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’75 game vs. Aggies in LR a Dec. 6 jewel

OPINION by Bob Wisener | December 7, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

A Razorback football fan need not regard Dec. 6 as a cursed day in the program's history.

James Street, Randy Peschel and Danny Lester should not be the only names to remember from that date. While you're at it, lift a prayer for Freddie Steinmark.

They were key players for Texas, of course, in a 15-14 Longhorn victory in the Big Shootout, matching the top two teams in the college sport's centennial season. Street ran for a touchdown, added a two-conversion and completed a fourth-down bomb (the latter daring for coach Darrell Royal) in the fourth quarter. Lester's end-zone interception, the one pass that Bill Montgomery said later he would like to have back, stalled a drive that could have put Arkansas two scores ahead in the final round.

Steinmark played safety, helpless to defend Chuck Dicus, in his last game before losing a leg to cancer, hastening his death two years later.

President Nixon, with more pressing matters on his daily planner, chose a wonderful game to attend. He even forecast a Texas victory when the Longhorns trailed 7-0 at halftime, prompting the Watergate-like thought years later about what did Nixon know and when did he know it?

That was Dec. 6, 1969, the same day that Leotis Martin stopped Arkansas-born heavyweight Sonny Liston (who would die within the coming year) in Stockholm and that the Rolling Stones' infamous Altamont concert summed up the Sixties in terrible fashion.

Gerald Ford, Nixon's White House successor, was president six years later when Arkansas played another Dec. 6 game of consequence. He watched Arkansas vs. Texas A&M, if at all, from Washington, one played under cloud cover at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

Though not as tense as the Shootout and hardly as dramatic, this one sent Arkansas to the Cotton Bowl as the seventh and last Southwest Conference champion of Frank Broyles' 19 years as UA head coach.

Arkansas, with a 9-2 record, was off to Dallas for a Jan. 1 game against Georgia. As in the 1969 Sugar Bowl, Broyles' team got the W, 31-10, over another team coached by recently deceased Vince Dooley.

My seat in Little Rock lacked the sightlines one wants at a game, but no matter. People who came expecting an Aggie rout watched the nation's No. 2 team go down, 31-6. The postgame line out the door at Casa Bonita was worth enduring that night.

That was the Arkansas team of Scott Bull, Ike Forte, Tommy Harris and Hal McAfee with deluxe kicker Steve Little in his second season. No recollection of the game is complete, though, without a tribute to a heretofore unsung Razorback receiver, whose second-quarter catch of a deep pass from Bull made it 7-0 and triggered the blowout.

Broyles waxed long about "the immortal Teddy Barnes" and that "our defense out-Aggied the Aggies."

Emory Bellard, the true father of the Wishbone offense while a Royal assistant at Texas, had a mighty defense that on Thanksgiving ended the Longhorns' Cotton Bowl hopes.

That gave Arkansas an opening with a three-day tie in the standings that would send the Razorbacks to Dallas because A&M and Texas had played in the Cotton Bowl more recently. Despite mounting injuries, Broyles sold the team on something it believed in, that all was not lost despite a midseason loss to Texas at Fayetteville and an early setback at Oklahoma State, its third in a row to the Cowboys.

Bull, who arrived with such promise from Jonesboro -- ask the Hot Springs Trojans who opposed him in the 1970 state-championship game at old Rix Stadium -- stuck around for a fifth season, his chance coming when Mike Kirkland, a true running threat, went down with injury. That team, at its best, had three running backs capable of 100-yard games: Forte, Kirkland and Jerry Eckwood, the latter a prep star at Brinkley who overcame injuries that threatened his career and is remembered here as a devastating blocker.

Texas A&M played with its head in the clouds, or something, and yielded in the second half, Arkansas getting stronger by the minute. The Razorbacks had the spirit that day of 1965, if not 1969; we should have known.

Jimmy Johnson, destined for Super Bowl success with the Dallas Cowboys, coached defensive players like himself for Broyles' 11-0 team of 1964, quick and certain strikers. Bo Rein arrived in '75 as offensive coordinator with the Veer philosophy of his recent boss at North Carolina State, Louis Leo Holtz, who soon would write his own chapter in Arkansas football history. (Tragically, Rein was killed in a bizarre air accident in 1980 before he could leave a mark at LSU, which hired him as head coach after four years of 27-18-1 in Raleigh, Holtz taking a shot in the pros with the New York Jets before succeeding Broyles).

Johnson's Red Ants included McAfee, an overachiever from LR Catholic, and Harris, younger brother of Cowboys star Cliff. Harris foiled the infamous Georgia "shoestring" play, triggering the team's late scoreboard onslaught.

Broyles thought about quitting then, his program back on top after a tailspin, but with Ron Calcagni coming on at quarterback he stuck around for another Cotton Bowl try. A 9-3 loss to Tulsa, with future Razorback Steve Cox on the winning side, hinted at problems to come. An injury to Calcagni, plus racial issues, sent Arkansas tumbling to 5-5-1, Broyles checking out before a 29-12 loss to Texas on the night Royal rode off into the same sunset.

Houston writer Mickey Herskowitz equated an SWC without Frank and Darrell (excuse the familiarity) like someone other than Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas ... you are not sure it can be done."

Print Headline: ’75 game vs. Aggies in LR a Dec. 6 jewel


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