As the Knife Turns

Saturday, October 16, 1965. My hunger for football was approaching the heavenly, bloated level. The Horns were 4-0, ranked #1 and I had just experienced my first OU weekend, exhilarating in a 19-0 victory, the second shutout for the season. Life was great.The Horns were great. Everything I had hoped was happening, including tons of beautiful women. What could go wrong?

On this day in history, little did I know that all that would fade to black and stay that way for several years. My personal animosity toward the Razorbacks would start that day and, quite frankly, has never ended. There's still a part of me shocked and saddened by the events of that game. And virtually every loss to the Hogs since then has turned the knife in my gut a little more. I can feel it right now,  less than a day before game time, that certain anxiety that comes for only certain games at certain times. There's an irrationality to it that I can't contend with, can't explain and there's damn little I can do about it all.

Luck. Some days you have it, some you don't. Some say luck is a product of preparation in conjunction with opportunity; some say it is a function of personal power, the ability to sieze and act on one particular moment. Some say it is blind and can happen for anyone. Some say it is a lady and a fickle one at that. But on that day in October, 1965, the Horns had absolutely none because Arkansas got it all.

 

 

The first incident was when Texas was on offense and the ball just jumped out of the running back's arms right at the line of scrimmage and one Tommy Trantam grabbed it in midair and ran 66 yard for the TD. You can put up with that one time; the Horns are a team that gets its share of loose balls most of the time.

The second time was a dagger, a muffed punt that bounced right into the hands of an Arkansas player coming at full speed and another instant TD. This was ever more pure luck than the first incident, and with it, I suddenly knew things were going bad. Texas fought back valiantly - except for those two plays this was an incredible well-played game between top tier teams; Arkansas was ranked number 3 at the time and had one of their great teams that would not lose the rest of the season. But Texas would, losing three of the next five conference games to Rice, SMU and TCU. It was the beginning of the mid-60s DKR depression and it all started with the Hogs.

Since Darrell Royal made his entrance in '57, the Longhorns have lost 12 times to the Razorbacks.  One was in the Cotton Bowl in 2000, the early ones came before 1991 in conference play. John Mackovic never had to play them, which I've always considered a small blessing.

Five of those losses came in Austin, three of those by unranked Arkansas teams, and therein lies the warning: the Hogs are dangerous all the time, perhaps even more so when they seem relatively toothless, like now. One of the Hogs favorite victories, especially by the younger barnyard brethen, is the 38-28 win in 2003. Yeah, all our heroes were there and they still got smacked around as the Hogs scored on four of their first five possessions as they built - and rebuilt - a 14-point lead. Texas was # 6, the Hogs were unranked. That caused my old scars to break open, and there was an internal pool of orange blood sloshing around for a year.

The next year I wanted the game to be tough - the 2004 Horns needed it - but I wanted to hurt the Hogs, break their hearts. Texas didn't get a big win, but the way it played out was just fine; the Hogs had hope almost to the end before they were snuffed out. See, I like to twist the knife, too.

If the Hogs have a second favorite win, one the old-timers relish, it was in 1981 when Texas was again #1 and the Hogs were unranked. Freddy returned to the Hills, the blue-eyed kicker riding in on the Orange monster from Austin. He wasn't too proud 'cause the Hogs had popped him and the Horns in 1979 when Texas was ranked #2 and the Hogs were #10. The Hogs won the nailbiter, 17-14. But the Hogs in '81 were pedestrian, certainly not in Texas' league. That's what made it so much sweeter, as they whipped the living shit out of Texas, 42-11. It was the only loss of the year for the Horns aside from a 14-14 tie with Houston. The moonshiners up in the hills still toast to 42-11. It is part of the legacy they put in their feed, that fuels their fanaticsm and empowers their hatred.

I went over to The SlopHouse and their in-house pickers all go with Texas, by an average margin of 48-14. Almost like Bama. Of course, I don't trust that, just more fuel for the underdog. After coming in to the game late to see Oregon State shocking USC and then winning, I went, hmmm, must be full moon. Sure enough, Monday night is the full moon. I ran a pickers poll for many years and on the full moon things happen, especially for home underdogs. That isn't the Horns situation, but anything which can catalyze the rabid Hogs is a serious danger.

Normally, I would say that we'll know in the first quarter how this will swing but with the current Texas team I can't say that. The Horns have taken nearly a quarter to achieve some level of recognition of their opponents; once that happens the defense gets better and better.

Part of that falls on the rookie DBs, part on the new defensive system, part on teams we seldom face who can throw up about a quarter's worth of their best play execution and assorted strangeness to confuse both the offense and defense. Teams like our prior ooc opponents and Arkansas know they have to strike and score quickly. They last thing they want is to go toe-to-toe on an even basis, because they're outmatched and they know it. They'll be aiming to victimize our rookies and to neutralize the pass rush with short, quick passes and runs. What Muschamp has done is to go big-play prevent to nullify some of this early game edge; they may get some plays but they don't get the big score. If he had watched the 2003 game, he would be aware of how deadly that is.With a new coach and a new system, Arkansas will definitely be going after the win. After the 'Bama loss, they have absolutely nothing to lose now.

Arkansas became one of our most powerful adversaries in the SWC and despite the anguish they can bring, I still favor playing them as much as we can. While I risk tearing open old scars and feeling that post-OU type of bad letdown, I also see that it gives the Horns a chance to nail another bristly hide to the smokehouse wall. For what is going to happen the next six weeks, the Horns need a tough game, one where all the players start maturing and perform at a high level for the whole contest. Our needs are not so different than 2004. A two-point win will make me happy; a two-point loss will hurt me for a long, long time. When it comes to the Hogs, I got a lot on the line.

Hook 'em.

 

 

 

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