Golden Boot of Immeasurable Importance to Hog Fans
It’s 175 pounds of 24-karat gold. But to the people of Louisiana and Arkansas, it is so much more than that.
Yes, it’s the Golden Boot and its name is spoken with reverent awe, especially in the grand ole state of Arkansas, where, honestly, nothing means more. The LSU game is definitely the most important, and arguably the only, continually played rivalry game for Arkansas.
“It is a symbol of how important college football is to us as a people,” said my sister Sarah, a lifelong Arkansas fan who has been present at the LSU-Arkansas game eight times in the past 13 years.
Eleven weeks of the football season all lead up to a game that changes everything for residents of the two states.
Arkansas and LSU first met in 1901, a game played in Baton Rouge that LSU won 15-0. The two teams have met a total of 57 times. Arkansas is 20-35-2 all time in the series.
The rivalry has only been played in Fayetteville once, in 1992 — the Hogs’ inaugural year in the Southeastern Conference. That game ended in a 30-6 victory for the Hogs, meaning that the Razorbacks are undefeated against LSU in Fayetteville.
The Golden Boot was not awarded until 1996, meaning that this 2012 game will mark the first time the Golden Boot is awarded in Fayetteville.
It is undeniable that this rivalry is bigger for Arkansas fans than it is for LSU fans.
“We don’t even consider Arkansas to be much of a rivalry,” said Nick Crifasi, a Baton Rouge native who went to high school in Little Rock and is now a junior at LSU. “I think most people would consider Arkansas to be behind Alabama, Florida and Auburn in terms of how big of a rivalry this is for us.”
However, Crifasi did say that how close this game has been in recent years makes some LSU fans more aware of the rivalry. And for him personally, considering his Arkansas ties, it is the “most important game on the schedule.”
That is largely because he has a bet with one of his friends from high school, Conner Grummer, who is a junior here at Arkansas. After the 2010 Arkansas victory, Nick had to shave his head. And after the LSU victory last season, Conner had to walk around Fayetteville for a full a week in an LSU shirt.
From 2005-2009 this game was decided by a total of 11 points in four games. Since the advent of the SEC Championship game in 1992, one of these two teams has played in eight of the 20 championship games. The Golden Boot has been awarded 16 times: 10 times to LSU and six times to Arkansas.
In recent years, this game has provided many of the most memorable moments for Arkansas fans. The 2002 game in Little Rock — the original Miracle on Markham — is one of the most famous games in Razorback football history.
The Hogs were down 14-20 with 34 seconds remaining in the game when Matt Jones and company marched down the field from the Hogs’ own 19-yard line. The drive was only three snaps long and ended in a 31-yard Jones touchdown pass to DeCori Birmingham.
After the game-winning extra point, the CBS camera panned over to a sign reading “Couldn’t Be Sweeter” (spelling out CBS vertically and referencing our Sugar Bowl hopes that year).
That sign was made by my cousins and me. And from personal experience, I can tell you it is true. There is absolutely nothing sweeter than defeating LSU for a Razorback fan of my generation. It is the goal every year. We could lose every game but if we beat LSU, somehow all is forgiven (kind of).
Many other memorable games have taken place throughout this series. I still get goose bumps watching replays of Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis bringing total and complete shock to Tiger Stadium in 2007.
That triple-overtime win by unranked Arkansas over No. 1 LSU is still, to this day, my favorite game in Arkansas history.
This game usually has postseason implications, it is almost always close and no general rules apply. Nothing goes the way you think it is going to.
Emotions run wild: just ask Bobby Petrino how he felt about Les Miles this time a year ago or watch Houston Nutt and Darren McFadden’s post game interviews from 2007. This game means so much to Arkansas. Bringing home that Golden Boot is a humongous source of pride for players, fans and coaches alike.
As I sat, hands in my face and tears in my eyes, in the middle of the LSU student section in Tiger Stadium this time one year ago, I realized more deeply than ever that this was the big show for us. It didn’t matter to me that it was just one more win for those corn-dog-smelling LSU fans; it was everything to me.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re number one and we’re number 121, all bets are off when we walk into that stadium,” my wise little sister said. “Everything the season has taught us goes right out the window. LSU is just different.”
Liz Beadle is a staff writer for The Arkansas Traveler. Her column appears every other week. Follow the sports section on Twitter @UATravSports.