NWADG College Football


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6 NWA COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW | 8.28.2022 HOGS, BEARCATS SHARE SIMILAR PHILOSOPHIES CLAY HENRY SPECIAL TO THE NWA DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE FAYETTEVILLE — John Cooper doesn't expect a phone call from one of his favorite former players. But if Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell asks for some advice about playing a road game in Fayetteville, it would be simple stuff. "Don't expect any breaks," said Cooper about his experiences at Reynolds Razorback Stadium from eight fruitless trips as head coach at Tulsa from 1977-83. I covered all of those games as a Tulsa World reporter when I got to know Cooper. Heck, there was even a trip on the school plane to cover Cooper's team for a trip to Cincinnati. It was fun catching up with Cooper to get a scouting report on Fickell. Cooper even volunteered thoughts on the betting line for the Sept. 3 opener between the Razorbacks and Bearcats. "They are playing at Arkansas," Cooper said. "I know all about that. They are ranked almost the same so I'd make Arkansas a slight favorite." Cooper's Tulsa teams lost three blowouts to Arkansas squads coached by Lou Holtz. The rest were nail biters. Arkansas won by scores of 13-10, 14-10 and 17-14, the last of those in 1983 in the final year Holtz coached the Hogs. Ken Hatfield's Hogs beat the Hurricane 18-9 in Cooper's final year at Tulsa. Cooper then lost a heartbreaker in his first year at Arizona State when the Hogs prevailed 18-17 on a Kendall Trainor field goal in the final seconds of the Holiday Bowl. "I can tell you about those games in Fayetteville," Cooper said. "We'd have breakfast in Tulsa, bus over and then most of the time it felt like we took it (on the chin) from the referees. I'd go to midfield after the game for the handshake and Lou would congratulate me on how hard our team played. It wasn't much fun." Cooper enjoyed the midfield conversations much better in 1995 and 1996 when his Ohio State teams beat Notre Dame, coached by Holtz. Those scores were 45-26 and 29-16. "I can tell you the difference," Cooper said. "We had great players like Eddie George and Orlando Pace in those games against Lou that we won. The team with the best players always wins. "You want to win in college football, go recruit. I've always said this; there are three keys to winning in college: 1, recruiting; 2, recruiting, and 3, recruiting. It never changes." Cooper said Fickell understands those three keys, but also what he was taught by Cooper as a four-year starter at Ohio State from 1993-96. Fickell started 50 straight games for the Buckeyes, a then school record. "He was a tough nose guard and never missed a practice or a game," Cooper said. "I knew he'd be a great head coach. He uses the same principles I believed in. You recruit hard, you play tough, fundamental defense, don't give up big plays and you don't commit penalties. "From what I can tell of watching Sam Pittman's Arkansas teams, they play the same way. It should be a good game. Neither team commits turnovers and they don't beat themselves. That's winning football. They run to the ball on defense. That's both teams. "What I've seen about Cincinnati, they have better players than the teams they have been playing. They had better players than Notre Dame last year. They did not have better players than Georgia and Alabama, but no one does." Georgia and Alabama beat Cincinnati to end the last two seasons for the Bearcats. Cooper understands how Cincinnati could field such talented teams. It starts with good high school football all across Ohio. See SHARE, Page 8 Sam Pittman | Arkansas Coach File Photo

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