Five Minute Guide to '99
It took a Nutt to lead the Razorbacks out of the wilderness and into bowls
No, no, let's talk about Stoerner, the senior quarterback who led the Razorbacks to an 8-0 start last season. Stoerner also is the quarterback whose unforced fumble with 1:43 to play allowed the eventual national champion, Tennessee, to come back and beat Arkansas, 28-24. All that he achieved last season -- school records for passing yards (2,629) and touchdowns (26) -- lay in the shadow of a simple stumble. As Stoerner rolled out to pass, he tripped and put his right hand to the turf to keep himself from falling. Unfortunately, that hand was holding the ball. The Razorbacks finished 9-3, and Stoerner's gaffe was replayed on TV about as often as the clip of that other Arkansan leaning forward and saying, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."
Stoerner and his teammates have already proven their ability to put a disappointing season behind them. The Razorbacks went 4-7 in 1997 before coach Houston Nutt came in and taught them how to believe in themselves. It helped that Nutt had four seniors and a junior on the offensive line a year ago. Though 14 starters return this fall, the new line will have to jell quickly if the Razorbacks are to contend for the SEC Western Division championship. Stoerner has the two best passing targets in the division in senior split end Anthony Lucas, whose 23.3 yards per catch led the SEC last season, and senior tight end Joe Dean Davenport, who is so big (6'7", 257 pounds) he needs all three of his names. Senior tailback Chrys Chukwuma, who shared the job last season with Madre Hill, worked hard in the weight room during the off-season to prepare for toting double last year's load. Senior free safety Kenoy Kennedy led Arkansas in tackles last season with 95, which doesn't reflect poorly on the front seven. Kennedy just likes to go find the ball, and defensive coordinator Keith Burns lets him roam.
It speaks to what Nutt has built in 20 months that Burns turned down the coaching job at Louisiana Tech to stay in Fayetteville. Arkansas is poised to make a second consecutive bowl appearance for the first time in a decade. That does not depend on what your definition of "is" is.
-- Ivan Maisel
1998 record: 9-3 (6-2, 1st in SEC West)
Sept. 25 at Alabama
Nov. 13 vs. Tennessee
Stoerner and his teammates have the talent and motivation to go where they could have gone in '98: the SEC championship game and a BCS bowl.
Five Minute Guide to '99
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