Arkansas Game Turning Point

<B>turning point</B> - <I>n.</I> The point at which a very significant change occurs; a decisive moment.

You knew this one would be tough. Okay, maybe some of you believed the Horns talent alone would overpower the Hogs. Even some of those paid to pontificate and prognosticate thought Texas would manhandle the Razorbacks. Those of this belief have short memories and obviously didn’t take into consideration the hatred the Hogs have for the Horns. It’s an SWC thing. At halftime, it was clearly evident Texas wasn’t going to run away with a blowout victory. For that matter, victory itself was very much in doubt as Texas trailed 17-16 going into the intermission. What happened early in the second half changed the momentum, the score, and most importantly, the complexion of the entire game.

Coming out of the break, momentum was definitely on the side of the hometown Hogs as they not only led on the scoreboard, but they had dominated the second quarter en route to the halftime lead. To start the second half, Arkansas received the opening kick (the Pigs shouldn’t have but for a confused Texas call on the game’s opening coin toss) and started on its own 20. Following a run and a pass, both of minimal gains, Arkansas faced third and 3 at its own 27-yard line. On the third-down play, Razorback tailback Dedrick Poole took the handoff and headed right. Poole made a nifty cutback to the left and appeared to have clear sailing past the first down marker. Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson had other ideas as he quickly closed on the play, grabbing the Arkansas running back by his right leg. Poole’s knee came down on the 29-yard line less than a yard shy of the first down. It was three and out for Arkansas. A great start to the second half for the Texas defense considering it had surrendered first downs on 5 of 9 Hog third down attempts in the first half.

On its first offensive series of the half, Texas started at its own 28-yard line. When Vince Young dropped back to pass on first down, it looked like a repeat of the second quarter when the Horns all but abandoned a run game that had racked up more than 100 yards on the ground in the first quarter. While Young wasn’t sharp in the passing game most of the night, his first attempt of the second half hit its mark 30 yards down the field in the form of Tony Jeffery streaking across the middle. Seven runs later, including four by workhorse Cedric Benson, Texas set up at the Arkansas 13. The crowd, which had been at a fever pitch most of the night, was funeral home quiet, as the 75,671 in attendance knew momentum had shifted to the Horns.

What happened next was nothing short of spectacular. God-given talent at its finest on display. For the second time in the nine-play drive that had already consumed 3:36 off the clock, Young dropped back to pass at the 20-yard line. Arkansas linebacker John Jackson appeared to have Young in his sights. As Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend." Jackson dove as if trying to hit a stationary tackling dummy. Young, though, made an unbelievable 360-spin to his right, which resulted in Jackson tackling someone who wasn’t there. One Razorback defender down, four more licking their chops. With two Arkansas defenders converging from the left and two to the right including Jackson, Young stepped up and made an unorthodox slide step to his right. Two Hogs grabbed Young’s left side and started to haul him down. Somehow, someway, Young found his right arm free and more importantly found Benson waiting wide open along the right sideline. In the ultimate of ironies, Young, who wasn’t known for passing on this night, threw a pass to someone who gained 188 yards on the night rushing, not receiving. On his lone catch for the evening, Benson raced down the right sideline untouched to the 1-yard-line where in his true battering ram style barreled over the lone remaining Arkansas defender for the touchdown and a 22-17 lead with 8:37 to go in the third quarter.

Admittedly, there were several critical points later in the game that were huge momentum shifters, namely the Larry Dibbles forced fumble of Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones late in the game and deep in Texas territory. But none of those would have been possible if it weren’t for the stiff Texas defense that forced a three-and-out on Arkansas’ opening series of the second half that was followed by the impressive nine-play drive by the Texas offense that successfully concluded on a play full of ironies. Each series on defense and offense set the tone for the remainder of the game.

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