By Rob Patrick
There’s a lot to be said for “knowing” you’re going to win.
Of course, it’s not really any kind of prescience. It’s confidence, built up through a tradition of winning.[more]
For a long time back in the late 1980’s and most of the 1990’s, the Benton Panthers “knew” they were going to beat the arch-rival Bryant Hornets. It was just something they expected to do, something, as it turned out, they always did because winning was a habit not only against Bryant but almost every week.
But this season marks the 10th anniversary of the year that “knowledge” switched colors. A program without the tradition, without the winning habit made the remarkable transition from a losing record to an unbeaten season including Bryant’s first win over Benton in 14 years.
It was really the proverbial “perfect storm” of a collection of coaches and players with the talent and the determination to do a complete 180-degree turn.
The tradition of losing has now become a tradition of winning at Bryant and it’s the Hornets who “know” they’re going to win in the 10th Salt Bowl.
There may come a time — and certainly the Benton faithful hope it is now with a new head coach in house and a renewed enthusiasm — when the worm could turn again and the Panthers could regain that “knowledge.”
Will it happen this year? It could.
The three classes that make up the Hornets’ team, playing in the same freshman league, compiled a record of 25-4-1. In turn, the three classes that make up the Panthers’ current squad compiled a record of 11-19. The last two seasons, the Hornets are 16-6-1 while the Panthers have gone 4-16.
Of course, players move in or drop out or move away and the dynamics of a team can change but you see where the trend points. And, as far as additions or subtractions go, one would be hard-pressed to find one with more impact that Bryant’s school-record running back Chris Rycraw who moved in before his sophomore season.
Now, with a new coach and new schemes and new attitudes, a team can catch lightning in a bottle. And some teams wind up being greater as a whole than the sum of their respective parts.
But that’s something that Bryant has managed a few times in recent years itself.
Of course, the Hornets have some unproven players. Only one starter returns on the offensive line, all the linebackers are new to the starting lineup. But, barring unforeseen problems — a bevy of turnovers, a run of injuries — the trend started in 1999 figures to continue.