The 1908 University of Arkansas football team courtesy of LSU Libraries Digital Collections Archive.

The Razorbacks are opening day beasts

If the winning percentage for Arkansas Razorback football games could stretch through a season, fans would have a pretty good reason to hope for a solid bowl game every year.

The Hogs have come out smelling good a whopping 78% of their opening season games, dating all the way back to their origins 125 years ago in 1894. That percentage is based on a 97-23-4 record over 124 seasons of football.

The 1894 season gave the state’s flagship university bragging rights over Fort Smith High School’s football team when Arkansas pounded Fort Smith twice in their three-game inaugural season, 42-0 and 38-0.

The Hogs, then known as the Arkansas Industrial Cardinals, finished 2-1 that very first year. In what probably led to the century-old psychological barrier of beating Texas, the Longhorns – then just known as “Varsity” – drubbed the Cardinals for UA’s only loss in the 1894 season, 54-0. It wasn’t close.

After the undefeated 1909 season, the “Razorback Hogs” got their long-lasting, unique mascot when Coach Hugo Bezdek compared their play to “a wild band of razorback hogs.” From 1910 on, the name stuck.

In those early years of football, Arkansas played such powerhouse football schools like Drury, Chilocco Indian School, Warrensburg Teachers, and Hendrix (which they tied twice on opening day).

Legendary coach Frank Broyles had some rocky season starts in his 19 seasons as the head hog.

He lost to Baylor 12-0 in his first season. He was 3-2 in opening games during his first five seasons. Over his career at Arkansas, Broyles amassed a 13-6 record in opening games. Two of those six losses were to USC, which was at its zenith in the early 1970s. Broyles and the Razorbacks bested the Trojans on opening day 1974 in a 22-7 victory at War Memorial Stadium.

There have been a lot of lopsided victories in the Razorbacks’ opening games over the last century and a quarter. The 1911 opening game victory over Southwest Missouri State 100-0 is the largest margin of victory for the Hogs. There have been subsequent first game victories over New Mexico State 53-10 in 1977 and again 63-13 in 2004. Arkansas smashed Pacific 63-14 in 1988.

The losses haven’t been as crushing. Arkansas was shut out 25-0 by Iowa on opening game day 1925 and by the same score in 1928 by Ole Miss. In more modern times, the 50-14 drubbing that USC put on Arkansas in 2006 still hurts.

Though it wasn’t a blowout, the 1992 10-3 loss by the Razorbacks to FCS-based The Citadel may have been one of the worst season starts of all time. It led to the immediate dismissal of head coach Jack Crowe, and miraculously, despite a 3-7-1 record that year, the Razorbacks still finished above Auburn and LSU in the SEC West.

Portland State University, Arkansas’ opening opponent this year, had a record of 4-7 last year, and the Vikings, another FCS school, ended the year on a three-game losing streak. That should bode well for this year’s Razorback opener.

It will be hard to do worse than last year’s 2-10 record and hopes are high with Coach Chad Morris entering his second season armed with more of his recruited talent. Let’s hope he can match his debut last year – a 55-20 thumping of Eastern Illinois.

And who knows, if we could average that opening day win percentage over the course of a season, the Razorbacks would win nine games.

Let’s keep it real. Beat Portland State and then we’ll worry about who’s next.

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