State of the Hogs: Playing Texas

Fighting against Texas helped unify the state of Arkansas. Former players Jerry Welch and Ken Hatfield never needed motivation when the Longhorns were the oppponent.

How do you explain the Texas rivalry to an Arkansas fan – or player – who has grown up in the era of Southeastern Conference football? If you are under the age of 30, it's tough to fathom the way our state felt about the Longhorns season after season.

You could listen to Frank Broyles describe the feeling of knowing all 19 years in which he coached the Razorbacks that there would be an entire crew of Texans calling his games against the Longhorns. It's a sick feeling.

“You could not have an official from Arkansas in any of our games,” Broyles has said many times. “Yet, the entire crew was going to be from Texas.”

It's precisely those type of sentiments that made Arkansas fans and players always feel like they were step children in the Southwest Conference, with behind-the-scenes decisions dominated by Longhorn views. It's those kinds of thoughts that former players would like to convey to the 2014 Razorbacks before they head to the Texas Bowl to play the Longhorns on Dec. 29.

“The deal was, we were the only school outside Texas and Texas was the king of the SWC,” said Jerry Welch, one of the captains of the 1964 Razorbacks, the national champs after beating Texas,14-13, in Austin.

“They had more of everything. They did think about us like a step child. Because of that, Texas was the team we truly, truly loved to beat.”

Ken Hatfield, another '64 captain and former Arkansas coach, called any game with Texas “monumental.” He encouraged players to think of any rivalry situation in their past “and multiply it by 100. That's what playing Texas will be like for our state.”

That's not to say Welch or other past players lacked respect the Longhorns or thought of their foes with hate. With Darrell Royal as coach, the Longhorns were always classy on the field, in the eyes of many Arkansas players. Royal ran with Broyles to the UA locker room on that night in 1964 after losing to the Hogs, congratulating the visitors and wishing them well, but reminding them that if they slipped, the 'Horns would be there to scoop up the prize.

“They did have a classy operation, starting with Coach Royal,” Welch said. “He exemplified class and it went all the way down to the players, like coming to our locker room. They didn't take cheap shots. They played the game the right way. You knew that when you went on the field with Texas.

“The tone for that rivalry was set by Coach Royal and Coach Broyles. It's what a rivalry should be about, class.”

Unmistakeably, the intensity was different when the Hogs faced the Longhorns.

“It was because you had that game circled all year,” said Welch, a Little Rock Central graduate. “The entire state of Arkansas had that date circled. You knew that everything you did in the offseason, every practice, it was to be prepared to play Texas.

“It was how you were going to be measured. They were the best team on the schedule.

“Now, I don't think they looked at us like that. They never respected us as equals. We were like everyone else to them. They were going to get everyone's best shot. We were just another team. They were THE game for us.”

Hatfield said simply it was always “David against Goliath.” Clearly, Arkansas was fighting up hill.

“You have a state the size of Arkansas going against an entire state in Texas,” Hatfield said. “We were always the underdog. Our players now may not understand it exactly. But they've been in that situation before.

“I want them to try to relate to something in their past when they were in a similar situation. Just remember, they are carrying our entire state with them. It's state pride of Arkansas. You can rest assured it's the entire state.

“They have an entire state that would love to be with them in the fight. I want them to think of their biggest rivalry game in their past in all of their years. Think about that game and multiply it times 100. That's what playing Texas will be like for our state.

“I've watched Texas play. They have been playing great defense of late. They still have great talent. Charlie Strong is still trying to develop his Texas team with its own identity. It's not established all of the way yet, but it's very similar to what Bret Bielema has done the last two years here.

“I've got my tickets and I'm going. I spent 13 years there and Houston is a great place. There are more places to eat than Carter has liver pills.”

Hatfield knows Bielema will find a way to present the Texas rivalry to his players. It sounds strange to Hatfield to even think it's needed.

“That was the one thing that unified our entire state when I was growing up,” he said. “I lived in Helena, Ft. Smith, England and Texarkana. That tied us all together, wanting to beat Texas.

“You didn't need a motivation speech that week when we played Texas. You knew. You put all of your energy into being ready for that game all year.”

The Razorbacks have a little over two weeks to get that Texas rivalry spirit going again.

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