2278...
TGS BIG 12 RETROSPECTIVE...NIXON AND SCHENKEL, HORNS AND HOGS!
by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor


The modern-day Big 12 is the progeny of predecessors the Southwest Conference and the Big 8, leagues that would effectively merge in 1996. As it was in the days of the SWC, the University of Texas remains a key element in today’s Big 12, and its gridiron history is rich in success and various storylines. None of those elements, however, continue to inspire and intrigue as does the Longhorns’ epic 1969 end-of-the-season showdown with the University of Arkansas, arguably the pinnacle of the old SWC and perhaps the most significant college football clash of the past half-century. For our Big 12 Retrospective, we take a look back at that memorable clash from a slightly-different angle....

We at TGS have been known to offer impromptu sports movie and book reviews on occasion, but we have never done one of those before the fact. Or, in this case, before a movie has been released...or even completed. So, instead, we’re just making a prediction that we will be doing a movie review at some time in the future about the in-production flick entitled My All American, which might not hit the theaters until 2015, or maybe 2016.

The film marks the directorial debut of Angelo Pizzo, who also wrote My All American. If you don’t know the name, you know the work: Pizzo’s credits include Hoosiers and Rudy. The subject matter of the new movie is the story of former University of Texas safety Freddie Steinmark; no one can comment on the finished product, because it isn’t finished yet, but safe to say that the movie will be a tear-jerker along the lines of Brian’s Song and The Express, the Ernie Davis story.

Filming has commenced, with scenes already having taken place at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas and at TCU’s Amon Carter Stadium, the latter apparently the backdrop for many of the football scenes in the movie. We’re sure that we’ll pick up this storyline, and have an appropriate review of My All American, after we actually see the final product sometime in the future.

The 2014 football season is fast approaching! And we're ready at TGS with discounted JULY subscription prices! Click here for more special JULY subscription info on THE GOLD SHEET now!

The Steinmark angle, however, is only one of a collection of pieces and colors that comprise the fascinating gridiron mosaic that was Texas vs. Arkansas in 1969. Seldom have we encountered one game with as many different sub-plots, and continues to generate discussion and debate almost 45 years later. It remains central to the Steinmark tale, too; he was nursing a sore leg at the time, and it would turn out that he played the game on a leg being eaten up by cancer--a leg destined to be amputated within a week of the game.

Almost a half-century since Longhorns-Razorbacks, the game remains a topic of discussion. Now they’re even making movies in which the ultimate showdown was a central theme, with characters in the real-life drama still being added to an already lengthy list of participants that are not only at the core of college football lore, but criss-crosses into American social and political history as well.

Having published TGS since 1957, we can honestly say that we have witnessed few games that transcend college football as did 1969 Texas-Arkansas. And, with the knowledge of the upcoming Steinmark movie, continues to transcend decades later. Fittingly, it was the last major college football game of a memorable decade as well.

And the dynamics of the matchup are really once-in-a-lifetime-type stuff. If someone made up all of the angles involved, no one would likely believe the story.

At its base, Texas-Arkansas was the showdown of showdowns, the rare No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. That in itself places it in select company of college football classics. But there were so many other factors involved with that clash, and so many dominoes had dramatically fallen into place to make the game extra-special, that the battle is really singular and in a different category than other 1 vs. 2 matchups during our publishing history, including a handful of other games, including Michigan State-Notre Dame in 1966, USC-UCLA in 1967, and Nebraska-Oklahoma in 1971, from the same era.

Before he passed away last year at the age of 88, Texas HC Darrell Royal was still getting queried about Longhorns-Razorbacks decades after the ‘69 showdown. “This (Arkansas-Texas) is the only game people come back and ask me about,” said Royal. “This is the only one.” For Horns fans, the 15-14 win continues to resonate. And counterpart Arkansas HC Frank Broyles, still going strong at age 89, has never given one interview about the classic game after the post-game obligations. And he still hasn't watched the game film.

A sequence of events helped to conspire the unforgettable backdrop to the game, which took place in Fayetteville on December 6, 1969. Which was a bit late in the calendar for a showdown college football game of that era. But Texas-Arkansas had that Saturday all to itself in college football because it was the first truly made-for-TV college gridiron matchup, and one that actually delivered on its promise.

Of course, Texas and Arkansas were playing every year in that era as members of the Southwest Conference. The rivalry was already heated; both schools had enjoyed success in the ‘60s (winning or sharing 8 of 10 SWC titles) and had claimed national championships for the respective head coaches, Royal and Broyles. It was not difficult to predict that their 1969 meeting would be a titanic, since both had closed with a rush the previous 1968 season, each dominating their respective bowls on New Year’s Day, 1969 (Texas over Tennessee 36-13 in the Cotton Bowl, Arkansas over Georgia 16-2 in the Sugar Bowl).

Thus, the table was set for the first college football regular-season game to be arranged for television. Of course, TV would eventually circle such events, but doing so in 1969 was breaking new territory.

The year of ‘69 in college football was unique from the outset in that it was the 100th anniversary of the sport. Which was taken to extremes in the promotion of the campaign, as it would be a year-long celebration. Dozens of teams would honor the occasion by affixing “100" decals, in the shape of a football, to their helmets that season. Even teams that usually had no adornment on their headgear, like the UCLA and USC of the era, added the decals to their helmets. Alabama would replace its traditional uniform numbers on the side of its helmet with the “100" decal instead. The decals were also color-coordinated to the helmets and jerseys of the teams. It was up to the teams where they would affix the decals; most simply did it on the sides of their helmets. In Texas’ case, the “100" logo would cleverly fit right above the familiar steer and horn decal. Nebraska chose to put the decal on the front of its helmet; Iowa State and Indiana were among those who put the “100" decals on the backs of their helmets. A different style was preferred by Navy, which simply added a “100" painted on the side of its gold helmets, eschewing the standard-issue NCAA “100" logo inside of a football. Purdue designed its own new one-year only logo for ‘69 featuring a fancy-shaped “P” inside of a white, football shaped decal, with “100" in small numbers below the fancy “P” letter. All adding to a special festivity about college football in 1969.

ABC, which held the telecast rights to NCAA football in those days, joined the party as well. Though not able to blanket cover the sport as offspring ESPN would do in future decades, ABC didn’t let one of its featured sports properties (the NBA, and several Olympics, being others in the era) exist in a vacuum, even offering a prime-time one-hour special in August to promote the upcoming season. The 100-year anniversary was a central theme to all ABC NCAA Football promotions.

In late March of ‘69, wanting to come up with something special for the upcoming landmark centennial season, ABC Sports president Roone Arledge asked network sports publicist Beano Cook if he could suggest an extra twist for the ‘69 telecast schedule. “It's the 100th year of college football,” Arledge said to Beano. “We've got to do something special!" Cook was thus tasked with identifying a high-profile game that could be moved to its own special date at the end of the season...December 6.

Beano’s idea was Darrell Royal's Texas vs. Frank Broyles' Arkansas, which was sure to be a showdown game as both sides projected as unbeatens, especially against lesser Southwest Conference opposition that season. Although Ohio State (as noted in our Big Ten Retrospective feature) figured as the likely top-ranked team and probable national champion, Beano had a hunch that the Buckeyes, even with almost all of their starters back from their unbeaten 1968 national title season, would lose to somebody. And while the thought of asking Ohio State (which would be ineligible for the Rose Bowl due to the Big Ten’s no-repeat policy of the day) to move a game to December 6 crossed Cook’s mind, he couldn’t be sure of a matchup from the Buckeye schedule that would appeal.

But Texas and Arkansas had a chance to be undefeated and, worst case, they'd probably be ranked No. 2 and No. 3. Not bad, and with a likely Southwest Conference title and Cotton Bowl bid on the line as well. Presented with the idea of moving the game from its scheduled mid-October date to December 6 by ABC, both schools agreed.

Cook proved more than prophetic with his choice, as the Longhorns and Razorbacks were romping through the regular season and living near the top of the polls. And Cook was looking like more of a genius, especially after the top-ranked Buckeyes were upset by Michigan on November 22, opening the door for Texas to move to the top slot in the polls, with Arkansas on its heels. Suddenly, with Ohio State out of the way, Texas vs. Arkansas was going to be a battle for number one and a probable national title.

So the football backdrop was set. But that was only part of the intriguing buildup. President Richard Nixon, recently elected and a serious football fan, wanted to attend the game. The fact he had lost both Texas (LBJ’s home state, to Hubert Humphrey) and Arkansas (to George Wallace) in 1968 might have played a part in Nixon’s appearance, too; he was hoping to gain some political benefit from the showdown as well. Nixon had also planned to present an unofficial national title plaque to the winner, which understandably didn’t sit too well with third-ranked (and unbeaten) Penn State and its coach, Joe Paterno.

Nixon’s appearance, however, helps put Texas-Arkansas into some historical context. Remember, it was 1969, and the Vietnam War was still raging. Nixon’s arrival brought Donald Donner, one of the few Vietnam vets on the Arkansas campus, to lead an anti-war demonstration outside the stadium, which Nixon could see as his helicopter landed almost simultaneous to the kickoff. ABC, however, was careful not to show the demonstration on camera.

The fact was that compared to elsewhere in the country and various hotbeds of war protest, the anti-Vietnam sentiment in Fayetteville was not especially significant. The Nixon White House, used to such demonstrations, was not terribly concerned about the Arkansas variety. And the Donner-led demonstration was decidedly peaceful.

But what the White House was concerned about was possible racial unrest. Though the Arkansas campus of the day did not boast of a great number of black students, there were some, and they were agitated that the Razorback band would still play "Dixie" after every score. There were rumors that if “Dixie” were struck up by the Arkansas band, there might be a Euro-style “pitch invasion” of fans onto the field in a civil rights protest. So Arkansas succumbed to that pressure and the night before the game at the pep rally when the band director announced they would not play the song at the game the next day.

While there remains some debate whether that sort of protest would have actually materialized, and what might have happened if it did, some believe the situation could have escalated into something very uncomfortable. Arkansas players did not believe anything serious would have happened, but some of the black students disagreed. “If we had taken that field, there would have been a riot,” said one who was at the game.

Whatever, the crowd was amped up for a variety of reasons, and those at the game have sworn they have never felt so much electricity running through the stands before a game.

The high-voltage could be felt throughout the entire region in the buildup to the game as well. Arkansas, of course, was the only non-Texas school in the SWC of the day, and had always relished the chance to circle the wagons against the best from the Lone Star State. The mania grew in Fayetteville as the week progressed. Hog fever, they called it. Poster likenesses, with various exhortations to Hog supremacy, appeared in close to 90% of the town's store fronts.

By midweek local newspapers had surrendered to sheets of cartoon ads showing galloping Hogs and moribund Texas Steers. "Go Hogs go--with your regular game plan," one ad read. "May the Steers rest in peace with our perpetual care plan. Lots $80 and up. Forest Park Cemetery." would read another.

Fayetteville, however, had always been Hog wild. The weekly Rotary meetings were nothing but Razorback pep rallies for middle-aged and older men. For Texas week, after opening with the recorded radio broadcast of Short Squashed Texan, a blaring country tune exhumed for the game, four Razorback cheerleaders then took the floor to call the hogs. “Whoooooee Pig...Soooooey!” they screeched three times, with an encore. It was hard to find anyone in the town of 30,000 not wearing at least some sort of GO HOGS badge. The entire Ozark region had gotten in on the act, too, as makeshift signs and banners for the Razorbacks had popped up all around the hills.

By comparison, Austin, with the University of Texas and its 35,000 students, was a city-slicker sort of place, though by that time the locale had begun to evolve into a southwest version of Berkeley. Still, Austin was also all abuzz about the game, too, and an estimated 28,000 turned out for a Wednesday pep rally in Memorial Stadium at which the squad members and coaches were loaded into convertibles and driven around the track while the crowd roared for its No. 1 team and the big band played The Eyes of Texas over and over again.

Texas students, however, would be hard to find on game day at Razorback Stadium. While a contingent could always be counted upon to travel to other league games around the SWC, December 6 would be different.

President Nixon and his official party had to have 40 seats, and good ones at that. Arkansas fans volunteered them and took lesser tradeout seats in return, also getting 14 from none other than Darrell Royal, who said none of the Texas allotment was worth a damn anyway. Only 5,000 scats were given to Texas, and only 600 of those were for students, 288 of which would be for the Longhorn Band. This meant that for the biggest game in the Southwest in 34 years, or since the TCU-SMU game of 1935 which was played under more or less the same circumstances, only 300 or so actual non-band or non-football students, out of the total enrollment at Austin, could watch in person.

Richard Nixon was not the only president to attend the game, either. A future White House occupant, George H.W. Bush, was in attendance as one of four U.S. congressman from Texas as part of the Nixon entourage. So was Arkansas Sen. William J. Fulbright, a Democrat and leading opponent of the Vietnam War, and another long-serving Arkansas Democrat, Sen. John L. McClellan, plus another congressman from Arkansas. The Rev. Billy Graham would give the pre-game invocation. And, that very week, a Rhodes Scholar from Arkansas named Bill Clinton had penned a letter to the head of the ROTC program at the University of Arkansas, thanking the colonel for shielding him from induction into the military earlier in the year.

Nixon’s presence meant that Arkansas had to also accommodate an additional 50 or so White House press-corps members, each having to be supplied with their own phones.

Richard Nixon was involved in another event that week that had the attention of all of the players as well as almost everyone on a college campus in 1969. Nixon had recently signed legislation creating the first draft lottery since World War II. On the Monday preceding the Big Shootout, Longhorns, Razorbacks, and many others watched the nationally televised lottery in which, one-by-one, 366 capsules containing birthdays were drawn. The lower your number, the greater your chances of getting drafted...and in those days, “draft” meant army and Vietnam more so than it did NFL or NBA.

Texas-Arkansas 1969 was also one of the last major college game featuring all-white participants. The Southwest Conference had broken the color line only three years earlier, when Baylor’s John Westbrook and SMU’s Jerry LeVias would take the field. The Razorbacks would finally break their own color barrier the next season with their first black player, RB Jon Richardson. (A black walk-on, Darrell Brown, had been on the squad and practiced with the team in the mid ‘60s, but never got into a game.) More specifics of this angle have been addressed previously and will be discussed further at a later time on these pages.

ABC, spared little in the promotion of the game, especially after Ohio State’s loss two weeks earlier. The top announcing tandem of Chris Schenkel and ex-Oklahoma HC Bud Wilkinson would be describing the action. Bill Flemming would be there, too, handling the pre-game “College Football Today” show and player introductions for TV. President Nixon’s arrival via helicopter just before kickoff was another highlight of the pre-game festivities; George Herbert Walker Bush was one of those congressmen alongside as the president strolled into the stadium with his Secret Service detail, and Nixon would not get seated in Razorback Stadium until shortly after the game began. Throughout the game, Schenkel would mention more than once how ABC would be telecasting Nixon’s live press conference from Washington on the upcoming Monday night.

(Nixon would also work his way to the broadcast booth at halftime for an interview with Schenkel and Wilkinson, the latter a long-term acquaintance and fellow Republican who had recently accompanied the president to a Cowboys-Redskins NFL game in Washington. Wilkinson had real political ambitions when his college coaching days concluded, having lost a narrow election to Fred Harris for a US Senate seat from Oklahoma in 1964. Wilkinson was also a Republican National Committeeman from Oklahoma and had been considered as a possible Republican chair in 1968, and had also considered another run for the US Senate in ‘68. Quite presciently, Nixon suggested to Schenkel that “maybe we ought to have a Super College Bowl” pitting the winner of Arkansas-Texas vs. Penn State after admitting that he had received plenty of telegrams from irate Nittany Lions backers over his decision to name the winner of Longhorns-Razorbacks as national champion. He also provided a remarkably accurate description of how he thought the second half might unfold, and how Texas would have to use the pass to be effective. “Well, Mr. President, if our analyst Bud Wilkinson ever falters, we at ABC might just call you,” said Schenkel. “I’m not yet thinking of what I am going to do when I finish my present job, Chris, but there’s nothing I’d like better than to have Bud’s job right here with you,” said Nixon.).

Never minding the surrounding hoopla, the game specifics were so overwhelming that it sent the pulses racing from not only fans in Fayetteville and Austin, but all across the country, as all were almost numbed with excitement by the prospects of the clash. These were the top two-ranked teams in the nation, and seldom had a regular-season matchup featured opponents who had so utterly dominated their opposition for full seasons. Texas, its vaunted Wishbone offense piloted by slick and mod-looking QB James Street (who sported longer sideburns and was prone to flashy clothes, in the days long before he would eventually be known as the papa of MLB reliever Huston Street) and featuring bludgeoning FB Steve “Woo” Worster and HC Jim Bertelsen (who led the nation in yards per carry at 7.6), was one of the great rushing teams in history and had scored a nation’s best 44.3 ppg while conceding only 9.8 ppg. Arkansas, with a more pro-style offense featuring the passing combination of QB Bill Montgomery and stylish WR Chuck Dicus (who would wrap his shoes in white tape “spats” style a la great Colts RB Lenny Moore), balanced by hard-running Bill Burnett, whose brother Bobby had starred for earlier Razorback teams as well as in the AFL with the BIlls, scored a hefty 35.2 ppg while its swarming defense conceded only 6.8 ppg, the nation’s best such mark. The Horns had won 18 straight; the Razorbacks, 15 in a row.

December 6 dawned gray, overcast, and damp in Fayetteville, with temps in the low 40s and an at-times brisk NW wind blowing through the stadium for The Big Shootout. It had rained consistently the previous day, and would threaten along with sleet throughout Saturday, but nothing more than occasional drizzles would fall on what was a decidedly raw, late autumn afternoon in the Ozarks. At a time when 58 million U.S. households had television sets, Elvis Presley and 50 million other football fans--roughly one in every four Americans--watched ABC's telecast of what the network and the media hyped as the Game of the Century.

From early in the game, however, it was evident that Texas was not going to run roughshod with its Wishbone. The quick Arkansas 4-3 defense, drilled to perfection by coordinator Charley Coffey and with a crazed “Mon” (short for “Monster Man” strong safety Bobby Field), was going to make it heavy going for the Texas offense. The Hog “D” also featured a DT named Dick Bumpas, who would become the SWC Defensive Player of the year the following 1970 season and would eventually become better known as a strategic coaching mastermind, employed for the last decade as an innovative defensive coordinator at TCU. The Hog defense would often stack ten players within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Sure enough, the Arkansas “D” caused the first big play of the game, forcing a fumble by Texas HB Ted Koy on the Longhorn 22 on the second snap of the day. Turnovers would be a recurring problem this afternoon for Texas, which lost all four of its fumbles as well as two interceptions by QB Street.

Royal was not surprised by the Razorback defensive tenacity. “They're gonna come after us with their eyes pulled up like BBs," Darrell said before the game. "And they'll be defending every foot as if Frank Broyles has told 'em there's a 350-foot drop just behind 'em into a pile of rocks. If you believe that, you're pretty hard to move around.”

Five plays after the fumble, Arkansas was on the board on a one-yard dive by HB Bill Burnett. Texas fans, however, don’t believe the Razorbacks should have had that opportunity; on third-and-ten from the 22, Montgomery’s sideline pass to FL John Rees was ruled complete at the 2-yard-line. Replays seemed to indicate otherwise, and even the vanilla Wilkinson, who would rarely criticize the referees on TV, could not endorse the ruling. “This is a tough one to call, I’ll let you call it this time,” Wilkinson said to Schenkel in the ABC booth as they viewed the replay. Which qualified as a compelte repudiation of the on-field call by the controversy-averse Wilkinson. Still, Arkansas was up 7-0 with less than two minutes having been played.

Texas continued to play the giveaway game on its next drive. Advancing on the ground into Razorback territory, Street would try to fool the Hogs on second down and eight from the 44, but his deep pass down the right sideline was picked off by DB Terry Stewart at the Arkansas 8. Two drives, and two turnovers for the Texas offense!

The rest of the first half was played to a stalemate. With Texas continuing to shoot itself in the foot with its offensive mistakes, the Horns were fortunate not to fall further behind. And if the Horns had been betrayed by the officials on the Hogs’ first scoring drive, Texas had been given a reprieve in the 2nd Q when it looked as if Arkansas had scored another TD on a 26-yard pass from Montgomery to Dicus, who had beaten double-coverage from Texas DBs Danny Lester and the aforementioned Freddie Steinmark. After Dicus scored, however, a flag flew from the opposite end of the field in what might be one of the few penalties in history that was manufactured by arguments from a defender. Longhorn DB Tom Campbell (son of d.c. Mike Campbell) had been involved in a “chicken fight”-like shoving match with Hog FL John Rees. After the pass had been completed to Dicus for the TD, Campbell quickly complained to the ref.

“It had no effect on me and had nothing to do with the TD play across the field,” Campbell would later say. “But then I noticed that one of the officials was looking at us, and I knew he had seen the play.

“So I walked over to him and said, ‘He’s blocking on me after the ball is in the air, and that’s pass interference.’ And he said, ‘You’re right,’ and threw the flag.

“He really didn’t want to throw it, and I don’t blame him. But he did.”


The course of the game would likely have changed dramatically had the Razorbacks been staked to a 14-0 lead at that stage of the first half. Instead, the curious pass interference penalty would push Arkansas out of Bill McClard’s field goal range and kept the score 7-0 at halftime.

Texas opened the second half as it spent much of the first half, playing giveaway. Cotton Speyrer, also the Horns’ top receiver, fumbled the kickoff after a nice return to the Texas 38. Arkansas was in business again, but a third-down sack of Montgomery by DE David Arledge forced a punt before the Razorbacks could move any closer. Yet again, the Longhorns would cough up the ball on their next possession, and this time it was Speyrer once more, stripped off the pigskin after catching a downfield pass from Street. Arkansas would have good field position once more on its 47.

From there, it would take only five plays for the Razorbacks to traverse the 53 yards, finishing with Montgomery firing a bullet over the middle to a streaking Dicus, who gathered the ball in full stride at the Longhorn 10 and then raced on an angle toward the goal line for a 29-yard TD. Now up 14-0 with just over nine minutes to play in the 3rd Q, Arkansas was definitely in command.

Or, as Sports Illustrated’s legendary Dan Jenkins would write, Arkansas' 14-0 edge “seemed like the safest lead since Orval Faubus (Arkansas' former controversial governor) rode in a motorcade.”

By the time the 4th Q commenced, the Hogs still had their 14-0 lead, the closest Texas had driven was to the Arkansas 31-yard line, and most of the time the Horns couldn’t even get into Razorback territory. The Hogs were doing exactly what Broyles had said they had to do---stay put and don't miss tackles--against the greatest rushing team college football had seen in decades.

Unlike Ohio State two weeks earlier vs. Michigan, however, when the Buckeyes had panicked after looking at their first deficit of the season, Texas had been behind 14-0 before in '69, at Dallas against Oklahoma in early October, but had roared back like Pete Conrad’s Apollo 12 mission to the moon to beat the Sooners, 27-17. James Street, who had piloted that win over OU and the other 18 straight Texas successes, had at least been on the ropes, and bounced off, before. Now, however, the season-long battle for No. 1 had shrunk to the last 15 minutes of the last game, and the question was whether Texas, thoroughly bothered and bewildered, could find a way out of its clamps.

The answers came quickly. On the first play of the 4th Q, on second down and nine from the Arkansas 42, Street dropped back to pass. Seeing his receivers covered, he instead broke from the pocket, darted through the line, flashed into the Arkansas secondary, slipping past tacklers, and sped on an angle across the field, running for either the goal line or Nixon’s helicopter, whichever he hit first. He was not to be caught unless by Secret Service agents. It was the first daylight Texas had seen and Street took advantage of it for the touchdown!

Royal, showing a gambling streak that would eventually make Kenny Rogers proud, decided to immediately go for a two-point conversion, which was flawed strategy according to the much-discussed “book” on PATs; if you need to convert one two-point conversion to make up a 14-point deficit, try it on the second TD, because if missed on the first TD, the best result can be a tie if converting in the second TD. But Royal was not going by the book in Fayetteville. The slick Street ran an option to his left and barged in. It was 14-8, and suddenly this was the Texas-Arkansas game we all were expecting.

"I was gonna throw the hook," Street said later of his touchdown run. "But their linebacker fogged my eyes. I couldn't see any receivers, so I decided I'd better run. Sure glad."

Street's run had just put Texas back in the game, but suddenly Arkansas had Texas on the ropes like Nino Benvenuti had done to Luis Rodriguez in their middleweight title bout in Rome just two weeks earlier. The Hogs stormed back, marching downfield confidently with Montgomery hitting three passes, as the Razorbacks moved 73 yards to the Texas seven-yard line. On third down with only 10 minutes left to play, just about everybody in Arkansas and Texas knew that the signal to Montgomery from Razorback Offensive Coach Don Breaux would be to run the middle and take the field goal. That would make it 17-8, a margin that would llikely be too great for the Horns to overcome.

But Broyles and Breaux would be gambling, too, only there were no cherries or bars on their slot machine pull from the Texas 7-yard-line. Arkansas didn't take the three points. Montgomery would pass, and, looking across the field and into the corner for Dicus, who appeared open, instead threw short and badly into the end zone, and up came Horn DB Danny Lester to intercept. Texas was alive, and what would have been an easy field goal for the reliable McClard, to put the Razorbacks up 17-8 and make it a two-possession game for the Longhorns, had gone by the wayside.

Texas moved the ball into Arkansas territory on the subsequent possession but still another fumble, this one on an errant Street pitch to HB Koy, turned the ball over yet again on the Razorback 43. Arkansas, however, could not do anything with the ball, as Montgomery was sacked on 3rd down at his own 35 by Longhorn DEs Bill Atessis and the aforementioned David Arledge, and would punt away to the Texas 36, where the Horns would start another drive as the clock became worrisome, approaching just six minutes to play.

On the first three plays of the drive, Worster, who churned for 94 yards on the day, got only six yards, and Koy, already the victim of two fumbles, got one. It was fourth and three at Texas' own 43--with less than five minutes to play. Timeout, Longhorns. Royal did not seem inclined to punt; it was now or never for Texas.

From the sideline Royal gave Street instructions, although he didn’t know why he called the particular play. "In a case like that, you just suck it up and pick a number." Royal said. "There's no logic to it. Just a hunch."

It was a bomb, which Street wasn't supposed to throw well or complete unless his favorite target Cotton Speyrer outfought somebody for the ball. But it wasn't Speyrer, just as it wasn't Worster running in the middle, or Bertelsen running to the left. Instead, it was a 44-yard spiral to the tight end, Randy Peschel, the only receiver Texas sent out, who had gone streaking down the sideline, right past the Texas bench and just a step ahead of his double coverage, the ball somehow finding the only place it could and still be completed. The hands of Hog DBs Jerry Moore and Dennis Berner were also there, and it seemed like Arkansas was that much closer, by the inch, to knocking it away. But the pass was perfect, as good as Eli Manning would ever find Mario Manningham in a last-minute drive for the Giants in a Super Bowl decades into the future. It was that kind of accurate. Though Street wanted to instead praise his TE Peschel, who “only made the greatest catch in the history of football," said the QB.

The play put Texas on Arkansas' 13-yard line, time was suddenly not a factor for the Horns, and there could be little doubt then that the powerful Wishbone would punch it into the end zone. Two plays is all it took; Ted Koy made up for both of his fumbles when he crashed for 11 yards to the Arkansas two on the first play, and then Jim Bertelsen dived in for the tying touchdown with 3:58 on the clock. Happy Feller's placement pushed Texas ahead 15-14.

There was still plenty of time for Arkansas, of course, and Bill Montgomery proceeded to hit four more thrilling passes and move the Razorbacks to the Texas 39, and getting close to the range of PK Bill McClard, who would boot a 60-yard FG before his Arkansas career would end and he would kick for pay in the NFL with the Chargers and Saints. But with 1:13 to play, Montgomery floated a pass out in the right flat, and Tom Campbell, the Horn DB who talked the ref into throwing a flag to nullify an earlier Arkansas TD, this time would legitimately make a play, outgrabbing John Rees for the ball on a 50-50 play, and the Longhorns were ready to meet President Nixon.

Four weeks later the Horns would seal their national title with another heart-stopper of a win over Notre Dame, breaking its 44-year bowl hiatus, in the Cotton Bowl, when another 4th-down Street pass (this one to Speyrer) would set up Billy Dale’s game-winning 1-yard run with 1:08 to play in a 21-17 thriller. Meanwhile, deflated Arkansas begrudgingly accepted the consolation prize of a Sugar Bowl date vs. dangerous Ole Miss. Starting slowly, the Razorbacks dug themselves a big 27-12 hole vs. Archie Manning and the Rebels, who would hold on for a 27-22 win in New Orleans.

Joe Paterno? He would fume until the day of his death that his Penn State was robbed of a national title. Richard Nixon? He would eventually wish he took Bud Wilkinson’s job in the ABC booth.

Years later, however, and few people are still talking about that Texas-Notre Dame Cotton Bowl, and fewer still about that Arkansas-Ole Miss Sugar Bowl. Or even talking about Richard Nixon, for that matter. But Texas vs. Arkansas has proven awfully hard to forget.

Yes, it was just one game. But for many reasons, including the result, The Big Shootout never seems to go away.


Return To Home Page