Is Mike Leach Finally Rolling in the SEC? Why Leg Cramps Are Easier to Fake; Hal Mumme as Davy Crockett at the Alamo

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This and More in This Week's Ask Mike

Q. Our first question this week is from @ATL fan V who says: Before the season started Arkansas’ schedule was rated the toughest in college football. I figured there were at least a couple of easier SEC games. Like Mississippi State. After watching them dominate Kentucky I’m thinking this team just doesn’t get a break, right?

A. Well there’s always Mizzou. But you’re right about Mississippi State. That’s a very good football team right now. Will Rogers is a typical Mike Leach QB. The more he plays the better he gets. Rogers was 36 of 39 passing against Kentucky. He nickel and dimed Kentucky’s defense to death. They could not stop him when it mattered. And MSU ran the ball effectively in key situations.

But the surprise was their defense. It’s been good all year against the run. They are number 2 in the SEC giving up an average of just 89 yards per game. But they just destroyed Kentucky’s quarterback. Picked him off three times. Held him to 150 yards passing.

So that sounds really scary for this week right?

Well there’s some good news. Kentucky clearly overlooked Mississippi State. They were not ready to play, which is odd since they had an open date the week before. My guess is those guys were still hung over from losing that big game to Georgia. At times they looked like they were just going through the motions. Plus four turnovers just killed them.

It was homecoming in Starkville and the home crowd got them Kentucky as well. If you’ve never been to a game in Starkville, with those cowbells, it’s one of the loudest venues in the SEC.

But guess what? The Razorbacks got to sit at home and watch all of that. There’s no way they will overlook Mississippi State after that game. Sam Pittman and his staff will have their attention.

Q. Lanny says: I heard you say that Kentucky’s cornerbacks played MSU’s wideouts way too soft. They were getting 7 & 8 yards on those quick out passes almost every time. I agree. Surely Barry Odom won’t do that.

A. I can’t believe that he would after watching that game. Odom had a good game plan for them last year but they are much better this year.
Again, Arkansas players know what that offense is all about. They studied it all last week. The Razorbacks have had trouble with the pass against QBs who run and throw. Rogers is averaging about 9 yards per game running the ball. Throw in the sacks and he’s at minus 8 yards a game.
So he’s not much of a threat. MSU ran for just 94 yards against Kentucky and they’re averaging 54. So mainly Arkansas has to stop that passing game which, as you indicated, will nit pick a team to death if the coverage is soft.

This should be the heathiest Arkansas defense has been since the A&M game so winning is not going to be easy, but this game does set up well for the Hogs. The crowd needs to be very loud and disruptive.

Q. Big Daddy says: I know you’re a Mike Leach fan. He’s got the Run and Shoot running the way he wants it. Will Rogers is looking like a 1st team SEC QB. Plus they’re playing that Joe Lee minnow bucket defense. Looks like the Hogs have their work cut out for them. What do you think?

A. As I’ve said, it will be tough but I like Arkansas chances with so many guys back healthy on the defensive side. As far as me being a Mike Leach fan
I like what he did at Texas Tech. I grew up 60 miles from Lubbock. When I was a kid and up through college I was was a Red Raiders fan. But it was tough because they never had any sustained success and they kept hiring the wrong coaches. The school administration and the athletic department there has always hired the wrong people. Like Gerald Meyers who was a basketball coach there and later the AD that fired Leach. I could not stand that guy.

So when Leach came along and did what he did, yeah, I liked him. He’s also hilarious in press conferences. So of course Tech fired him.

As far as Arkansas, Alyssa Orange is good friends with Hal Mumme. Leach was an offensive coordinator under him at Kentucky and the are good friends to this day. When Bielema got fired Mumme told her that Leach would come to Arkansas in a heartbeat. He’d been impressed with Hog fans and the crowd support at Arkansas games for years.

So I passed that along to the people involved in the job search at Arkansas and according to Mumme nobody at Arkansas ever called him. Arkansas could have had Leach. Instead they got Chad Morris who Julia Cromer Peoples said was her best hire ever, which says a lot about her and thankfully she left Arkansas right after that.

A few fans have sent me nasty notes on Twitter over the last few years claiming that Leach is overrated and that I tried to get Arkansas to hire Leach instead of Sam Pittman, a ridiculous claim. I’ve covered 9 different job searches for head football coaches at Arkansas. Never one time did ever I think I could could convince Frank Broyles, Jeff Long or Hunter Yurachek to hire a specific coach. My only question has always been, who’s on your list and mostly they wouldn’t say.

Yurachek hired the right coach. Sam Pittman is a perfect fit for Arkansas. A better fit than Leach. But I still like the guy. I still think he’s funny and when he’s not going up against Arkansas, yeah, I like to see him win.

Q. BloodRedHog says: MSU beats Kentucky.
Auburn beats Ole Miss. Assuming Alabama wins out, who do you think finishes 2nd in the West?

A. A lot of folks were thinking Ole Miss but after the way Auburn took them down I’d say that we may end up with a two or three way tie for second in the West. It’s really wide open. If Auburn wins out, meaning they beat Alabama, they could win the west outright

Auburn is second right now with just 1 SEC loss. They play Alabama at home. They get Mississippi State at home and have a tough game with A&M in College Station.

Ole Miss, A&M and Mississippi State are each 3-2 right now.
Ole Miss still has to play A&M in Oxford and Mississippi State in Starkville.

So it’s still wide open for second place.

BTW currently the Hogs are dead last in the West at 1-3. I think the best they can do is 4-4. At best we’re talking 4th or 5th in the West, I think.

Face it. The SEC West is brutal.

Q. TL Slaten on Facebook say: Looks like Kiffin blew the Auburn game by going for on 4th down with 5 minutes to go. Seems like a chip shot field goal was a better choice. That man is stubborn.

A. Ole Miss was down by 11 with 5 minutes left on the Auburn 18 yard line. Even with the field goal Ole Miss would have to stop Auburn, get the ball back, score a touchdown, make a two point conversion and win in overtime. Those aren’t good odds. I guess he figured the odds be much better if his team scored a touchdown there.

Kiffin is a gambler. He’s always done that. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it backfires. There are probably some Ole Miss fans who are mad about that decision but it’s probably not a big issue. But if the Rebels lose to A&M and Mississippi State there will be plenty of ticked off Ole Miss fans.

Q. @mousetown on Twitter says: Ole Miss & Auburn both had players go down with fake injuries. A dead giveaway is when a player gets up limping and by the time he gets to the sidelines he looks okay. Why is it always a leg cramp? Are those easier to fake? And was Auburn giving Ole Miss a taste of its own medicine?

A. Good point. Almost all of these injuries seem to be leg cramps. My guess it’s because it’s hard to prove they didn’t have a leg cramp because those things can come and go pretty quickly. Was Auburn faking it too? Maybe. It would be nice to see all of Ole Miss’ opponents do that for the rest of the season. It might just send a message to the SEC office.

Q. Arky1967 has a question from last week that we didn’t get in time to include it. He wants to know: Why do we not have post game press conferences with referees like we do coaches? Then they would have the opportunity to explain the controversial calls they made during the game?

A. This comes up from time to time and while the league office will occasionally issue a statement from the head ref on a controversal call there’s just no way the conference office is going to allow reporters to question refs.

Q. robs4516 says: I’ve always wondered if any “interesting” comments get made between coaches during the after-game handshake. Do you have any good stories about that?

A. I’ve never been the guy with a camera when those handshakes take place but I do remember a couple of big arguments. One was an Arkansas-Baylor game when Frank was the head coach. Baylor had a big D-lineman named Ronnie Lee who was very fast for a guy his size. Steve Little was kicking off for Arkansas and Lee crossed the line off sides and blindsided at full speed while his leg was still in the air from the kick. He knocked Little out cold and sent him to the hospital. These days you’d be ejected for something like that and probably suspended. It was on of the dirtiest things I’ve ever seen in a game. After the game I thought Broyles was going to deck Grant Teaff. He went off on him claiming that the whole thing was prearranged.

I think Baylor got an offsides penalty and that was it. Those were different times for sure.

Another contemptious post game handshake came the year Clemson ended up getting put on probation for recruiting violations. Danny Ford ended up getting fired over it. Clemson beat North Carolina State and when Ford went out for the handshake with Monte Kiffin, Lane Kiffin’s dad, he went nuts accusing Kiffin of turning Clemson in. Kiffin kept denying it but Ford would not stop yelling. Those were two really big guys. 6-3, 6-4, 230, 240 maybe. They showed the clip on TV several times. I thought they were going to duke it out.

Of course Ford went on to coach a Arkansas for four years and Kiffin had been the defensive coordinator under Lou Holtz. I knew both of them real well. I asked Ford about it several years later and he just laughed about it so I guess he got over it.

Q. BloodRedHog is back with a basketball question. He says: An 8-point victory over North Texas after a 3-point scare over East Central. I know Coach Muss has a lot of new faces, but is your anxiety level rising a bit? Could this be a rebuilding year for the Hogs?

A. Not really. They played really good defense against North Texas and they played without Jaylin Williams who had back spasms. Most of the problems have to do with offensive flow. There isn’t much of that. Too much one on one shooting. Assists are not what they need. I think Chris Lykes is going to be a good point guard for them. They’ve got three other guys that can run the offense. Lykes said after the game, that the full potential of the offense probably won’t be seen for a while. I’m fine with that. If these guys are meshed offensively by the time SEC plays starts I wouldn’t worried about two or three losses in December. Not saying that will happen but it’s what you do in January, February and March that really matters.

Q. Dr. Strangepork wants a change made on the floor of Bud Walton Arena. He says: They have the floor at Bud Walton looking like some European athletic club floor…you mean to tell me with all the tones, colors, etc…they couldn’t put the Slobber Hog center court?

A. you know me. I love the slobber Hog. They’ve got it on that flag the spirit squad waves around in time outs. It’s on the court next to Nolan Richardson’s name. I think it was Jeff Long that put the modern running Razorback on the floor of Bud Walton. The word I got was that Long thought the slobber hog was too cartoonish. Well Long is long gone and like you I wish they’d put it at center court. Razorback basketball fans will always associate that logo with Nolan’s national championship team.

Q. Back to football, 10yrsofhell asks: When Texas and Oklahoma come into the SEC what are your thoughts on Divisions/Pods? I like the idea of Bama and Auburn not being in the Hawgs’ division. But if they use the pod system and we have Texas, Oklahoma and A&M in there, that’s a tough pod to be in.

A. This is just a guess on my part but I think it’s logical that the pods will be based on geography. Keep teams closer to each other to make it easier for fans to travel. If they don’t do that the SEC office is nuts.

I see Arkansas in a so called SEC Northwest pod with Missouri, Oklahoma, and Ole Miss.

Texas would go in an SEC Southwest pod with A&M, LSU and Mississippi State.

Again this would be done to make it easier for fans to travel to games within their team’s pod. But in a four pod system of 16 total teams each team would have five crossover games on its schedule that would rotate year to year. So there would still be a lot of travel, some of it really stretched out. How about Austin, Texas to Columbia, South Carolina? That’s over a thousand miles.

Q. Finally it wouldn’t be Ask Mike without Alex4Hogs88’s weekly question about this week’s opponent. He wants to know: What is your favorite memory that involves Mississippi State and what is your favorite win against the Bulldogs?

A. My favorite win was last year’s 21-14 win in Starkville. It was Sam Pittman’s first SEC game and Arkansas won it breaking that 19 game conference losing streak, 16 of those games under Chad Morris.

My favorite memory is from basketball not football and it has nothing to do with a game. Alyssa and I were in Starkville five or six years ago covering an Arkansas-Mississippi State game. Hal Mumme was in town recruiting a local football player for a Division II school where he was coaching in south Mississippi. He brought us dinner the night before the game and then went back to the hotel with us. She went to her room but Mumme and I must have talked for three of four hours about college football and a lot of other stuff. He’s my age and most kids in Texas, when The Walt Disney Davy Crockett movie came out in the mid 50’s, became huge Davy fans. Hal grew up in San Antonio and I was telling him how lucky he was to be able to visit the Alamo anytime he wanted.

After I got back to Arkansas he sent me a photo of him at the Alamo dressed up like Crockett in a coonskin hat and buckskin outfit. He’s a funny, funny guy.

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