This is a runner's year in the Southwest Conference, and while Ronnie Bull is the best of them all, there are some awfully good ones right behind him. Arkansas has Lance Alworth, a Mississippi-born halfback who might have gone to Ole Miss if Coach John Vaught didn't have a rule against married players. A 9.6 sprinter in the 100, Alworth gained 130 yards rushing as a sophomore against SMU. In the last few minutes of the game he turned in what his coach, Frank Broyles, has called "the greatest three-yard run in the history of football.
"We had just scored and we needed the two-point conversion to win the game and tie for the championship. SMU boys were on him thick as flies on honey. Wriggling, twisting and stumbling, he still made it across the goal line."
Playing in the same backfield with the very competent quarterback, George McKinney, who can run almost as well as he can pass, Alworth is one reason why Arkansas is considered a favorite, along with Baylor, Texas and Rice, in what is expected to be the closest Southwest Conference race in years.
Texas has a backfield that fairly bulges with fine backs. It is the flamboyant, 168-pound Halfback Jim Saxton, however, who makes the Longhorn rooters ooh and aah. Saxton reminds one of Charlie Trippi when he was playing at Georgia. He often reverses his field several times during a single run. He netted 407 yards rushing in 1960, and probably ran three times that distance laterally. As a defender once said, "If you miss Saxton, stay where you are. He's likely to come back by."
Saxton's style may be undisciplined, but he is Texas' most valuable asset. The three games he missed because of injuries last season, Texas lost. He was responsible for the critical play that won each of the seven games he got into.
At Texas Christian, which may be the surprise team in the Southwest, they talk about Sonny Gibbs, the 6-foot-7 quarterback who gained 706 yards in total offense as a sophomore and led his team in scoring with 24 points. Sixth-place Texas Tech has Fullback Coolidge Hunt, the conference's rushing leader in 1960.
Even Ronnie Bull is not alone at Baylor. Ronnie Stanley was the all-conference quarterback in 1960 with 75 completions for 1,151 yards, but Bobby Ply, his alternate, passed to four touchdowns, one less than Stanley.
Change in the Southwest
If the Southwestern schools played Negroes, there doubtless would be many more gifted backfield men in the conference. It is predicted that the policy will change in a year or two, with the University of Texas being the first to break the color line. In the meantime, most of the best southwestern Negroes are playing in the Border Conference, along with many others from outside the region. Arizona State, for instance, has 13 Pennsylvanians, including Nolan Jones, who has been among the top three national scoring leaders for the past two years, and Arizona has nine Californians. Both Arizona and Arizona State are in a class with the Southwestern Conference's schools. But, minus the same fierce competition in their own conference, they will never have the fun the Texans and those interlopers, the Arkansans, fondly look forward to this season—knocking each other silly.
The Wildcats win enough to keep the alumni sullen but not mutinous. Winners of half their games over the last three seasons, they should be able to maintain the pace in 1961, but not without heroics from a spindly (202-pound average) line which Coach N. L. Nicholson will have stunting more than any team in the Southwest. If the stunting fails, Abilene will fall back on its basketball tactics and score, score, score. The backs are fast, with Denson Moody, a squared-off 5-foot 9-inch 185-pounder, the quickest, and loose-limbed Halfback Buddy Rawls the most elusive. The quarterbacking is a reassuring muddle of three capable men, all of whom pass tolerably well. Senior Don Davis probably will start, but he may lose out to Oklahoma transfer Jerry Gibson, a now-you-see-it-now-you-don't ball handler.