Pig Roast: Arkansas’ 10 most heartbreaking football games

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In light of the Razorbacks’ current season, which began with great expectations but has been derailed yet again by a grueling SEC schedule, it seems appropriate to reflect on past seasons when the flicker of championship glory was brutally extinguished.

There’s a lot of heartbreak in this list. Better grab some tissues.

10. 1998 — The Stoernover

After five years with Danny Ford at the helm, Arkansas severed ties with its head coach and brought in Houston Nutt. An Arkansas native and former Razorback, Nutt was handed a veteran squad, and the season couldn’t have started any better.

The Hogs roared out of the gate to an 8-0 start, rolling No. 22 Alabama in the SEC opener and winning three straight road games. No. 11 Arkansas then breezed past Ole Miss to set up a monumental showdown against No. 1 Tennessee in Knoxville.

Now ranked No. 10, Arkansas jumped on the Vols early, leading 21-3 in the first half. But Tennessee clawed back to pull within two — 24-22 — with about three minutes remaining. The Hogs tried to run out the clock, but disaster struck when quarterback Clint Stoerner tripped over his lineman’s foot and fumbled the ball. Tennessee recovered and scored the winning touchdown five plays later.

Still, Arkansas wasn’t out of the national title hunt. The Hogs actually moved up in the rankings after losing to Tennessee, improving to No. 9. But a week later the shell shocked Razorbacks were upended 22-21 by Mississippi State on a dubious field goal.

Tennessee, meanwhile, went on to win the first BCS National Championship.

9. 1979 — New Year’s Day Debacle

The Razorbacks were in a peculiar position at the end of the ’79 season. Although the Hogs lost their bowl game to the eventual national champion, it’s plausible that had Arkansas prevailed, it still wouldn’t have finished No. 1.

The season in a nutshell: Despite beating Texas for the first time in eight years and reaching as high as No. 4 in the polls, Arkansas’ title hopes were derailed by No. 6 Houston. Later in the season Texas knocked off Houston, but both the Cougars and Hogs finished 7-1 to share the SWC title.

No. 6 Arkansas was invited to the Sugar Bowl while Houston went to the Cotton Bowl. The Hogs were paired with No. 2 Alabama. The Crimson Tide, SEC champions and undefeated at 11-0, steamrolled Arkansas 24-9 to win their seventh and final championship under legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Although Houston won the 1980 Cotton Bowl, the Cougars had dropped a few spots — to No. 8 — entering the bowl game. Already ahead in the polls, Arkansas further benefited when No. 1 Ohio State lost in the Rose Bowl.

But that victory came thanks to No. 2 Southern California. Meanwhile, No. 5 Oklahoma topped No. 4 Florida State in the Orange Bowl.

So, it’s safe to assume even if the Hogs managed to upset Alabama, the best they could hope for was a top 5 finish in the polls.

Plus, even if Alabama lost, the Tide probably would just claim the 1979 title anyway.

8. 1988 — Help Wanted

By the late 1980s, the SWC was still recovering from SMU’s pay-for-play scandal that destroyed the Mustangs’ football program. Arkansas, although 10-0 with wins over Ole Miss, Texas and Houston — the latter two victories coming on the road — was ranked No. 8 heading into the season finale against No. 3 Miami.

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CBS laid out a convoluted path to the national championship for Arkansas.

As noted by Arkansas Fight, the SWC’s sordid reputation and a distaste for smashmouth football among the national media possibly contributed to the Hogs’ low ranking:

“[Sports Illustrated] paints a dismal picture of the ’88 Hogs, focusing on their performance in the Arkansas-Texas A&M game that … ‘was about as pretty to look at as the snarling wild pig emblem that decorates gas stations and convenience stores all across Arkansas'”

Heading into the game with Miami, Arkansas also was looking to avenge its 51-7 shellacking from the Hurricanes the year before in Little Rock. But to win the national title, Arkansas would need loads of help from other teams and the media, as CBS pointed out in its pre-game show.

Down in the Orange Bowl for the ’88 contest, the two teams traded blows until late in the second half, when Arkansas safety Steve Atwater came within a hair of making a game-clinching interception.

Miami settled for a field goal, but that was enough to edge the Hogs 18-15. While a win over Miami wouldn’t have guaranteed Arkansas a national title, it would’ve tipped the scales in the Razorbacks’ favor. But losing to Troy Aikman and No. 9 UCLA in the Cotton Bowl didn’t help, either.

7. 1977 — “The national championship is up for grabs!”

In some people’s eyes, the 1977 Arkansas Razorbacks were national champions.

For most of Arkansas’ tenure in the SWC, the Razorbacks’ biggest hurdle each year was Texas. The 1977 season wouldn’t be any different.

After a perplexing 5-5-1 finish in ’76, Arkansas rebounded in ’77 with a stellar cast that included future NFL Hall of Fame inductee Dan Hampton. The Hogs were 4-0 and ranked No. 8 when No. 2 Texas rolled into Fayetteville.

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Arkansas’ Roland Sales (21) rushed for a then-record 205 yards in the Orange Bowl.

A match-up of two undefeated teams, the game was a defensive slugfest. Early scores hinged on field goals, which included a then-record 67-yard make from Arkansas’ Steve Little.

But Texas’ backbreaking, 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter sealed a 13-9 Longhorns victory.

Arkansas won the rest of its games and finished second in the SWC, earning an invite to the Orange Bowl. Texas, meanwhile, won the SWC and earned a trip to the Cotton Bowl.

Down in Miami, Arkansas blasted No. 2 Oklahoma 31-6. Earlier, in Dallas, the Longhorns were whipped 38-10 by Joe Montana and No. 5 Notre Dame. If the Sooners won, they could have a shot at a national title.

But thanks to an upset in the Rose Bowl and a lopsided win by Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, there wouldn’t be a clear national champion. Despite division within the AP and UPI polls, Notre Dame received a majority of No. 1 votes. Today, the Fighting Irish are widely recognized as the national champions of 1977.

Still, it’s worth noting that Alabama and Arkansas also received a share of No. 1 votes — with the Hogs tallying 5 1/2 votes in the AP poll and two votes in the UPI poll.

6. 1982 — “Damn Texas refs”

Under six-year head coach Lou Holtz, the Hogs were ranked No. 13 in the 1982 preseason and climbed to No. 5 after a 7-0 start. Arkansas was upset Nov. 6 by Baylor, but crept back into the top 10 after drubbing Texas A&M 35-0 in Little Rock.

Up next for the No. 9 Hogs was a trip to Dallas to face No. 2 SMU. The Mustangs were undefeated and had a chance to win the SWC that afternoon in Texas Stadium.

Led by Billy Ray Smith, Jr., Arkansas’ defense slowed the vaunted “Pony Express,” and the Hogs were nursing a 17-10 lead late in the fourth quarter.

With just over four minutes remaining, SMU faced a third-and-long. Short on time, Mustangs quarterback Lance McIlhenny dropped back and hurled a prayer downfield to receiver Jackie Wilson.

The rest is sordid history — to Hogs fans, at least.

Nathan Jones, Arkansas’ sophomore defensive back, was whistled for pass interference despite the ball being overthrown and Wilson climbing up Jones’ back.

The penalty awarded the Mustangs a 40-yard gain, putting SMU in the red zone.

SMU scored a few plays later on McIlhenny’s scramble, held Arkansas on defense, and missed a kick in the final seconds to preserve the tie.

The 17-17 stalemate clinched the SWC for SMU and secured the Mustangs a Cotton Bowl berth, where they beat Dan Marino and No. 6 Pittsburgh.

Now ranked No. 6, Arkansas followed the loss to SMU with a 33-7 whipping from No. 12 Texas. The Hogs limped to the Bluebonnet Bowl just weeks removed from being in the hunt for a national title.

But Razorbacks fans got some pretty cool bumper stickers out of the fiasco.

5. 2006 — “The lost year”

Houston Nutt’s most successful season also was his most tumultuous.

The season seemed like a lost cause from the outset, when star running back Darren McFadden injured his toe in a drunken night club brawl in Little Rock.

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Houston Nutt was hired as Arkansas’ head coach in 1998. Over the next eight years, he moonlighted as the offensive coordinator.

Meanwhile, Gus Malzahn had been hired as offensive coordinator. A legend in the Arkansas high school ranks, Malzahn brought with him a handful of his elite players, including former Springdale quarterback Mitch Mustain, the 2005 Gatorade National Player of the Year.

Malzahn’s offensive scheme — described as a “before-its-time, no-huddle spread offense” — immediately clashed with Nutt’s conservative philosophy.

The rift deepened thanks to a brewing quarterback controversy between Mustain and starter Casey Dick, and Nutt’s reluctance to give up play-calling duties — something he oversaw during his previous eight years at Arkansas.

Oh, and then there was Nutt’s alleged extra-marital affair with a local TV anchor. Can’t forget Mustain’s overbearing mother, either.

Anyways, Arkansas got smoked in the season opener against No. 6 USC, but reeled off 10 straight wins. McFadden emerged as a Heisman candidate, and his two teammates in the backfield — Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis — became stars in their own right.

The Hogs were ranked No. 5 and had already clinched the SEC West when No. 9 LSU came to War Memorial Stadium for first top 10 matchup in the history of the rivalry.

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Despite a record-setting career at Springdale High School, quarterback Mitch Mustain and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn couldn’t replicate their success at Arkansas.

LSU won 31-26 thanks to a flurry of big plays and questionable offensive play-calling from Arkansas.

From there, the Hogs went to Atlanta to play No. 4 Florida in the SEC Championship Game, where they blew a four-point lead late in the third quarter. The back-breaker came when Arkansas receiver Reggie Fish tried to field a punt near the Hogs’ goal line, muffed the ball, and Florida recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown.

The Hogs capped the season with a heartbreaking loss to No. 6 Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl.

4. 1970 — “Shootout fizzles”

The 1970 Razorbacks got off to an auspicious start. Arkansas was one of several schools to take advantage of a new NCAA rule allowing teams to schedule an 11th game. Other high-profile regular season matchups that year included LSU-Notre Dame, USC-Alabama and UCLA-Texas.

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Arkansas’ powerful running game was smothered by a stingy Texas defense.

But as the New York Times noted, “the national spotlight will be at Little Rock, where Arkansas opposes Stanford” on national TV.

No. 10 Stanford jumped on the Hogs early, taking a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Arkansas, ranked No. 4, rallied but fell short in the second half, as Stanford won 34-28.

Still, Arkansas returned a talented, senior-laden roster. The Razorbacks followed the loss by dismantling Oklahoma State and Tulsa, then ran roughshod through the SWC. After thumping No. 19 Texas Tech in Lubbock, the Hogs were back in the top 5 and heading to Austin for a showdown against No. 1 Texas.

It was the Big Shootout all over again: The winner of the 1970 contest would clinch the SWC and possibly a share of the national title. The Waco Tribune-Herald succinctly captured Arkansas’ pre-game misery:

“Last year’s tears, suffered on that cold, dismal day in Fayetteville have lingered for an entire season.”

But Arkansas wouldn’t exact revenge for ’69. And there was no dramatic finish — or much excitement at all — as the Longhorns skewered the Hogs 42-7.

3. 2011 — Bayou Beatdown

Despite being thumped by Alabama earlier in the year, the Hogs were within arms reach of the title game at the end of the 2011 season.

Thanks to a bevy of upsets and the Razorbacks’ “thrashing” of Mississippi State, the Battle for the Golden Boot became a top 5 match-up with massive postseason implications. Arkansas had jumped in the polls from No. 6 to No. 3 — the Hogs’ highest ranking since 1978 — while LSU and Alabama held the top two spots, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Arkansas-LSU rivalry had emerged on the national stage. Six of the previous seven games were decided by an average of 3.5 points.

After a scoreless first quarter in Death Valley, Arkansas appeared in control, bolting to a 14-0 lead. But the Tigers responded with a 77-yard scoring drive, held the Hogs on defense, and then returned the punt 92 yards for a touchdown.

The rout was on from there. LSU rolled to a 41-17 win, outscoring Arkansas 41-3 down the stretch.

2. 1969 — Game of the Century

What wasn’t at stake on Dec. 6, 1969?

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Arkansas’ defense — best in the SWC in terms of points allowed — forced six Texas turnovers.

For Arkansas and Texas, it was the final regular-season game of the 100th anniversary of college football. The winner would claim the SWC title, a berth in the Cotton Bowl — a potential national championship game.

Despite dreary conditions, Razorback Stadium was filled to capacity, while 58 million watched on TV.

The annual match-up between the Longhorns and Razorbacks functioned as a one-game referendum on a budding rivalry, a fact that was overlooked amidst all the chaos surrounding the game.

Texas was Arkansas’ most hated opponent, but the feeling wasn’t mutual. Still, Arkansas and Texas shared or won the SWC eight times in the 1960s. The average margin of victory between the two teams in their previous nine meetings was a paltry seven points.

By ’69, outsiders had taken notice. What was later coined The Big Shootout originated from the foresight of TV executives, who lobbied Arkansas and Texas to move their usual October meeting to December for the final game of the season.

The gamble paid off: the Longhorns and Hogs entered the game undefeated — ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively — and ABC had the ratings bonanza it hoped for.

Even the weather played along with the melodrama:

“[T]he day took on an eerie feeling. The night before, a steady, cold rain fell in Fayetteville and an icy fog hovered over the stadium as the crowd awaited the arrival of President Richard Nixon, who would award a plaque symbolic of the National Championship to the winner.”

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Texas quarterback James Street’s 42-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was a seminal moment in The Big Shootout.

Arkansas fans know well the heartbreak of the game. The Hogs looked unstoppable early, but blew a 14-0 lead and lost 15-14 to the hated Longhorns. Texas celebrated in the locker room with Nixon, who presented a plaque to the Longhorns and declared them national champions.

Texas went on to defeat Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl to finish 11-0. Alongside, Ohio State and Nebraska, the Longhorns were named national champions by the National Football Foundation and UPI. The Hogs went to the Sugar Bowl, but were upset by Archie Manning and Ole Miss.

While the loss caused acute pain for Razorbacks fans, the long-term ramifications wouldn’t be fully realized until the 1980s.

Before Frank Broyles arrived, Arkansas was second-fiddle not only to Texas, but most of the SWC. That all changed in the 1960s. By the end of the decade, Arkansas had established a program to rival Texas. Losing the Big Shootout loomed over the program for the next few seasons, while Texas prospered.

The Longhorns opened the 1970s by winning four straight conference titles and dominated Arkansas as the rivalry reverted to a one-sided affair. Arkansas beat Texas just twice in the decade (’71 and ’79), losing eight times by an average of 25 points.

1. 1965 — “It had to end sometime”

The last time Arkansas was on the cusp of a national title, the Hogs were riding a 22-game win streak, ranked No. 2 in the country and facing an over-matched LSU team in the Cotton Bowl.

LSU’s 14-7 upset over No. 2 Arkansas in the 1966 Cotton Bowl kept the Hogs from winning consecutive national titles.

LSU’s 14-7 upset over No. 2 Arkansas in the 1966 Cotton Bowl kept the Hogs from winning consecutive national titles.

But the Razorbacks were undone by their own hubris and a feisty Tigers squad.

As Sports Illustrated noted before the game, Broyles knew his team souldn’t overlook LSU:

“A lady whose intention undoubtedly was kind wove through the balloons and paper hats at the Cotton Bowl New Year’s Eve party and clutched the arm of Arkansas Coach Frank Broyles. ‘Frank,’ she said, ‘you have nothing to worry about tomorrow,’ meaning the Razorbacks were certain to beat Louisiana State for their 23rd straight win. ‘Lady,’ said Broyles, ‘that is exactly what worries me.'”

Arkansas went up 7-0 in the opening quarter, the only score of the period. But the Hogs couldn’t contain LSU’s bruising running back, Joe Labruzzo. He scored both of the Tigers’ touchdowns and captured MVP honors.

Neither team scored in the second half and Arkansas’ last-second rally was extinguished when the clock ran out.

Thanks to losses by No. 1 Michigan State and No. 2 Nebraska, LSU’s victory inadvertently vaulted No. 4 Alabama to the national title. Arkansas finished at No. 3.

Had Arkansas won, the Razorbacks would’ve not only had a strong case for being known as “the team of the ’60s,” but the ’64 and ’65 squads would be regarded as two of the all-time best.

Honorable Mention

A total of six points kept Arkansas from an undefeated regular season in 1985.

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After a strong finish in ’77, Sports Illustrated ranked Arkansas as the No. 1 team heading into the 1978 season.

The Razorbacks opened the season 5-0 and were ranked No. 4 when an underachieving Texas squad came to Fayetteville on Oct. 19. Arkansas scored first and kept the Longhorns out of the end zone — but succumbed 15-13 thanks to five Texas field goals.

Roughly three weeks later, the SWC title was up for grabs when No. 9 Arkansas traveled to College Station. Texas A&M pulled the upset, 10-6.

Arkansas rebounded with a thrilling victory in the Holiday Bowl.

Just seven years earlier, Arkansas graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as the magazine’s No. 1 team entering the 1978 season. The Hogs also were blessed with a No. 2 ranking from the Associated Press.

The Hogs picked up where they left off from ’77, but consecutive losses to No. 8 Texas and No. 11 Houston spoiled Arkansas’ championship aspirations.

Blown Coverage: Pony Excess Whiffs On Arkansas-SMU Game

University of Arkansas Archives

If you missed ESPN’s 30 for 30 special chronicling the rise and fall of Southern Methodist’s football program, then you’re in luck. It’s now available for streaming on Netflix.

One of the series’ more riveting documentaries, Pony Excess focuses on SMU’s sudden resurgence as a national power in the 1970s and 80s, while also probing the program’s shady recruiting tactics. The film pays special attention to the Mustangs 1982 team, which finished 11-0-1 and claimed a piece of the national championship, albeit at a hefty price.

While the filmmakers did a terrific job of weaving a complex tale of corruption into a gripping film, their coverage of the Arkansas-SMU game, a polarizing match-up for both fan bases, was severely lacking. The Hogs were one of only two ranked teams the Mustangs faced in the regular season, and the game matched the conference’s best two teams. A controversial call essentially decided the outcome, forcing the NCAA to change a its pass interference rules. And the outcome effectively set in motion the collapse of the Southwest Conference.

So how could they have devoted so little time to it?

BACKGROUND

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Craig James (32) and Eric Dickerson (19) guided SMU to a 34-11-1 record between 1979 and 1982.

The Mustangs entered the 1982 season as defending Southwest Conference champions. They returned a wealth of talent, too, anchored on offense by two of the nation’s best running backs: Craig James and Eric Dickerson. Meanwhile, Wes Hopkins and Gary Moten headlined a defense that allowed a paltry 11.6 points per game. The SWC was theirs to lose.

Also, understand that back then, winning the SWC was comparable to winning the SEC. The SWC was stacked top to bottom with established programs that played physical, defensive-minded football. Thanks to tie-ins with all the major bowls of the era, if a team made it through the SWC unscathed, they’d likely be playing for a shot at the national title.

As luck would have it, the conference was “down” in ’82. All the Mustangs really had to worry about in terms of adequate competition was Texas and Arkansas. None of the other six SWC teams even finished with winning records.

SMU easily dispatched Texas early in the season, thumping the No. 19 Longhorns in Austin, 30-17. Pony Excess gave that game ample coverage, portraying the Mustangs in an underdog role, as if SMU beating Texas finally meant their program needed to be taken seriously.

The Mustangs followed a win over Texas with blowouts against Texas A&M and Rice, beating the Aggies and Owls by a combined 88-23. Undefeated (9-0) and ranked No. 2 in the country, SMU was scheduled to face a mediocre Texas Tech squad in Lubbock, where the Mustangs hadn’t won since 1968. This had “trap game” written all over it.

Battling to a 24-24 standstill, the Red Raiders appeared to have spoiled SMU’s national title hopes when they tied the game with just 17 seconds left to play. But on the ensuing kickoff, SMU’s Bobby Leach took a lateral from Blaine Smith and sprinted 91 yards for the game winning touchdown.


The miraculous win set up a mammoth showdown between No. 2 SMU (10-0) and No. 9 Arkansas (8-1). The Mustangs could clinch the SWC with a victory.

THE GAME

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Arkansas’ Billy Ray Smith, Jr. (87) was a consensus All-American defensive end in 1982.

Arkansas was still seething from its loss to SMU in 1981. Adding to the Hogs’ woes, they were were also just two weeks removed from an inexplicable loss to an inferior Baylor squad.

Needless to say, the Razorbacks were fired up heading into Dallas that weekend.

Playing inside a rowdy Texas Stadium, Arkansas scored first, taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 3-yard run from running back Gary Anderson. Following an SMU turnover, Arkansas had a chance to go up 10-0, but the Mustangs blocked the Hogs field goal attempt.

Riding the momentum, Dickerson scored on a 6-yard run a few plays later to tie the game. Neither team scored again before halftime.

In the third quarter, the Mustangs took a 10-7 lead on Jeff Harrell’s 49-yard field goal. But the Hogs countered with a field goal of their own, as Martin Smith booted in three points from 27 yards out.

Midway through the fourth quarter, still tied at 10, Arkansas put together its best drive of the afternoon. The Hogs marched 77 yards to SMU’s goal line, where Anderson punched it in to give Arkansas a commanding 17-10 lead with just six minutes left in regulation.

The Mustangs regained possession of the ball deep in their own territory. After struggling to gain positive yardage on its first two plays, SMU faced a third-and-long with just over four minutes remaining. Knowing he was short on time, quarterback Lance McIlhenny dropped back and hurled a prayer downfield to receiver Jackie Wilson.


It still hurts to watch.

Nathan Jones, Arkansas’ sophomore defensive back, was actually a few steps ahead of Wilson on the play. Realizing the ball was overthrown (you can actually see it sail past both players at the :40 mark), Jones started to slow down. Wilson, watching the ball, unwittingly ran into Jones, trampling and pulling him to the ground.

Referee Horton Nsersta whistled Jones for the infraction, handing the Mustangs a 40-yard gain. Pass interference was a “spot foul” back in ‘82. Meaning, whichever team benefited from the infraction gained all the yardage accumulated between the line of scrimmage and the location of the penalty.

So instead of SMU being backed up even further on fourth down, the Mustangs were in Arkansas’ red zone with a fresh set of downs.

The rest of the game is sordid history – to Hog fans at least.

SMU scored a few plays later on McIlhenny’s scramble, held Arkansas on defense, and missed a kick in the final seconds to preserve the tie. The 17-17 stalemate clinched the SWC Championship for SMU and secured the Mustangs Cotton Bowl berth.

THE AFTERMATH

Arkansas' Gary Anderson (43) rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns to win MVP honors at the 1982 Blue Bonnet Bowl.

Arkansas’ Gary Anderson (43) rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns to win MVP honors at the 1982 Blue Bonnet Bowl.

Like most soul-crushing defeats in Arkansas football history, the Razorbacks followed their game against SMU with another letdown. No. 12 Texas thrashed the Hogs, 33-7, in Austin the following Saturday, and Arkansas fell out of the top 10. The Razorbacks limped to a third-place finish in the SWC.

SMU, meanwhile, had completed its conference schedule by beating Arkansas. The Mustangs went on to upend Dan Marino and the No. 6 Pittsburgh Panthers in the Cotton Bowl in a track meet, 7-3. The bowl victory secured a final No. 2 ranking  for the Mustangs, and the Helms Athletic Foundation awarded them its vote for national champions. An 11-1 Penn State team, widely recognized as the “true” champion of 1982, was awarded the No. 1 ranking by the Associated Press, United Press International and the Football Writers Association of America.

Arkansas found success in the postseason as well. The Hogs knocked off Florida in the Bluebonnet Bowl, 28-24, with Anderson earning MVP honors. To date, it’s the team’s only victory over Florida. The Razorbacks finished the season ranked ninth in the AP poll and No. 8 in the UPI.

In the mid-80s, the NCAA amended its pass interference rules, changing it from a spot foul to a 15-yard penalty. It was the second time since 1964 that Arkansas’ misfortune had been the catalyst for a major rule change.

So then why, after more than 30 years, is Enter the Razorback so torqued up about this game?

Because Pony Excess did a disservice in not adequately covering it. The Hogs were the only top 10 opponent the Mustangs faced in the regular season — how could such an important match-up get such little screen time?

Pony Excess is 102 minutes long, and here’s all the coverage it gave Arkansas-SMU:

“In 1982, the Mustangs dominated the college football landscape. But in the last game of the regular season, new coach Bobby Collins settled for a tie against Arkansas, putting a blemish on an otherwise perfect record.”

That narration was read over about 15 seconds of game footage.

We’re nearly two decades removed from the collapse of the SWC, but one fact still remains when it comes to discussing the Hogs: Arkansas isn’t Texas.

That’s how it went for the Razorbacks for the almost eight decades they spent in the SWC. Arkansas was the only non-Texas school in the conference, and despite being perennial contenders in the three major sports (football, basketball, baseball), the Razorbacks were always considered the stepchild of the SWC.

Glossing over the SMU-Arkansas exemplifies the attitudes and bias held toward the Texas schools in the SWC. Don’t believe us? Here’s what some of the former players said about the tie:

“That team was unstoppable,” said Doug Hollie, SMU’s defensive end. “No one could beat us, and we settled for a tie – that was a slap in the face.”

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Pictured above are members of the SWC from 1956-1975. Houston joined the conference in all sports in 1976.

Dickerson issued similar frustrations:

“I feel like they [the pollsters] really screwed us out of a national championship more than anything. I still believe we were the best team in the country. For sure.”

Arkansas, the tie, the historical context of the SWC, and the game’s ultimate ramifications, were little more than an afterthought in Pony Excess.

The irony is lost on these Hollie and Dickerson. How Hollie thinks the Mustangs were unstoppable, considering that the Razorbacks shut down Pony Express that day in Dallas — and were leading before officials gift-wrapped a 40-yard gain for the Mustangs — remains a mystery to us.

But Dickerson’s gall is the most troubling. How can he fail to see the similarities between the two teams? The Razorbacks’ season was derailed by forces beyond its control, too. But the only mention Arkansas gets from him is when he accused the Hogs of sharing SMU’s slimy recruiting tactics.

After more than 75 years of being overlooked, Arkansas saw the writing on the wall. Razorback administrators were sick of getting the shaft from Texas, sick of SWC officials, and sick of the salacious recruiting. Athletic Director Frank Broyles was  ready to move on. So in 1992, the Hogs bolted for the SEC. It was the beginning of the end for the SWC.

SMU, meanwhile, had its football program dismantled by the NCAA. The ensuing fallout from the pay-for-play scandal, combined with a dwindling lack of competition sans Arkansas, eventually dissolved the entire conference. The SWC officially disbanded in the summer of 1996, after the conclusion of the college baseball season. Founded in 1914, the Southwest Conference of college football’s most prestigious leagues, was dead.

The Mustangs and Hogs will be forever linked by their tie in 1982. If SMU hadn’t beaten Arkansas, the Mustangs likely wouldn’t have won the SWC. That means no Cotton Bowl appearance. And without that, they don’t finish ranked in the top three.

Maybe Arkansas rides that momentum and beats Texas. Then the Hogs have a shot at the Cotton Bowl. Maybe they don’t leave the SWC, adding stability to the conference. Maybe the SWC doesn’t collapse.

We’ll never know what could’ve happened, but at least the complete story is out there. It was about time.