State of the Hogs: Texas

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When you grow up on Arkansas football, the memories of what it's like to beat Texas are what gets your heart pumping.

I wish I could tell you that beating No. 1 LSU in Baton Rouge does the same thing to my heart. I wish putting a thumping on Auburn on the Plains when the Tigers were No. 2 does it, too. Thumping Tennessee?

Sorry, I just don't get the same feeling. It's just different when it comes to Texas. There are 53 years of wanting to beat Texas built up into my memory banks. They don't fade quickly.

That's why I'm excited today. Seeing the announcement that ABC has picked up the September 13 date in Austin for national TV has my blood pumping just a little faster today. It's the kinda news I grew up on. I'm old, so I recall the times that Arkansas-Texas was moved to either the first game of the year, or the last because it was one of the things that really mattered in college football that year.

One of the questions that is toughest to answer when you visit with those who do the same thing as I do around the SEC deals with rivalries.

Publishers at Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State can tell you about their rivalry game. When I'm asked about ours, the answer usually comes out weakly, "It is Texas, if we play Texas."

And, that doesn't matter if it is football, basketball or any other sport. I can remember Wilson Matthews telling me, "If we play Texas in tiddlywinks, I want to beat the hell out of them."

I remember Matthews storming out of the luncheon the day before the Hogs played the Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl to start this century. There had been much talk about the 1969 UA-UT game, the one that sent Texas to the national title, during that luncheon. Wilson sat there and fumed, then, as he was leaving, said, "This is nothing but a damn Texas pep rally."

I don't hate anyone. I don't hate things. I was taught to keep that word out of my vocabulary. So I don't hate Texas. I hear others use that word, but it wasn't a word that was allowed in my home.

What I do remember is that there was no love for Texas. My father had a good relationship with Darrell Royal, the longtime Texas coach that the UT stadium now is named for. There were no athletes among the four boys he raised. But I guess Royal didn't know that. He once called my father to inquire about his possible relationship to a great tailback at Little Rock Hall with the same last name.

My father told us about the phone call that night. He reportedly told Royal, "Coach, that boy is not my son, nephew or cousin, but if he was related I can promise you he would not be going to Texas!" They both laughed about that conversation for many years.

There are certain things that I learned to appreciate about Texas football teams. They always had among the best athletes in the country, most notably the best tackles. I can remember listening to Merv Johnson, perhaps the nation's best college offensive line coach for many seasons, describe the Texas defensive tackles almost in a stereotypical manner.

"They are always the same, the best of the best defensive tackles in the country," he said. "Your guards are never going to be as good as the Texas defensive tackles. No one else has a set like them. They can ruin an offense that otherwise clicked well any other Saturday. You just aren't going to block them for any sustained period."

I've repeated that to football people throughout the years and all have nodded in agreement. It's a given.

That's why I was amazed the last time Arkansas played Texas in Austin when the Hogs wore out those defensive tackles for pretty much an entire game. Yes, Matt Jones put the Texas defense in a pinch with some early strikes over the middle. The Texas safeties backed up the rest of that day and the Hogs had only to account for seven men in the so-called box.

However, so often Texas didn't need to put extra men in the box. You couldn't block their tackles well enough that it mattered.

I don't know enough about this Texas team to get into matchups, but I do like what I see with this Arkansas squad as far as line play and that goes for both sides of the ball. I think it's going to be one of the strengths of the ‘08 Razorbacks.

That's good news as they head to Austin.

Most fans are probably not thinking about playing Texas just yet. It's still a little over three months before that trip. Rest assured there are those in the Broyles Center thinking about the Longhorns already. In talking with players for our Hawgs Illustrated summer football preview this week, Texas came up several times.

"I know about their quarterback," defensive end Antwain Robinson said. "I've been looking at video of Colt McCoy. I am studying what he does, how he plays, what he does when he runs. I like to know everything I can about the quarterback we are playing and that's one I've picked out to study."

Offensive guard DeMarcus Love admitted that's a game he's got circled on his calendar, too. He's a Dallas Carter graduate and grew up as a Texas fan. He tossed that aside long ago and looks forward to the meeting on the field.

"That's a big game for me and all of the other Texas guys on our team," Love said.

I contend that it's just as big for all of us Arkansas guys. It doesn't matter that it's not a regular part of the schedule any more. Texas is still Texas to me. I can promise you I don't hate them, but I know that my father would have never let me be a Longhorn.

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