Culpepper's Commentary: Texas-Arkansas

On game day in Fayetteville, the hottest item in the Ozarks was a red baseball cap with a white, upside down Longhorn logo. A single cap sold for $20. The vendor claimed "1200" when I asked how many he had to sell. After the game, I passed the same fellow and his table and boxes were empty. With $24,000 bucks in his pocket, he was the only one wearing red smiling after the Horns took care of their own business in Razorback Stadium Saturday.

But hey, at least all those Pig fans with those unlicensed hats and the red t-shirts with "Beat Texas" plastered on the front and "Up Yours" on the back have a nice memento to forever remind them of Saturday's loss. For the 5,000 Orangebloods in attendance, the remembrances -- of Cedric Benson, of Larry Dibbles, of the frantic final seconds, and finally of a scoreboard clock ticked to double zero with the Horns on top 22-20 -- will be etched in our minds rather than sewn on a piece of cloth.

Well before those moments would be added to Texas-Arkansas lore, my wife and I spent much of the afternoon in a sports bar on Fayetteville's Dickson Street watching four college games at once and having good-natured fun with Razorback fans.

But even before that, it was a circus around the stadium. Students camped out in line waiting to grab choice seats yelled, "Go back to Texas. We're going to kick your ass!" I imagine that if my wife hadn't been alongside, the comments would not have been quite so tame. Regardless, I tipped my Longhorn cap to them before three co-eds jumped out of line and profusely apologized for the behavior of their fellow students.

According to pre-game talk show chatter, this game was the toughest ticket of any Arkansas home game since the stadium was expanded to seat 72,000. At 75,671, it would be the largest crowd in Razorback football history, with all the Texas fans crammed into the northeast corner of the stadium. Orangebloods were treated to 70,000 Hogs booing every official's call that went against the home team and a large group in red that, instead of cheering for their team on the field, hurled insults at the Texas section.

One year ago, in this type of setting, the Longhorns would not have responded in such aggressive fashion. But with Mack Brown's hand on the offensive throttle, unleashing a punishing rushing game, and Greg Robinson's hand on the defensive players' throats, turning loose the defenders to create turnovers, Texas is now a physical, tough football team.

Most impressive was the play of Texas after the break. In the second quarter, the Razorbacks cut the Longhorn D up with 166 yards of offense and shut down the Texas O with defensive quickness to turn a 16-7 Longhorn lead to a 17-16 Hog advantage. So what does Mack Brown do? He belies his and his team's "soft" label by pounding the Razorbacks between the tackles after a nifty drive-opening 30-yard throw to dependable wideout Tony Jeffery. After that, it was largely Texas sledgehammer Benson and the blocking of the Longhorn OL. (And the defense tackled better, at least in the third quarter, after widening its contain to slow Matt Jones to the outside.)

Has there ever been a better Longhorn offensive line? Not in the recent past, at least. With the Razorbacks constantly stemming, Justin Blalock had trouble staying in his stance, but the rest of the time the Longhorn line created holes for battering ram Benson. The senior running back fought for first downs like he will have to do in Dallas on October 9. And the two-tight end (David Thomas and Bo Scaife) Texas offense hummed. The quick snap fullback belly play to Will Matthews is a must for Texas and is the only fast opener the Longhorn offense has in its arsenal. Also, Matthews' blocks on Arkansas linebackers allowed the Texas linemen to double-team and create gashes for Benson.

But at this time, Texas only has one reliable wide receiver -- Tony Jeffery. He is the real deal because he will block and make the tough catch but the Horns certainly needs more for that early October date with OU. Limas Sweed might be 6-5, 205, wear the same jersey number and physically look like Roy Williams, but against Arkansas he played like he was in shock. Late in the game with tight one-on-one coverage, Vince Young tried to throw him a fade and Sweed cut his route off to the inside. That was one of several route-running mistakes from the redshirt freshman.

While Blalock made mistakes, there is no doubt about his toughness. He just has to play smarter. But Limas Sweed needs to prove his toughness. I suspect those two will not enjoy their "off" week once Mac McWhorter and Bobby Kennedy get through with 'em.

Defensively, tackle Larry Dibbles and safety Phillip Geiggar combined for the biggest play of the night. With the clock under two minutes, Matt Jones scrambled for yardage at the Texas 13 yardline -- easy field goal range -- only to get caught (from behind!) by a relentless Dibbles. The football floated free, seemingly in slow motion, bouncing among a pile of bodies before Geiggar saved the game with his sure-handed recovery.

One other area that won this game was the Longhorn coverage units. At crucial times in the fourth quarter, that Texas special teams unit answered the call in the renewal, and perhaps swan song, of one of college football's greatest rivalries.

Because of the late start to the ballgame and the horrendous traffic jam around the stadium, my wife and I got to our motel at 2 a.m. We may not have had any snazzy shirts or hats from our day in Fayetteville, but we had the best accessory of all: a smile on our faces and a 'W' in the record books for the Longhorns.

Pat Culpepper played for The University from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary will appear regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at

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