Arkansas has made it to game week, which means it's time to actually talk about an opponent.
The Razorbacks will play Jacksonville State in Razorback Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday. It will be the first meeting between the two schools, but it's no secret there are some storylines to the matchup between FBS (Formerly Division 1) and FCS (Formerly Division 1-AA) schools.
Below is this season's first edition of "Know Your Opponent."
Opponent: Jacksonville State Gamecocks
Location: Jacksonville, Ala.
Conference: Ohio Valley Conference
2011 Record: 7-4, 6-2 in OVC
Record vs. Arkansas: First Meeting
Head Coach: Jack Crowe (81-52 in 13th season) – Crowe, the former Arkansas coach who was fired by Frank Broyles after the 10-3 loss to the Citadel in the 1992 season opener, is entering his 13th season with Jacksonville State. He ranks third on the school’s all-time wins list and has guided the Gamecocks to three conference championships during his tenure (2003, 2004, 2011). Crowe will be leading a team into Fayetteville for the first time since being shown the door one game in 1992. So he'd love nothing more than grabbing his second win against an SEC team after Jacksonville State upset Ole Miss during the 2010 season opener in Oxford, Miss.
Key Offensive Player: RB Washaun Ealy — The senior is no stranger to playing the Razorbacks. Ealy was a Georgia Bulldog in 2010, rushing for 87 yards and a touchdown in Arkansas’ 31-24 win in Athens, Ga. He amassed 1,528 yards and 14 touchdowns in two seasons at Georgia (2009 and 2010) before transferring to Jacksonville State. Ealy led the Gamecocks with 1,082 yards and eight touchdowns last season and is a preseason first-team OVC pick entering 2012.
Key Defensive Player: LB Rashad Smith — The Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., native led the team in tackles last season (77) and is “capable of becoming a defining player on defense,” according to Crowe in the Jacksonville State media guide. Jacksonville State will need it from Smith. He is the Gamecocks’ only defensive player returning who ranked among the top six on the team in tackles last season.
Did You Know?: Jacksonville State registered the biggest win in school history during the 2010 season opener, beating Ole Miss 49-48 in overtime. It was the program’s first win against a Southeastern Conference opponent and a nice reward for Crowe, who was on the other end of a similar loss as Arkansas’ coach in 1992. The Gamecocks beat the Rebels with a two-quarterback system, playing Marques Ivory and Coty Blanchard. Both quarterbacks remain on the Jacksonville State roster as they try to grab another monumental win at Arkansas on Saturday night.
Did You Know, 2?: The Gamecocks — with Crowe in his second season as head coach — made history on August 30, 2001, when kicker Ashley Martin became the first female to play and score a point in an NCAA game. Martin went 3-for-3 on extra points against Cumberland and was named the conference’s special teams player of the week. But there was more. The historic performance led to national television appearances and other notoriety for Martin, who also played soccer at the school.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau