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The year in Arkansas sports 2008


Here I am mulling over 2008 and the Razorbacks have already slated one of the most memorable moments in 2009 with their stunning home win over Oklahoma. Life moves fast nowadays. Writing this on Monday morning, I'm not sure how our game against the Longhorns panned out. Maybe our snubbing by the pollsters will energize us into shutting A.J. Abrams down the same way we did Blake Griffin. Who knows with a team this young? Fortson responded to the big win by pushing the ball too hard against North Texas, though he bounced back. Everyone else looked initially shaken, but soon recovered. The conference grind will have its ups and downs. Regardless, we're clearly going to rock the boat in the Western Division.

In the meantime, here's the Official Boy Named Sooie Year in Sports 2008 List, in no particular order and admittedly incomplete.

• The Petrino Hire. What else is left to say? I'll remember that midnight press conference for the rest of my days, especially the point when Coach Petrino glanced back at the Hog hanging behind him and remarked, “Looks mean, don't it?” Even the ESPN-led lynch mob that we woke up to the next morning can't dampen that memory, pitchforks and torches and all.

• Cliff Lee's Breakout Season. The former Hog had a truly great year, coming out of nowhere with the best start in MLB history and going on to win a well-deserved Cy Young. He's one of three Arkansans who made a splash in the bigs this year: Pat Burrell won a championship with the Phillies, and A.J. Burnett both led the league in strikeouts and signed a huge seven-year deal with the Yankees.

• Second Round in the Dance. Coach Pelphrey didn't wait too long to exceed expectations, getting past the opening game of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in what seemed like forever. Asking him to upset number one ranked UNC in the next round might have been too much. This year, I expect we'll make bigger waves in conference play than in the postseason, but watch out for 2010.

• The NFL Draft. Felix Jones and Darren McFadden both went in the first round of the draft, fitting ends for the state's most dominant backfield of all time. And that's without considering Peyton Hillis, who slipped to the seventh round before the Denver Broncos came to their senses. Time hasn't been kind so far, but seasons to come will tell the tale.

• The Ryan Mallett Transfer. It's not often that you get to reclaim the one that got away, a freshman starter at Michigan no less, and he's not even a sure first-teamer for the Hogs in 2009.

• The Miracle on Markham II. Dick to Crawford. London had the reception of his career thus far stolen away against Ole Miss, but this catch in the final seconds against LSU must have felt like sweet redemption. As for Casey Dick, he'll lose the whipping boy reputation over the forgiving years and come out all shiny and legendary. And for us? That makes two W's over LSWho in the last two seasons. Why not keep it going? We have nothing to fear but Les Miles' buyout clause.

• Closing the Borders for Good. Slammed shut, at least on the throwing/catching side of the ball. Jarius Wright, Dennis Johnson, DeAnthony Curtis, Greg Childs, Tyler Wilson and many more. No more losing in-state talent to the dark side round here.

• Aaron Murphree. Murphree lit up the Diamond Hogs' season early in 2008 by homering in six straight games, crushing ten homers in that period. He hit 12 in his first 12 games, averaging .447. As they are wont, things cooled down in conference play, but what a start!

• The Transition. Jeff Long has succeeded the legendary Frank Broyles, and it's showing up everywhere. For example: With the stroke of a pen, our brand spanking new Athletic Director dropped the “Ladybacks” monicker and drug us kicking and screaming into the 21st century, where demeaning language at least remains behind closed doors.

• John McDonnell Retires. After just 30 years and only 42 national titles. Quitter.

• Nolan Richardson Returns. The Hog faithful have finally got around to embracing the larger-than-life personality who made it all possible. Welcome back, Coach.

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