NOTE: This is a list of the top 20 most memorable games I attended. It is not necessarily the most competitive games or most exciting games. Competitiveness and excitement are factors that I considered, but the overriding factor is how memorable the event was. Is it something I’ll remember in 10 years? Another key is that these are games I actually attended in person, not watched on TV.
I went to 213 sporting events last year. This is the second year I have kept a “game journal” – where I write down the date of the event, who played, who won, who I went with, where the game was and any other important information. I also write down stats if a player has a big game and write how the game ended if it was a particularly exciting finish.
As you read this, I hope you feel inspired to go to more sporting events in 2015. Whether it’s a high school football game, college basketball game, professional golf tournament or even a little league baseball game, go to it with an open mind.
The reason I love going to games is because no matter what sport it is, no matter what level of competition it is, there is always a chance for you to see something you’ve never seen before.
Last year, narrowing down a list of the top 20 memorable games was tough. This year, it was nearly impossible.
I could simply list every Springdale boys’ basketball game leading to its appearance in the 7A state championship game and all of Arkansas football’s close losses and call it good, but I went to many other memorable events this year that have to be on the list.
Here are my 20 most memorable games. Enjoy…
20. September 26 – Fort Smith Northside @ Fayetteville
Just a couple weeks after knocked off top-ranked North Little Rock, Fayetteville was the No. 1 team in the state and hosting No. 3 Fort Smith Northside. A 24-point second quarter gave the Bulldogs a 24-13 halftime lead, but the Grizzlies pulled within 24-19 in the third quarter.
With 1:48 left, Northside scored a touchdown and converted a two-point conversion to take a 27-24 lead. Fayetteville wouldn’t go away, though, returning the ensuing kickoff to about the 25-yard line. However, after getting to the 4-yard line, the Bulldogs threw an interception in the end zone on third-and-goal with less than 30 seconds left to seal the win for the Grizzlies.
Making the game better was the talent on both teams. Fayetteville had two Arkansas commits (C.J. O’Grady and Dre Greenlaw), while Northside had one Arkansas commit (Daytrieon Dean) and a Class of 2016 four-star recruit (Deontre Hardwick).
19. April 23 – Arizona Diamondbacks @ Chicago Cubs
This was a good game, but it makes the list because of its historical significance – it marked the 100th anniversary of the first game played at Wrigley Field. I was able to talk my dad into going with me and he managed to secure field passes from former Arkansas and current Cubs pitcher Blake Parker.
Before the game started, we watched as Cubs legends (like Ernie Banks and Billy Williams) and Chicago Bears legends (like Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus) were honored only a few feet away.
Of course, it was also a good game featuring an ending that perfectly summed up the Cubs’ last 100+ years of existence. Leading 5-2 heading into the ninth inning, the Cubs lost 7-5. Chicago’s closer couldn’t find the strike zone and when he did, a potential game-ending double play ball hit the second base bag and went into the outfield. The Diamondbacks took the lead on a blooper that the right fielder dove for and did not come up with. It turned into a triple and the right fielder was injured on the play. Typical Cubs.
18. May 11 – No. 20 Texas A&M @ Arkansas
Although Arkansas came up on the wrong end of it, this was a classic back-and-forth baseball game. Texas A&M led by three runs before the Razorbacks tied it up in the sixth inning and took a one-run lead in the seventh.
The Aggies regained the lead with a two-run ninth inning, but again, Arkansas was able to tie it up in the home half of the ninth and force extra innings. Arkansas had a chance to win the game, but Jake Wise, Arkansas’ lone senior playing on senior night, popped up with runners on second and third.
Texas A&M got a lead-off home run in the 10th, but Arkansas responded by loading the bases with no outs. However, after Andrew Benintendi and Brian Anderson struck out, Eric Fisher flew out to give the Aggies a 6-5 10-inning win.
17. January 21 – Springdale @ Springdale Har-Ber
As I mentioned above, the entire Springdale boys’ basketball season was one heart-attack finish after another. The Bulldogs were clearly better than the crosstown rival Wildcats, but Har-Ber led by two points in the third quarter.
Springdale quickly erased that lead, going on a 12-0 run en route to a 62-58 win. The victory came despite the Bulldogs making just 13 of 28 free throws.
What really earned this game a spot on my list was the atmosphere. The Har-Ber/Springdale game always has a rowdy crowd with large student sections and this game was no different. It was awesome.
16. November 1 – Arkansas @ No. 1 Mississippi State
The 2014 college football season was significant because it was the first season to feature a playoff at the end of the year. The CFP rankings were not released until the week leading up to this game and Mississippi State earned the first ever No. 1 CFP ranking.
Arkansas came into Starkville, Miss., and nearly crushed the Bulldogs’ national championship hopes, taking an early 10-0 lead. Mississippi State battled back and tied the game in the third quarter before taking a 17-10 lead on a 69-yard touchdown pass thanks to a busted coverage.
The Razorbacks had two chances to tie the game, but came up short both times. After a 17-play, 72-yard drive that lasted 8 minutes and 16 seconds, Arkansas failed to convert on fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line. Then, Arkansas marched down to the 16-yard line before throwing an interception in the end zone with 15 seconds left. It was Arkansas’ 17th consecutive SEC loss.
It was also an amazing atmosphere. The cowbells were incredible and super loud. I was impressed with how well the Mississippi State fans obeyed the rules (no cowbell during plays).
15. April 26 – Auburn @ No. 24 Arkansas
Unlike the Texas A&M game, the Razorbacks came out on top in this extra inning game.
After Josh Alberius collected his first career hit as a pinch-hitter in the 10th inning, Tyler Spoon knocked him in with a walk-off single. The Razorbacks won 4-3.
Arkansas played in several one-run games (most ending in 2-1 scores) in 2014, but it did not win many of them.
14. September 27 – Arkansas vs. No. 6 Texas A&M
I almost looked like a genius because of this game. Arkansas, riding a long SEC losing streak, seemed overmatched against the top-10 Aggies, but I was the only sportswriter in the NWA Media newspapers to pick the Razorbacks.
Arkansas had a 28-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but a pair of Texas A&M touchdowns sandwiched around an Arkansas missed field goal tied the game and forced overtime. The Aggies scored on their first play of overtime, and then stopped Arkansas on a fourth-and-one to win the game 35-28.
Before the Razorbacks’ choke job, the game was already memorable because of Sam Irwin-Hill’s 51-yard touchdown run just before halftime. How often do you get to see a punter do that?
13. June 29 – Walmart NW Arkansas Championship – Final Round
This was the second year in a row that I went to the LPGA tournament in Rogers, but it was definitely more memorable in 2014.
Stacy Lewis, one of the best female golfers in the world and former Arkansas standout, finally won her hometown tournament with a birdie on the final hole. Because I was covering the tournament for NWA Media, I was able to stand right behind the green as Lewis hit her approach and made her final putt to win. It was incredible because there was a large crowd and several Hog Calls.
I also got to see Michelle Wie play, but she struggled in the final round after being in contention heading into the last day.
12. January 11 – No. 10 Florida @ Arkansas
Arkansas has been extremely hard to beat at Bud Walton Arena, but that just what the Gators did. The loss snapped the Razorbacks’ 23-game home winning streak.
It seemed like Arkansas would pull off the upset, but Alandise Harris missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 17.1 seconds left with Arkansas up 66-64. The miss allowed Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin to go down the court and hit a game-tying runner.
The Gators ended up winning 84-82, largely because they made 10-of-14 free throws in the overtime period. The Razorbacks had a chance to win, or at least tie it up, at the end of the overtime, but missed a shot after not calling a timeout.
11. November 8 – Lamar @ Central Arkansas
During Arkansas’ two bye weeks, I went to UCA football games because my girlfriend is in the Bears’ marching band. Both games were pretty good, but the game against Lamar on UCA’s purple and silver turf was particularly exciting.
UCA led 31-24 after three quarters and 38-27 early in the fourth quarter. Lamar scored a touchdown (and didn’t convert a two-point try) to pull within 38-33 and UCA answered with a field goal with 2:20 left to go up 41-33.
Lamar wouldn’t go away, though, as it scored a touchdown and converted a two-point try to tie the game and force overtime with 40 seconds left. UCA won 44-41 with a 25-yard field goal by former Razorback Eddie Camara after Lamar fumbled on its first overtime possession.
With that much scoring, it’s not surprising that there were several impressive stat lines. Lamar quarterback Caleb Berry completed 43 of 67 passes for 554 yards and four touchdowns, but he also had a pair of interceptions. His No. 1 target was Reggie Begelton, who caught 13 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns.
10. December 29 – Arkansas vs. Texas
The last game I saw in 2014 was Arkansas’ glorious 31-7 beat down of Texas in the Texas Bowl.
It was far from competitive, but it was definitely a game I’ll remember for a long time. The Razorbacks’ defense was unbelievable, holding the Longhorns to just 59 yards of offense (with 29 of those coming on their final drive against backups). That is the fewest yards in a single game by an FBS team all season.
There was a stretch of the game in which Texas had -19, -8, -7, -2, and -4 yards on five straight possessions. In those possessions, Texas was limited to -40 yards on 13 plays. Arkansas held the ball for 41:10, compared to Texas’ 18:50.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more dominant defensive performance, at any level.
9. January 4 – Springdale @ Fayetteville
Don’t judge me for having a high school girls’ basketball game in my top 10 most memorable games of the year. In a nonconference battle between the two traditional rivals, Springdale knocked off Fayetteville 44-43 in overtime to win third place at the Bulldog Classic in the Purple ‘Dogs’ gym.
The fact that the game got to overtime was incredible. The Red ‘Dogs trailed by six points with 45 seconds left, but back-to-back 3-pointers by JaVonda Daniels and Kierra Lang tied it up and forced the extra period.
In overtime, Springdale trailed again, down 43-40 with 1:26 left. But again, the Red ‘Dogs fought back and Chasidee Owens made the game-winning layup with 24 seconds left.
8. February 8 – Arkansas @ Vanderbilt
Because I was in Nashville for a college sports journalism conference, I was able to watch Arkansas play Vanderbilt in famous Memorial Gymnasium. The gym was super weird, but I loved it.
The game itself was pretty incredible, too. There were 14 lead changes, including three in the final 30 seconds. Michael Qualls’ 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left gave Arkansas the 77-75 win. The Commodores nearly won the game, but Rod Odom’s 3-pointer at the buzzer missed, despite the good look.
7. November 20 – Conway @ Bentonville
Yes, I have TWO girls’ high school basketball games in my top 10 most memorable games of the year. In all honesty, if it weren’t for all of the amazing games I had already attended, this game would be ranked even higher.
I really wanted to watch Malik Monk in the boys’ game, but I decided to get there for the girls’ game because of Conway’s Jordan Danberry, an Arkansas commit. I was not disappointed.
The Wampus Cats held a small lead most of the game, but a 11-4 run by the Tigers gave Bentonville a 77-71 lead with 32 seconds left. That was enough time for Conway to hit a pair of 3-pointers, Bentonville make 2 of 4 free throws and Conway make two free throws to force overtime.
Bentonville controlled the early part of the overtime period, but a shot by Danberry put Conway up for good with 1:02 left. The Wampus Cats won 92-89 in possibly the highest-scoring high school game, boys or girls, that I’ve ever seen.
Danberry also scored the last five points of regulation (one 3-pointer and both free throws). She finished with 37 points in one of the more impressive high school performances I’ve seen.
6. December 6 – Fayetteville vs. Bentonville
For the fourth time in five years, Bentonville and Fayetteville met in Little Rock for the 7A state championship. It was a classic.
The Tigers led 17-7 heading into the third quarter, but a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter gave the Bulldogs a 21-17 lead with 3:05 left.
That was plenty of time for Bentonville, as the Tigers marched down the field and won the game on a 6-yard touchdown run by Dylan Smith with 26 seconds left.
5. January 24 – Springdale @ Fayetteville
When you thought Springdale was dead in 2014, that usually just meant it had you right where it wanted. The rivalry game against Fayetteville was no different.
Fayetteville led by seven points with a little over a minute left before Springdale cut it to five with 1:01 left. The Purple ‘Dogs couldn’t handle the Red ‘Dogs’ full-court pressure or make free throws, allowing Springdale to get back into it.
Tereke Eckwood’s and-one layup and free throw with 23 seconds left gave Springdale a 55-54 lead and capped a 32.7-second span in which he scored nine points. After a missed 3-pointer by Fayetteville, the Red ‘Dogs knocked down a pair of free throws to win 57-54.
4. November 15 – No. 17 LSU @ Arkansas
LSU was ranked No. 20 by the Associated Press (the poll the media usually uses) heading into the game, but was No. 17 in the College Football Playoff rankings. For the sake of symmetry, I use the CFP ranking for this game.
The Razorbacks’ snapped a 17-game SEC losing streak with a 17-0 win over No. 17 LSU. As a numbers guy, it doesn’t get much more beautiful than that.
The game itself was dominated by Arkansas. The Tigers gained only 123 yards of offense, their fewest in a game since 1975. Leonard Fournette, the No. 1 running back recruit in 2014, was held to just nine yards on five carries.
It was the Razorbacks’ first shutout since 2006, first conference shutout since 2002 and first shutout win against LSU since 1929.
All of those stats are great, but the best part of the game came after the clock ran out. I was on the field standing by the Golden Boot when the Arkansas players rushed over to the trophy. I was engulfed in the chaos and made my way to midfield, where fans stormed the field and celebrated.
Here is the video I shot for WholeHogSports during the postgame celebration.
3. December 12 – Smackover vs. Charleston
You might think I’m crazy for putting the 3A state title game ahead of the 7A title game, but hear me out.
Charleston entered the game as the defending state champion and on a 28-game winning streak. Smackover, on the other hand, had a 13-game winning streak after losing its first game to eventual 2A state champion Junction City.
The game was back-and-forth much of the night, but the Buckaroos led 20-13 at the half and the Tigers seemed unable to handle Smackover’s speed.
However, led by Arkansas quarterback signee Ty Storey, Charleston was tied the game up at 26-26 late in the third quarter. The Buckaroos appeared to be marching down the field to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, but a fumble gave the Tigers the ball at the 45-yard line with five minutes left.
At that point, Storey took over. He had nine consecutive carries, gaining 51 yards and reaching the 4-yard line. Storey capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds left. Smackover reached the Tigers’ 34-yard line, but a Hail Mary fell incomplete to give Charleston a 33-26 win.
It was an unbelievable performance by Storey. The four-star recruit completed 24 of 38 passes for 218 yards and three touchdowns and rushed 35 times for 153 yards and two touchdowns. He accounted for all five of Charleston’s touchdowns and all but 17 yards of the Tigers’ offense. To put a cherry on top of it all, he had a tackle and pass breakup on defense late in the game.
Smackover also had a future Razorback on its team in wide receiver Jordan Jones. The 2016 Arkansas commit caught four passes for 137 yards and a touchdown.
2. January 28 – Bentonville @ Springdale
I could sit here and tell you all about this game, but I already have. Click here to read my blog post about it just hours after the game ended.
Needless to say, Malik Monk is a special player and I’m glad I can say I’ve seen him play.
1. January 14 – No. 12 Kentucky @ Arkansas
The two-week span of basketball from Jan. 14 to Jan. 28 will be hard to top. My No. 2 memorable game of 2014 ended the span and my No. 1 memorable game started it, but in between, my No. 5 and No. 17 memorable games happened. I was in basketball heaven.
I bet most people already know what game this is, but I’ll remind those of you that don’t: Michael Qualls.
Of course, there was more to it than that. Alandise Harris’ and-one with 9.5 seconds left gave Arkansas a three-point lead in regulation, but Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison knocked down a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left to force overtime.
During the extra period, Qualls knocked down two free throws with 26.7 seconds left to give the Razorbacks another three-point lead, but this time Kentucky’s James Young hit a 3-pointer with about 10 seconds left to tie it up.
When Ky Madden’s 3-pointer was off the mark, the game seemed headed for a second overtime… Then Qualls soared above everyone with a put-back dunk with two-tenths of a second left. I was speechless in the stands.
The play was the No. 1 play on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays and I didn’t think it would ever be duplicated… but Qualls had a nearly identical dunk to give the Red a 99-98 win in the Red-White game nine and a half months later.
I applaud you for making it through my entire list. I do this partly so people can read about these incredible games and partly so I can look back on it in the future.
I also hope this list will inspire you to go to more games in 2015. When you’re bored and have nothing else to do, go to a local high school game. Plan a trip with your buddies to go to a game or two.
Don’t have anyone to go with? Just ask me. I hardly ever turn down a good opportunity to go to a sporting event.
Happy New Year and may your 2015 be full of buzzer-beaters, walk-offs and Hail Mary passes.
If you'd like to read it, here is my top 20 memorable games from 2013: click here.