Hog heaven? Texas and Arkansas meet to renew old SWC rivalry, offer fans an SEC sneak peek
UT quarterback Hudson Card: ‘I don’t really know what to expect too much, so I guess we’ll figure it out’
Oh, yes, Texas. This is no garden-variety game on Saturday. This is Arkansas.
Today’s UT players have never heard of The Big Shootout. They don’t know Frank Broyles or even Houston Nutt. They have no concept of how bad Arkansas fans hate Texas. Wooo Pig Sooie!
But they do know the Razorbacks (1-0) play in the SEC. And if the No. 15 Longhorns (1-0) ever want to win that league, they know Saturday night’s matchup in hostile Fayetteville should have their attention.
“It’s a man’s league,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. “There’s a style of football in that league that’s a physical brand that when you cross over to play, you have to be ready to play that style of football. Or you get your ass knocked off. That’s the way it goes.”
Dormant Arkansas fans will come pouring out of the Ozarks to fill up Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. It’s the Hogs’ first sellout since 2017. Frankly, there hasn’t been much for them to cheer about. This is a once-proud program that hasn’t won more than four games in a single season since 2016.
Even that Bret Bielema-led team that beat Texas in the 2014 Texas Bowl went 7-6. Nationally, nobody’s called the Hogs outside of maybe Jerry Jones and Bill Clinton since 2011 when Arkansas went 11-2.
“I don’t really know what to expect too much,” UT quarterback Hudson Card said, “so I guess we’ll figure it out.”
Texas is 56-22 in the all-time series rivalry, although most of that came during the Southwest Conference era. The two schools quit playing annually when Arkansas left the SWC for the SEC prior to the 1992 season.
Texas’ DeMarvion Overshown is one of the few that have a sense of what Texas-Arkansas means. East Texas, where Overshown is from, is fertile recruiting ground for the Razorbacks.
“I know they’re going to be loud. It’s going to get dirty. It’s going to be physical,” the linebacker from Arp said this week. “But the fact that I get to play in one of the biggest rivalries ever, I’m excited for it. I’m blessed.”
It’s likely to become an annual meeting again when the Horns join the SEC in 2025 — or sooner once all the lawyering, wheeling and dealing are done. Texas and Oklahoma have announced their plans to leave the Big 12 for the SEC, but the league is forcing the schools to stay as long as contractually possible.
Speaking of Big 12 alignment, the league is moving to expand before 2025, according to multiple reports. Houston, BYU, Cincinnati and Central Florida are all working behind the scenes to join possibly by 2023, before UT and OU exit the scene.
It’s unclear if those four additions would allow for Texas and Oklahoma to leave the Big 12 early.
Sarkisian, his coaches and the Horns themselves don’t control any of that. All they’re concerned with is building on last week’s win over Louisiana and getting to 2-0.
“Any time you get a night game, two quality opponents and you get a soldout crowd, at what point is it tough enough?” Sarkisian said. “They’re all tough. This one is going to be another one, but that’s OK. That’s why we play the game.
“Arkansas’ hate, as you refer to it for the University of Texas, isn’t going to make us play any harder,” the coach added. “We need to control what we can control.”
Card spent the week trying to keep a low profile. Having won his first start, he'll soon start getting tugged in multiple directions by all sorts of people, from football neophytes to the nefarious.
Asked if his life changed after beating Louisiana, Card said, “For me, I think it's so new and early I haven't really been able to experience much. But for me, just keep a level head and just be who I am.”
Said Sarkisian: “I don’t think you notice it necessarily with the naked eye. I don’t think he’s walking around like he’s big man on campus. That’s just not his demeanor. But I’m sure internally that had to feel pretty good for him.”
Sarkisian said he plans to play both Card and backup Casey Thompson against the Razorbacks. But like in the opener, what that looks like and how it all unfolds is still undetermined.
Week two games haven’t been easy around here. Texas started 2-0 in 2016 and again last season. But prior to that, you have to look back to 2012, the year the Horns started 4-0. So save the atta-boys for later.
Texas needs better offensive line play than it showed against Louisiana. Junior Angilau suffered a knee injury, but Sarkisian said the 6-foot-6 right guard would be cleared to play this week. Tight end Jared Wiley (shoulder) is a game-time decision. Receiver Troy Omeire (knee) is still sidelined but is expected to return later this month.
Arkansas had the third-worst rushing defense in the SEC last year under defensive coordinator Barry Odom. Texas is likely to feed Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson.
Robinson is “a game-changer,” Johnson said. “Everybody’s going to have a game plan based around stopping him. So I feel like that can create a lot of things for everybody, honestly.”
Arkansas struggled initially with Rice last week before pulling away for a 38-17 win. Quarterback KJ Johnson completed just 12 of 28 passes for 128 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Trelon Smith was the Hogs’ leading rusher with 102 yards.
Those don’t sound like impressive numbers. And this isn’t a particularly impressive Arkansas team. The Razorbacks were picked to finish second-to-last in the SEC West.
Still, something happens when you fill up the stadium and turn on the lights. Wait until those Razorbacks start calling the Hogs.
For those with a touch of gray, this game still means something even if today’s players just consider it another Saturday night.
“It’s different a little bit this year since it’s not COVID anymore, just being able to see a full crowd,” Texas senior lineman Derek Kerstetter said. “And some of these guys haven’t seen that, so it’s going to be fun for them to see their first full atmosphere on the road with a full crowd in there. It’ll be a good time.”
No. 15 Texas at Arkansas
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Frank W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Ark.
Radio: 104.9 FM, 105.3 FM (Spanish), 1260 AM, 1490 AM
They've got a history
This will be the 79th Texas-Arkansas game, but since the Razorbacks left the SWC before the 1992 season, they've met only five times — Arkansas has won three of those five, including the 1999 Cotton Bowl and the 2014 Texas Bowl, which is also the last time they've played.
This week, American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls listed his most memorable games in the rivalry series:
1969: The Big Shootout. Or was it the Game of the Century? Both work. President Nixon was in the stands in Fayetteville to watch the 15-14 UT win that came on James Street's famous Right 53 Veer Pass completion to Randy Peschel for 44 yards to set up the winning score.
1970: The Big Shootout II. In the regular season finale that next year, No. 1 Texas dismantled No. 4 Arkansas 42-7 "in maybe the most complete Longhorns win of all time," Bohls wrote. And he was there.
1987: Stafford to Jones. Texas' Bret Stafford threw an 18-yard TD pass to 5-foot-7 receiver Tony Jones — in between two defenders, too — on the final play of the game in a 16-14 upset of No. 15 Arkansas in Little Rock.
1977: The big screen. Three big Randy McEachern completions helped No. 2 Texas score the only touchdown of the game, with 4:35 to play, in a 13-9 win over No. 8 Arkansas. The biggest was a 28-yard screen to Earl Campbell down to the 1-yard line. The win came one week after No. 5 Texas beat then-No. 2 Oklahoma, and it kept what would become the Longhorns' perfect regular season spotless.
1976: One last time. Texas' 29-12 win at Memorial Stadium served as a future trivia answer — both Horns coach Darrell Royal and Arkansas' Frank Broyles, best friends who won 333 career games between them, announced their retirements.
The last five
Texas' last five games with Arkansas:
2000: Arkansas 27-6. Cotton Bowl loss at the end of the '99 season
2003: Arkansas 38-28. Royal, Broyles participated in the coin toss
2004: Texas 22-20. Horns got 188 yards, 2 TDs from Cedric Benson
2008: Texas 52-10. UT's largest margin of victory vs. UA in 92 years
2014: Arkansas 31-7. Only 57 total yards for Texas in Texas Bowl loss