Tag Archives: college football rivalry

Rex Nelson on the Battle of the Ravine (Part 3)

No one can tell the story of the battle of the ravine better than Rex Nelson. This is an article he wrote a year ago:

The 84th Battle of the Ravine

The Battle of the Ravine.

For those who really understand this college football rivalry, there’s little more that needs to be said.

I realize that I have an inherent bias. I grew up with the Battle of the Ravine as an important part of my life. In my family, the day when Ouachita played Henderson was about as big as Christmas and far bigger than New Year’s Day. We could walk to either stadium from our house, though the Henderson stadium was a bit more of a hike.

The two Arkadelphia schools first played each other in football in 1895. The series was suspended from 1951 until 1963 due to excessive vandalism.

Consider these facts:

– It’s the only college football game in America in which the visiting team walks to a road game. That’s because only U.S. Highway 67 separates Ouachita’s A.U. Williams Field from Henderson’s Carpenter-Haygood Stadium.

– They’ve played 83 times through the years, and the series is almost dead even. Ouachita has won 39 times. Henderson has won 38 times. There have been six ties.

– Of the 83 meetings between Henderson and Ouachita, the game has been decided by a touchdown or less 37 times with Ouachita holding a 19-12-6 advantage in those close games.

Ouachita won one of the greatest games in the history of the series two years ago at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium, 43-36. The Tigers came from 13 points down in the fourth quarter to end the season with five consecutive victories. Last year at A.U. Williams Field, Ouachita jumped out to a big lead early and held on to win, 35-28. As noted, those seven-point margins of the past two seasons are the norm rather than the exception.

And wouldn’t you know that Henderson and Ouachita come into Saturday’s game with the top two scoring offenses in the Gulf South Conference, which generally is recognized as the toughest conference in all of NCAA Division II. The game, which begins at 1 p.m. at Henderson’s stadium, has all the makings of another classic.

The weather forecast looks good. You really ought to consider going to Arkadelphia if, for nothing else, than to say you’ve experienced a Battle of the Ravine. There will be a giant tailgate party adjacent to the stadium beginning at 10 a.m. with free hot dogs. The 1 p.m. kickoff means the game will end about 4 p.m., giving those of you who live in the Little Rock area plenty of time to return home before the Hogs come on television at 6 p.m.

Here’s what Troy Mitchell, Henderson’s talented sports information director, wrote: “There’s the Battle for the Little Brown Jug (Michigan vs. Minnesota), the Egg Bowl (Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss) and the Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. Auburn). But the oldest rivalry in Division II football is the Coleman Dairy Battle of the Ravine. … It has been said so many times it is almost trite, but it still bears repeating one more time: For sheer excitement, for dramatic finishes and for almost unbearable tension, few things in sports can be compared to a Henderson State-Ouachita Baptist football game.”

When I lived in Washington, D.C., I missed the Battle of the Ravine from 1985-87. I flew back for the 1988 game and moved back to Arkansas just before the 1989 game. Other than those three years, I’ve been at every Battle of the Ravine since the series resumed in 1963 (I was 4 then). I’ve also had the pleasure of attending the Iron Bowl four times. Ask me the greatest rivalries in college football, and I’ll tell you it’s Ouachita vs. Henderson at the small college level and Alabama vs. Auburn at the major college level.

For many years, the Battle of the Ravine was played on Thanksgiving. That first game in 1895 was on Thanksgiving as Ouachita defeated what was then Arkadelphia Methodist College by a score of 8-0.

You want to hear about some of the classic games in the series?

How about 1914 when Ouachita beat both Arkansas and Ole Miss but could only manage a scoreless tie with Henderson?

How about 1926, at the new A.U. Williams Field, when Hardy Winburn broke loose for a 35-yard score in the rain to give Ouachita a 14-7 victory?

How about 1949, when Ouachita trailed with seven minutes left by a score of 14-0? The late Ike Sharp successfully executed three onside kicks for Ouachita in those final seven minutes and Otis Turner, known as the Magic Toe, kicked the field goal that gave the Tigers a 17-14 victory.

How about 1950 when more than 8,000 people turned out to watch the Reddies avenge the previous season’s loss with a 7-0 win over Ouachita? It would be 13 years before they would play again.

How about 1963 as the series resumed with a 28-13 Henderson win at Haygood Stadium, allowing the Reddies to claim a share of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference championship?

How about 1969 when the great Henderson quarterback Tommy Hart led the Reddies back from a 17-7 second-half deficit? The Reddies ended up winning 23-17 and captured the AIC title in the process.

How about 1972 when Ouachita used a 47-yard touchdown run by hometown freshman sensation Luther Guinn with 2:23 to play to pull within one point at 14-13? Legendary Ouachita Coach Buddy Benson decided to go for two, and it paid off as quarterback Mike Carroll hit Danny Jack Winston to give Ouachita a 15-14 victory.

How about 1975, which I will tell you is the greatest college football game I’ve ever seen at any level? Henderson was undefeated coming into the final game of the regular season. Ouachita was 8-1. Trailing 20-14 with time running out, Ouachita faced a fourth-and 25. Quarterback Bill Vining Jr., the son of the Ouachita head basketball coach and athletic director, completed a pass to Gary Reese for 25 yards. The chains came out, and Ouachita had the first down by an inch. Two plays later, Vining hit Ken Stuckey for the touchdown, and Russell Daniel kicked the extra point to give the Tigers a 21-20 win. Ouachita and Henderson tied for the AIC championship. Ouachita was one of four teams selected for the NAIA playoffs. Henderson went to the Bicentennial Bowl at War Memorial Stadium.

How about 1978 when Coach Benson decided to go for two late in the game, just as he had done in 1972 at Haygood Stadium? Ouachita trailed 7-6 with 1:21 remaining after a Neal Turner touchdown pass to Jimmy Cornwell. Turner threw a pass to William Miller on the two-point conversion attempt, but Ned Parette knocked the ball away. It was my first year to do Ouachita games on the radio. By the way, it was a pass interference that was never called (now my Ouachita bias is showing).

How about 1982 when Ouachita drove the length of the field for a late touchdown to win 19-18 and capture the AIC championship?

How about 1988 when the game was called off due to flooding (much of the field was under water) at halftime with the score tied at 3-3?

How about 2008 when Ouachita scored 27 fourth-quarter points to rally from a 29-16 deficit? In one of the greatest individual performances I’ve ever seen, Tiger receiver Julio Pruitt had 10 receptions for 250 yards and four touchdowns. One of his touchdown catches was shown on ESPN’s top plays of the day that evening.

The best three Battles of the Ravine I’ve seen are (in order from No. 1) the 1975, 1982 and 2008 games.

Sometimes, ESPN takes its “College GameDay” show to a smaller college.

One of these years, the network should do the show from Arkadelphia on the day of the Battle of the Ravine. People across the country need to know about this unique rivalry.

Hopefully, many of you will find your way to Carpenter-Haygood Stadium on Saturday. I promise that you will enjoy yourself.

Rex Nelson on the Battle of the Ravine (Part 1)

Rex Nelson knows more about the “Battle of the Ravine” than anyone else.

College football: Week 11 (Battle of the Ravine)

It’s the week of the Battle of the Ravine, the most unique rivalry in all of college football.

Ouachita Baptist University vs. Henderson State University.

The game will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday at Ouachita’s A.U. Williams Field in Arkadelphia.

If you’ve never been to one of these games, you owe it to yourself to attend.

Remember, it was on my Arkansas bucket list.

Larry Lacewell told me recently, “That was among the things I always wanted to go to. I never did it because I was coaching all those years. Last year, I picked up the paper, saw that it was Battle of the Ravine day and drove to Arkadelphia. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.”

The weather should be nice Saturday. And the 1 p.m. kickoff allows even those who live in Little Rock to be back home in time to watch the 5 p.m. Arkansas-Tennessee game on television.

Get there early. There will be a large tailgate party with all kinds of food available. The party will begin at 10 a.m. on the Henderson side of U.S. Highway 67.

You can park on either the Henderson side or the Ouachita side and walk to the game.

At about 11:45 a.m., the Henderson Reddies will walk to a road game.

Think about that for a moment.

Not fly. Not bus.

This is a college football rivalry in which the visiting team simply walks across the street.

It’s something every college football fan should see.

Also consider that the two schools have played each other in football 84 times through the years and the series is dead even at 39-39-6.

Dead even for a series that began in 1895: Isn’t that amazing?

The game has been decided by a touchdown or less 37 times through the years with Ouachita holding a 19-12-6 advantage in the close games.

Add to all of the tradition the fact that these are the two best Division II football teams in Arkansas this year.

Ouachita has already wrapped up the first Great American Conference title with records of 7-2 overall and 6-0 in conference play. Henderson would love nothing more than to cost the Tigers a trip to the NCAA Division II playoffs.

The series was suspended due to excessive vandalism from 1951 until 1963. I grew up about a block from A.U. Williams Field. I lived in Washington, D.C., for a few years in the 1980s, but I’ve only missed three of these games since the series resumed in 1963. I was 4 years old at the time. That means this will be my 46th Battle of the Ravine.

I hope you’ll join me in Arkadelphia on Saturday. You won’t regret it.

We were 7-2 on picks last week, making the record 66-18 for the season.

On to the picks for Week 11:

Arkansas 44, Tennessee 21 — The Hogs looked much better at home against South Carolina than they had looked in victories on the road at Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. Poor Tennessee. This once-proud program finds itself without a victory in Southeastern Conference play. How bad has it gotten in Knoxville? Consider this: The starting kicker injured his leg in practice on Thursday of last week. The backup kicker pulled a muscle while warming up Saturday. Coach Derek Dooley had a nose guard practicing kicks while he made a call on his cell phone to the campus police. He asked the police to escort a redshirt freshman kicker named Derrick Brodus from his fraternity house to Neyland Stadium. That led to this great quote from Dooley: “It’s a good thing he wasn’t having too much fun on a Saturday afternoon. I told the coaches an intoxicated Brodus is better than nobody. Just get him here.”

Ouachita 31, Henderson 30 — This game should be close. This will only be Ouachita’s fourth home game of the season. The Tigers went on the road six times in an eight-week period and compiled a record of 5-1 in those six road games. They only lost at Delta State, the No. 1 team in NCAA Division II. Ouachita is the only college program at any level in the state to have compiled four consecutive winning seasons. The Tigers defeated Southeastern Oklahoma, 21-18, in Durant, Okla., last Saturday to secure the GAC crown. Henderson, meanwhile, posted a 16-10 nonconference victory over McKendree.

Arkansas State 32, Louisiana-Lafayette 28 — This is a huge game for the Red Wolves as they seek to win a Sun Belt Conference championship in the first year of the Hugh Freeze era. ASU is still alone atop the conference standings following a 39-21 win at Florida Atlantic. The Red Wolves are 7-2 overall and 5-0 in conference play. That’s the best start for an Arkansas State team since 1986. Louisiana-Lafayette comes to Jonesboro with records of 8-2 overall and 6-1 in conference play. ASU quarterback Ryan Aplin was 24 of 27 passing last Saturday for 244 yards and one touchdown. Meanwhile, the Ragin’ Cajuns scored two touchdowns in the final minutes of Saturday’s home finale for a 36-35 win over Louisiana-Monroe. Louisiana-Lafayette scored a touchdown with 2:05 left, recovered an onside kick and then scored again. The home crowd in Jonesboro (Hugh has them believing in northeast Arkansas) on Saturday afternoon should help the Red Wolves.

UCA 27, Texas State 24 — The Bears end the regular season with an important nonconference game against Texas State, a former Southland Conference opponent that’s moving up to the WAC. The game is important because the Bears need to win Saturday to be eligible for the playoffs. It would have to be an at-large berth, though, since Sam Houston State clinched the Southland Conference’s automatic berth last Saturday. Sam Houston would need to lose to Northwestern State this weekend for the Bears to win a share of the conference title. UCA won its sixth consecutive game last Saturday, 45-20 over Northwestern State. Texas State is 6-4. The wins have come by scores of 38-28 over Tarleton State, 35-26 over Stephen F. Austin, 38-12 over Nicholls, 21-14 over McNeese State, 46-21 over Lamar and 34-26 over Prairie View A&M. The losses have come by scores of 50-10 to Texas Tech, 45-10 to Wyoming, 38-28 to Southeastern Louisiana and 23-10 to Northwestern State.