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ARKANSAS ON TOP OF THE WORLD
Dan Jenkins
October 25, 1965
Everybody's wearing bright red and singing instant folk songs in the land of the Razorbacks, where a new dynasty may be in the making
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October 25, 1965

Arkansas On Top Of The World

Everybody's wearing bright red and singing instant folk songs in the land of the Razorbacks, where a new dynasty may be in the making

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There is this song, Quarterbackin'Man, and all across the state that is so speckled with red—bright red, Arkansas red—you can still hear it on the radio, most any radio, as you heard it for days before the game and on the day of the game itself.

"When Jon Brittenum was a little bitty boy,
Sittin' on his mammy's knee,
Well, he said to his mother, don't you worry now,
Big Frank'll make a quarterback o'me...
Big Frank'll make a quarterback o'me."

You hear it not only in Fayetteville or Little Rock or Fort Smith, but in Possum Grape and Poplar Bluff and Pea Ridge and Terrapin Neck, far along the leafy Ozark hills and then down in the river bottoms where a wild hog—a razorback—looks for acorns when he's not listening to some barefoot fellow hollering at him, "Whoooo, pig, sooey!" or when he's not beating a Texan at football again.

You could hear this song about Jon Brittenum, who beat Texas last week 27-24, and another one about Harry Jones, who helped Brittenum simply by being fast and being there, and songs about last year's unbeaten team. There is, in fact, very little you can hear about in Arkansas now except Coach Frank Broyles's Razorbacks, who may be long gone toward college football's next great winning streak.

If the songs, as sung by groups called The Rivermen and Cecil Buffalo and The Prophets, did not have you convinced in the last few days before the game, the signs did. Like the songs, they were everywhere, at food markets, real-estate offices, bank buildings, restaurants, service stations and theater marquees. They said, "Go, Hogs, go. Beat Texas. Fryers 29� a pound," and, "Beat Texas. Apples $1.99," and, "No Vacancy. Beat Texas," and one of them was even on a church—the First Baptist Church of Fayetteville—and it said, "Football is only a game. Eternal things are spiritual. Nevertheless, beat Texas."

The people who made the signs wore red hats, red vests, red coats, red dresses, red ties, and the red banners were dangling down from high windows and roofs just everywhere, and the songs—instant folk songs—kept peeling all these layers off your brain, so how were even the amazing Texas Longhorns supposed to win a game in that atmosphere? They weren't. Even after the Longhorns came from a stunning 20 points behind to lead by 24-20 with just four minutes left and Arkansas was back on its own 20-yard line, Texas was not supposed to win last Saturday because of all this belief that had been mustered from the hills and river bottoms and given to Jon Brittenum and the fastest team in the land.

"Well, Jon, he said to the coaches,
Let me toss that pigskin around,
If I call the signals for your Razor-back team,
I know I'll do the best I can...
You know I'll do the best I can."

Now in those last four minutes of the splendid, excruciating game that everyone knew it would be, Jon Brittenum did his best, all right. He completed six passes and drove Arkansas 80 yards to the winning touchdown while Frank Broyles's shirttail came out ("If Frank's shirttail don't come out," said a Razorback before the kick off, "we know he ain't come to the game yet") and 42,000 people made noises that sounded like an attack from another planet, or Cecil Buffalo and The Prophets. When Brittenum, an unemotional and heretofore unpredictable junior from a town called Brinkley, punched into Texas' end zone from the one-yard line with just 1:32 left to play, a national television audience as well as all of Arkansas saw helmets sail into the air almost as high as Broyles jumped, and red-sheathed Razorbacks on the field and sideline hugging, kissing and weeping like soldiers who had been rescued.

It was the deservedly dramatic end, unreservedly glorious for Arkansas and frightfully bitter for Texas, to what had been a truly remarkable encounter. It was a game all twisted up with vicious fundamental excellence in one moment and burst apart by incredible mistakes in another by teams which usually make such mistakes once every, oh, three or four years. Consider how Arkansas ripped to its 20-0 lead in the first 19 minutes. Well, first, just consider that, a 20-0 lead over the No. 1 team in the nation, Texas, Darrell Royal's Texas, a team grimly dedicated to avenging last year's loss to Arkansas, which cost it the national championship, and a team which had never under Royal lost twice in a row to anybody.

For example, here was a 58-yard Arkansas punt seemingly bouncing toward the Texas end zone, with the score 0-0, a routine play, with the teams still shadowboxing. Up pops Phil Harris, Texas' smartest, most talented halfback, to field it unwisely at his five even though Arkansas End Richard Trail was pouring down on him, no farther away than Harris' face guard. You could hear the lick. And the ball squirted conveniently across the Texas goal, where two delirious and equally shocked Razorbacks wrestled for it. Touchdown.

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