Next Arkansas-Texas Game Unknown

FAYETTEVILLE -- The first time they met was 1894, when Texas beat Arkansas 54-0 in the first year of existence for both programs.

Since then, the Longhorns have 53 more wins in the series' 75-game history, including memorable games like the 1969 classic known as "The Big Shootout." Arkansas has its memories, too, like the 14-13 victory in 1964 that propelled it to a national championship and last season's 38-28 upset win in Austin.

But after Saturday's game in Reynolds Razorback Stadium, the next time Arkansas and Texas face each other in the regular season is unknown.

Saturday's game signals the end of a two-year series that rekindled a rivalry that was at its height in the 1960s. Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles said a renewal won't take place for "at least 10 years" because schedules have been booked well in advance.

In fact, Broyles said there's only one place the teams could meet: A bowl game.

"Hopefully we'll be beating them in a Cotton Bowl soon," Broyles joked.

The Razorbacks and Longhorns ended a yearly rivalry that stretched for 60 seasons in 1991, when Arkansas left the Southwest Conference to join the Southeastern Conference. The teams didn't meet again until the 2000 Cotton Bowl, when Arkansas beat Texas 27-6.

Broyles said current Texas coach Mack Brown is responsible for the two-year, home-and-home series that began last September. He said Brown wanted to book a series to honor Broyles and legendary Texas coach Darrell Royal and re-energize fans that remembered the rivalry.

"There was just a spot where we could fit this in and I was asked about it when I got here," Brown said. "I thought it was a good idea then and I think it's a good idea now, win or lose. It's not just about the two teams, it's about the two universities and college football."

But it might not happen again because of the NCAA's decision to eliminate strength of schedule as a factor in computer rankings in the current Bowl Championship Series formula. That means a series between Arkansas and Texas could needlessly jeopardize national championship hopes.

"I'd say there's a lot of tradition and that's why this game is big in our state," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, whose team also faces SEC opponents Georgia, Florida, Auburn and LSU this season. "Sometimes as the coach, you would rather not play them and you feel you have enough of what you need with your schedule."

The Hogs shift their focus toward a two-game series with Southern Cal that begins next September. Brown and Texas will kick off a two-year series with Ohio State.

That means the winner of Saturday's game could have extended bragging rights, much like Arkansas has enjoyed since beating Texas 14-13 in Little Rock in 1991.

And that's part of the reason Broyles, who intends to watch the game from a skybox in Razorback Stadium, described the build up with three words.

"Big, big, big," he said.

There's been plenty of talk about Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones and Texas quarterback Vincent Young this week. There's also been a heavy dose of emphasis surrounding Texas tailback Cedric Benson and Arkansas' DeCori Birmingham about how much they'll impact Saturday's game.

But most Texas and Arkansas players believe turnovers will be critical Saturday.

It was important last year, when the Razorbacks forced and recovered three Texas fumbles, turning them into 14 points. The Longhorns were riddled by mistakes and linebacker Derrick Johnson said it was the difference in the game.

"Last year, I think it was more about missing our assignments and they capitalized on our mistakes," Johnson said. "They had less mistakes."

Arkansas led the SEC in turnover margin last season (plus-11) and forced three turnovers in last week's opener. Texas forced three turnovers -- all fumbles caused by Johnson -- against North Texas and was plus-2 in turnover margin last season.

"The team that comes out the most prepared and makes less mistakes will win," said Arkansas defensive tackle Arrion Dixon.

Marcus Monk's eyes lit up when he saw New Mexico State's safety rotate over to protect against the run. It left the 6-foot-6 true freshman in single coverage and led to his 38-yard touchdown catch from Jones.

The ball, by design, was thrown short and allowed Monk to use his height against a shorter defensive back.

"That's the way we've practiced it," Monk said. "I knew that he would probably throw it because I was one-on-one. I knew it was going to be short, so I just went up and got it."

They tried the short ball again in the second half of Saturday's 63-13 win. This time, Aggies 5-9 cornerback Shukree Shabazz was whistled for pass interference.

Seventh-ranked Texas, the Hogs' opponent Saturday night, has a veteran cornerback in junior Cedric Griffin, who is 6-2.

"The real test is this week because (Monk) hadn't played corners like he's going to face Saturday night," said receivers coach James Shibest. "We'll look for situations to get him the ball, but we'll just have to see how it goes."

Five University of Arkansas students -- two wearing 'Beat Texas' shirts -- are camping out at Gate 17 on the east side of Razorback Stadium to ensure they're first in line for Saturday's game.

Gate 17 is the student's entrance for general admission seats and the campers are part of a group that usually sit on the front row for games. They've been set up since late Wednesday and, when asked while they were there so early, responded by saying, "because it's Texas."

"Texas doesn't come around very often," said junior Daren Ward, who's from Fayetteville and sat on a folding chair outside a tent. "This is a once in a lifetime experience."

Former Arkansas quarterback (1993-94) Mike Cherry had some interesting comments about Razorbacks fans printed in Thursday's Daily Texan.

"Texas fans are like New York Giants fans," Cherry told the Daily Texan. "They are classy. When they are doing good, they cheer. They are happy. When the team does bad, they quiet down.

"Arkansas fans are like New York Jets fans. They don't like rival fans. They are middle-class or lower class. A lot of them get drunk, and they go crazy. The crazy ones will be coming down from the backwoods this weekend. They will be out roasting Longhorns before the game. It is going to be wild."

Morning News Staff Writer Mike Capshaw Contributed To This Report.

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