Arkansas is bringing a “hog call” to Provo this weekend and BYU (4-2) needs an “all call” to beat them.

Razorbacks’ fans welcome their football team to competition with a unique cheer. Three times they yell “Wooo Pig Sooie” and finish with “Razorbacks!” The tradition is believed to have started in the 1920s to rally the team.

The Cougars don’t need a hog call after Saturday’s 28-20 defeat against Notre Dame, they need an “all call” to stop a troubling trend that began against Baylor and has progressively gotten worse — slow starts.

No matter how intense practice is during the week and no matter how spirited the pregame pep talk is from head coach Kalani Sitake, something happens between the time the Cougars leave the locker room and when they take the field.

For some reason, all three phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams, slip into a funk and it takes a halftime reset to get them out of it. Against teams like Wyoming and Utah State, a second-half resurgence is enough to get them by, but not against Power Five opponents Oregon and Notre Dame. Even in the Baylor win, BYU needed a strong second half and some good fortune in double overtime to win, 26-20.

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The Cougars need a call to arms on Saturday or the same scenario is likely to play out again. Every player, from the starting quarterback to whoever is kicking this week, must prepare and perform with a sense of urgency as if their season is riding on the outcome.

Because in some ways, in the eyes of college football, it is. Saturday’s game is a chance for BYU to win and remain relevant on the national scene, which is really all that’s left to play for as an independent.

Once again, without a conference championship to chase, there is no rose growing at the end of this thorny stem. It’s like a movie the Cougars have watched for the last 12 years. The loss to Notre Dame snipped any slim hope of a New Year’s Six bowl.

What makes it more painful is the reality that BYU had the talent to beat the Irish, but when the opening bell rang to start the battle, there was only one fighter in the ring.

Not even the pregame trash talk from Notre Dame running back Audric Estime seemed to matter. He confidently declared BYU “as a good team. They have a lot of good players, but I feel like their players don’t match up with the players we have. So, if we just play our football, we should handle business.”

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He said it. Then he and his teammates went out and did it.

Notre Dame started fast, scoring on four of its first six possessions and even after getting stopped at the goal line, the Irish sacked Jaren Hall for a safety on the next play.

The Irish established the run and controlled the clock. During an 11:28 stretch in the second quarter, BYU’s offense was on the field just one time — for one play — when Hall was sacked in the end zone for a safety.

For the game, the BYU defense was on the field for 21 minutes longer than its offense.

With the ground game established, Notre Dame exposed BYU’s secondary. Drew Pyne completed 22 of 28 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns, including 118 yards and two scores to tight end Michael Mayer.

The early work put the Irish in position to withstand the Cougars second-half rally that gave BYU a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter. That’s what is maddening about all of this. Despite getting beat in nearly every facet of the game, BYU had the ball in the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead, or even win.

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Opportunity lost. But here comes another one.

Hangovers are real, especially after a rough weekend in Las Vegas. So real, in fact, that Hollywood makes movies about them. But BYU doesn’t have time for one. The Cougars must fix a lot of things or Arkansas will leave them hog-tied on Saturday (1:30 p.m. MDT, ESPN).

The Razorbacks (3-3) have problems too. They are on a three-game skid with losses to three top-25 teams in the SEC, including at No. 23 Texas A&M (23-21), No. 2 Alabama (49-26) and at No. 23 Mississippi State (40-17).

In those three losses, Arkansas ran the ball a combined 149 times for 672 yards, including 241 in last week’s loss in Starkville. Judging by the trend, the Hogs are going to come to Provo and try to pound the Cougars into the ground, especially after watching the Irish run 45 times for 234 yards against BYU in Las Vegas. Arkansas is big and strong enough to do it.

If Oregon and Notre Dame have taught the Cougars anything, it is to show up to a fight — ready to fight. While coaching schemes, play calling and personnel decisions are justifiably debated, the most important thing BYU can do on Saturday is to be present.

When the opening bell rings, take a chance, throw some punches, establish the jab, expose weaknesses, defend yourself and, if given the chance, go for an early knockout. In other words, be the windshield, not the bug.

The hog call is coming. This is an all call for BYU. The Cougars need to welcome their guests with consistent punches to the snout. If not, “Wooo Pig Sooie” will be ringing in their ears all afternoon.

Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “BYU Sports Nation Game Day,” “The Post Game Show,” “After Further Review” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also co-host of “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com. 


Cougars on the air

Arkansas (3-3) at BYU (4-2)

Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT

LaVell Edwards Stadium

Provo, Utah

TV: ESPN

Radio: KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM/1160 AM