FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas interim head coach Barry Lunney Jr. will lead his team into the season’s final game on Friday in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium.
The Razorbacks and Missouri enter the game on downward spirals to their season. Arkansas started the season 2-1 and has lost eight in a row since then. Missouri was 5-1 and has now six five in a row. Some have insisted the Arkansas and Missouri game isn’t a rivalry.
“The first thing that sticks out to me like I told our team is there’s not anybody on our football team that has beaten Missouri,” Lunney said. “Now there’s a few guys that were redshirts in ’15 when we played them out here in that miserable weather that saw us win that trophy. But there’s not one player on our team that has beaten them. So that’s a rivalry. That’s got to mean something to you.”
With both teams owning a losing record some have insisted there’s nothing to play for on Friday. Don’t tell Lunney that.
“As I told our guys listen there’s a lot to play for,” Lunney said. “Even though people are gonna say there’s not a lot to play for. Human nature says there’s not a lot. You are 2-9, it’s the last game of the year and you’ve got an interim coaching situation. We don’t have a lot to play for. I would beg to differ. We lay out a lot of things. Here’s the deal I’ll lay them out for you.
“First of all it’s one of 12 games. You work all year around for 12 games and shoot you can’t ready to play? You go all summer, all winter 6 a.m. workouts and you can’t get ready to play one of your 12 games? OK, we can stop there in my opinion. But then there’s a lot of layers on top of that. We’re home in Little Rock playing an SEC game and haven’t won an SEC game since 2011 in Little Rock. Shoot there’s a lot to get ready for right there.
“Seniors it’s your last go-around. The Senior Day that they had a few week’s ago is something they’ll never want to remember. And we’re gonna give those guys a chance to have a redo. Now we’re not gonna do the dog and pony show, but we’ll acknowledge them. It’s important that they get acknowledge and we get a chance to do this Senior Day over again. That’s important for me and for them. Then you’ve got seniors and it’s their last go-around. That’s a lot to play for. If you care about these seniors you’ll go all in on this game.
“We’ve lost 18 straight SEC games. Seven of those have been by one score or less. So we’ve got a chance the last game of this tough season, got a chance to break that streak. To me that sounds like that’s a whole lot to play for. That’s not me trying to convince our guys of that it’s just the facts.
“And pick up whichever ones of those you want to pick and let’s get ready to go play Missouri because I know Missouri is gonna be ready to play. I feel confident we’re gonna be ready to play as well on Friday afternoon. I could probably think of a few more, but those are just the ones on top of my head.”
Lunney also talked about what Little Rock and War Memorial Stadium have meant to not just him, but his entire family including his father, Barry Sr., and brother Daniel.
“I hope for our fans and the people who are on the fence about coming to this game, despite whether the weather looks bad or it’s going to rain or the results we’ve gotten this year, I just hope that, like I said, on Friday afternoon we’ll have a football team and fan base that will unite and really display that true Razorback spirit that we all know this state has,” Lunney said. “Even though despite the disappointments, the moments I’ve had there in Little Rock, Little Rock is a special place to me and my family. Obviously my time in high school I got a chance to play in a state championship game there my senior year. My brother played in a state championship game there. My father coached in 11 state championship games in Little Rock. I was a part of 4-5 of those and I attended all the other ones, so that right there makes War Memorial a special place for me and my family, but then as my time as a Razorback, some of my greatest moments – not necessarily my greatest plays or my greatest games I played but some of my greatest moments – happened in that stadium.
“I just want our guys to experience that on Friday. I want our guys to walk away from Friday afternoon to have their moment. Obviously the crowd and support from our crowd is a huge part of that. I’ve asked them and I’ve talked about that on Saturday night that that’s what I want them to show up – not just show up, I want them to show up inside and not just stay on the golf course. I want them to come inside. I want that Hog Walk to be an incredible experience and moment for them. But I also know that our fans that what they want in return is a football team that matches the spirit that they’re going to bring. That’s my charge and my challenge.”
Arkansas and Missouri will kickoff at 1:30 p.m. and the game will be nationally televised on CBS.