing for Allen’s best.

“This is the first game he’s 100 percent healthy,” Mullen said. “I know he played some last week. He was a preseason All-SEC quarterback. He’s a top quarterback, if not the top quarterback, in the SEC. They’re a different team with him back there.”

Wednesday November 15, 2017

The Arkansas Razorbacks will host 16th ranked Mississippi State on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. inside Razorback Stadium.

The Razorback offense has had several struggles throughout the season and will face tough Bulldogs defense this weekend.

After practice on Tuesday Deon Stewart, Will Gragg, Hjalte Froholdt, Barry Lunney Jr. and Michael Smith spoke with the media about the challenge the offense and team face among other topics.

Tuesday November 14, 2017

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –

The University of Arkansas released financial details for former Athletics Director Jeff Long on Wednesday night.

According to the university, he’ll receive his regular salary through Wednesday with incentive compensation earned to date. The school specified that incentive compensation as $90,000 based on achievements detailed in Long’s employment agreement.

The university said it will pay Long $1 million per year for the remainder of his contract through June 30, 2022 in monthly sums of $83,333.33 up to a maximum of $4.625 million, as is consistent with his contract. The amounts listed above are subject to mitigation if he is later employed or receives compensation elsewhere, according to the school.

No “public” funds will be used to pay out the remainder of Long’s contract, only money from the athletic department and/or private funds, the university said.

Monday November 13, 2017

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The following is a statement from former University of Arkansas Director of Athletics Jeff Long:

My family and I would like to thank the University community, Fayetteville community, all of Northwest Arkansas, as well as the friends we have made across the great State of Arkansas.

My wife Fanny and I have raised two wonderful daughters in Fayetteville, one of which has her name etched in Senior Walk. For my family, this will always be home.

I want to thank our outstanding coaches for their efforts on behalf of our student-athletes. Our coaches are not only great teachers but also care deeply about our students and worked tirelessly to achieve our mission of assisting student-athletes in reaching their full potential through intercollegiate athletics.  Winning was always an important part of our Mission, as was doing it the right way with honesty integrity and a focus on preparing our young athletes for the rest of their lives. Collectively, all of our coaches exemplified that mission.

In addition to our coaches, we have numerous support staff members who are outstanding in their own right, including operations, compliance, academics, nutrition, media relations, business, equipment, IT, strength & conditioning, psychologists, athletic trainers and team physicians etc.  This list represents people who assist our student-athletes in competing and winning while keeping them safe, healthy and on track to reach the ultimate goal of graduation from the University of Arkansas.

To our facility and maintenance staff, I wish to say a heartfelt thank you for your dedicated service to our program. I travel to many campuses and I see firsthand other athletic departments and I know your work is second to none. I appreciate the pride you take in your work and it shows.  I am sure you often feel your work goes unnoticed and unappreciated but I wanted you to know how much I notice and how much I appreciate your efforts!

I have been very fortunate to have the support of my incredible Executive and Senior Staffs made up of assistant, associate and senior associate athletic directors as well as my executive assistant.  I cannot adequately express my deep appreciation for their efforts on behalf of our student-athletes and coaches.  Their intelligence, energy and commitment motivated me to be the best I could be on a daily basis. These dedicated professionals were not just a part of the reason we have transformed our program, they are the reason! Thank you is not nearly enough to express my gratitude but it is the best I can offer at this time.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve under four Chancellors during my 10 years of service and to participate on their executive staffs.  I wish to thank Chancellor White, Chancellor Gearhart, President Sugg and Trustee Reed for believing that I could fill the formidable shoes of Coach Broyles and Bev Lewis.  I will always be grateful for the incredible opportunity to come to the University of Arkansas; it has been a 10-year labor of love.

I would also like to thank Chancellor Steinmetz and President Bobbitt for their support during their tenures and especially over the past several weeks.  I am grateful for having had the opportunity to work with you and wish you the best as you lead the Flagship Institution and the UA System.

Most of all, I want to offer a heartfelt thank you to the incredible student-athletes that I have had the sincere honor and privilege to support over my 10 years as Athletic Director.  You truly are the most important piece of our program. Your success academically and athletically is beyond all else, the reason we have athletics in the University setting. Most people will never know the sacrifices you make to wear the cardinal and white.  You literally push your bodies and minds to greater heights to achieve success for the Razorbacks!  You have inspired me and lifted me up with your successes in and out of competition!  The greatest gift an athletic administrator is given is watching as student-athletes arrive on campus and the growth that happens over the course of their education career. Four to five short years later, we all watch with abundant joy as they walk across the Graduation stage, diploma in hand and prepared to take on whatever in life comes their way!

And finally, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Razorback fans throughout our state and around the world. Your passion for this university and for this athletics program makes the University of Arkansas a very special place. I have said it on numerous occasions the Razorbacks need the entire State behind us to be successful in the SEC and nationally.  I wish nothing but continued success for this program and this institution.

With regard to the media, I have always appreciated the job you do and understand your interest in speaking with me. However, I would like to take some time with my family to collect my thoughts before reflecting on my tenure here at the University of Arkansas.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve our University the last 10 years. It has been a true honor.

Sincerely,

Jeff Long