In 1977, Arkansas was still something pretty darn close to a college football blueblood, and Texas was still, well, Texas. And the third week of October, Hate Texas Week, saw the No. 2 horns in Fayetteville to take on the No. 8 Hogs and first-year Arkansas coach Lou Holtz.
It was ABC’s national game of the week, back when there was only one national broadcast per week, and it was big-time. Former Razorback player Benedict Arn, er, Fred Akers, was making his as Texas coach. Fortunately for him and not us, he inherited Earl Campbell.
Both teams were coming off 5-5-1 seasons the year before, the send-off campaigns for legends-of-the-game Frank Broyles and Darrell Royal. And both teams were set up for success in ’77, though the Hogs were unranked in the preseason polls, and UT ranked “only” 18th in what was then a top 20. But by mid-October, both teams were undefeated, the Hogs having easily dispatched No. 15 Oklahoma State, 28-6, in Little Rock in September, and UT coming off a 13-6 win over Oklahoma in Dallas the week before.
Barry Switzer once said that Campbell was the only football player he ever saw who could’ve gone straight from high school to the NFL. And even though the horns had Big Earl, the Hogs had future Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Dan Hampton and the incomparable Steve Little, one of the greatest kickers who ever lived. Of course, Texas had a kicker of its own considered one of the best ever to play the college game — Russell Erxleben.
Little, whose No. 12 jersey remains retired on the Hill, and Erx would live up to their billing that day. The score stood at 9-6 Hogs midway through the 4th quarter, five field goals the only points. And one of them from Little came from 67 yards out — yes, 67 (kickers could use tees on FGs back then) — and tied Erxleben’s college record-long kick registered just a few weeks earlier against Rice.
The game was dominated by defense and field position (and Texas refs); it remains one of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever watched. The first 55 minutes of it, anyway. It was the LSU-Bama 2011 game before there was a 2011 LSU-Bama game. (Top-ranked LSU beat No. 2 Alabama 9-6 in overtime that year in Tuscaloosa, and that game also ranks up there as one of the best I’ve watched.)
In today’s game, yards come easy. On that overcast and windy day in Northwest Arkansas, they were hard earned and scarce.
After Erxleben missed a would-be tying FG early in the 4th, the Hogs managed to burn a little clock but that’s all. The horns took over on their own 20 following a punt and proceeded to ride the back of Campbell. Big No. 34 ran for 188 yards on the day, more than half of UT’s total offense. But more devastatingly, his key third-down conversion with just under five minutes left set up the bad guys at the 1.
Another heartbreaker to the shorthorns. For what it’s worth, Arkansas is 3-2 against Texas since we left the Southwest Conference. But we haven’t beaten the horns in Fayetteville (in three tries) since the glorious 42-11 rout in ’81.
That fall afternoon in ’77, my 11-year-old self balled from our seats on the west side possibly all the way back down the Hill, the UT band having taken on the mission to personally and maliciously serenade me with that gosh-forsaken song (may it rot in hell) as we filed out of Razorback Stadium.
That was one of the last of the truly “big time” matchups between the Hogs and horns. Sure, we still played with SWC titles on the line, but there would be no more clashes of top 10 teams.
But as much as we all hate the burnt orange, I’m looking forward to the return of Hate Texas Week. We’ll trade Texas refs for SEC refs, so that’s a wash, but maybe seeing Bevo every fall will spark a seemingly long-lost connection to our rich past.
If nothing else, UT to the SEC is bad, bad news for the Aggies, and that’s good news for us. Here’s to more top 10 showdowns between the Porkers and the steers…
My refusal to capitalize any reference to the UT mascot in this month’s magazine is childish and dumb, yes. But to members of my generation, Texas represents the evil empire. Sometimes you just gotta go juvenile. No real disrespect is intended. That may be a lie, but I sincerely am looking forward to having Texas in the SEC with Oklahoma. While I’ve grown to “hate” every team in the SEC in certain ways, and have grown particularly strong bonds of distaste for Ole Miss, LSU and Texas A&M (the latter representing a renewed repulsion), we haven’t had a Texas since, well, 1991.
As Orville Henry once said, we traded one Texas for a bunch of ‘em when we moved over to the SEC, and that makes it hard to fine tune one’s hatred. In the old SWC, it was easy. I think the state of Arkansas has missed having Texas on the schedule every year. (And I think the addition of Oklahoma has potential to start an actual “borderline” rivalry.)
But let’s face it, Hate Texas Week is almost like the lead-up to a holiday around here. That may seem sad to some, but I can remember a few years growing up where we all could say, “Well, at least we beat Texas.”
Katie Zakrzewski is a living, breathing contraction in terms. And anyone who knows her would understand that’s meant as a good thing. As unique as they come, she “rings true,” as someone close to me used to say of the good people. She’s one of the good people.
KZ is the cavalry riding out to meet the Nazi onslaught, screaming, “Not today, you #$%*#@^!”
Our former associate editor is now the national communications coordinator for Citizens Climate Lobby, where she hopes to infuse some of her true, pure-grain conservatism (not populism but conservatism) to the cause. A conservative environmentalist? Hmmm.
My money is on law school next for KZ, then mayor of North Little Rock (she’s a Baring Cross gal), governor of Arkansas and perhaps next, Empress of Earth. She’d have my vote. For now, she’ll still submit a Digs of the Deal now and again, or who knows? Maybe even help with a list. (Breathe, Katie, just breath…)
All I know for sure is, we miss her and wish her all the best. And we raise a symbolic pint in her honor. Here’s to you, KZ.
As always, thanks for reading. Hit me up with any story ideas, suggestions or critiques, good and bad. I’m always available at MCarter@ARMoneyandPolitics.com.