Arkansas & Texas A&M Go Back To The Future To Renew a Rivalry
The Arkansas Razorbacks and Texas A&M Aggies first met on the gridiron way back in 1903 when the fledgling Arkansas football program was only nine years into its existence.
The UA team was still known as the Cardinals as this was six years before Hugo Bezdek's "we played like a wild bunch of Razorback Hogs" speech following a landmark victory over LSU in 1909.
Some Hog fans say there are no "traditional rivalries" for the Hogs in the SEC. Tell that to people in eastern Arkansas or down around LA, Lower Arkansas to some.
Southern Arkansas was once home to Paul "Bear' Bryant, Barry Switzer, former LSU coach Charley McClendon, Tommy Tuberville, Bill Clinton, former U.S. Senator David Pryor, singer Glen Campbell (he of celebrity mug shot fame) and others who have to listen to LSU fans on a daily basis.
But back to old rivalries. On Oct. 3, the Hogs and Texas A&M renewed an old rivalry from the Southwest Conference when the teams meet for the first time since 1991. Just to give you an idea, some of the current players were barely born then, and UA freshman Knile Davis of Missouri City,Texas may not have been born at that time.
The Hogs lead the all-time series 38-24-3. When the Hogs left the SWC for the greener pastures of the Southeastern Conference, the Hogs led all of the former members of the SWC in the all-time series except Texas.
The Aggies got the last laugh in that 1991 game when then head coach Jack Crowe (I'm still trying to forget the Crowe era) tried to secretly put in the wishbone offense due to injuries at quarterback.
It was perhaps the worst kept secret in Arkansas history other than the news that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of Springdale are expecting another child. Another couple and they could field a starting football team.
Here is my list of the most memorable Arkansas-Texas A&M football games in the history of this rivalry.
I wasn't even a gleam in my Dad's eye when the Hogs beat then first year A&M head coach Bear Bryant in his first season in College Station, so that game is not included in the festivities.
I was in diapers when the Bear returned the favor, beating the Hogs 7-6 on the way to the national championship in 1957, so again, I will include only the games I can recall.
The first and perhaps most meaningful was the game in Little Rock in December, 1975 when the 2nd ranked Aggies entered the game heavy favorites after having thrashed the Texas Longhorns earlier.
The Southwest Conference title was on the line and the Hogs throttled the Ags 31-6, the same score as another famous game a couple of years later. The game propelled the Hogs into the Cotton Bowl, then still a major bowl, where UA trounced Georgia 31-10 in Frank Broyles' last bowl game before retirement a year later.
In 1977, the Hogs struggled to a 26-20 win over the Aggies in College Station under first year head coach Lou Holtz, bringing an Orange Bowl bid. When fans pelted the field with oranges a week later after a win over future New England and Indianapolis head coach Ron Meyer and SMU, Holtz quipped "thank goodness we aren't playing in the Gator Bowl".
In 1981 at Kyle Field, which I thought was the toughest venue in the SWC, what with the fans being much more raucous than the more wine and cheese crowd at Austin, Billy Ray Smith, Jr, who spent several years with the San Diego Chargers, preserved a 10-7 Arkansas victory with a sack of the Aggie quarterback in the final moments of the game.
In 1986, the Hogs clinched another Orange Bowl berth with a 14-10 victory over the Aggies. That Orange Bowl was against the same team, Oklahoma, that awaited the Hogs after the 1977 season, but alas, with a much different result.
In 1988, after then Aggie coach Jackie Sherrill proclaimed before the game that the SWC title went through College Station, the Hogs won a cliffhanger 25-20 on a late interception. The win clinched the Hogs' first SWC championship and the Cotton Bowl berth that went with it since Broyles' last hurrah in 1975.
A year later, in 1989, Ken Hatfield and the Hogs were going for the team's first back-to-back SWC championships in football since 1964-65. Playing at Kyle Field, again, always a tough place to come out with a victory for visiting teams, the Hogs hung on 23-22 after taking an intentional safety to avoid punting from their own end zone late in the contest.
Those were the six most memorable Arkansas-Texas A&M games in my recollection. When I think of the Hogs-Aggies, the games were usually close, low-scoring contests in which defense decided the outcome.
To give you some idea, in the highest scoring game in the Arkansas-Texas A&M series, a total of 59 points were scored. Arkansas and Georgia combined for 48 points in a recent first half.
When I think of Texas A&M football, I think of mainly running backs and linebackers. For awhile there, the Aggies rivaled Penn State for producing NFL 'backers. There were great players at other positions such as defensive backs Lester Hayes, Pat Thomas and many others, but the linebackers were the heart of the A&M defense in their heyday.
Texas A&M was always a defensive and special teams oriented team back in the day, kind of like Virginia Tech. Contrast that with the Ags #1 ranked offense in 2009.
With Ryan Mallett and the Hogs having many offensive weapons, much to A&M and former Arkansas defensive coordinator Joe Kines' dismay, there should be a lot of points scored Saturday.
In a sort of Dennis Franchione tour, the Hogs go from Tuscaloosa to Texas A&M, and in both cases an ugly videotape was involved. The Aggies and Crimson Tide's histories are intertwined with Bear Bryant having gone to Alabama from A&M, then former Aggie head man Gene Stallings went to 'Bama after a number of years in the NFL.
Former A&M boss Jackie Sherrill played for Bryant at Alabama, then Franchione made his ill-fated trek from Tuscaloosa to College Station.
There is much history from Alabama to Texas A&M and if the Arkansas Razorbacks hope to change recent history and go to a bowl game following the 2009 regular season, a win over the Aggies in the Jones-Dome is a must.
I know, Dallas Cowboys Stadium is the official name for the state of the art palace in Arlington, TX and UA alum Jerry Jones is largely responsible for this ten year series that is set to begin.
Hopefully, the Hogs are up to the task at hand and will thrill a large contingent of Hog fans Saturday as a long time series goes back to the future.
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