"I think it's unreasonable to think we can pick up where we left off," said Royal one day, propping his feet on the desk in his office. "We've had to rebuild an offensive line, and it's been a long time since we've had so many sophomores and new faces on defense. We lost a senior crop that had a lot of talent."
Even a chronic pessimist like Royal must admit, however, that if Texas escapes punishment in those first five games, Year One in the new empire might well be at hand.
Over the past two seasons Arkansas has won 18 games and lost only four. Ordinarily this would be quite satisfactory, even by the standards of those diehard "Sooey, pig" fans in the Ozarks. Yet around Little Rock and Fayetteville there is a strange sense of frustration, and for good reason: Arkansas can't win the big ones. Say that softly now, lest you find yourself under a ton of bacon, but the argument is irrefutable. In national TV games the past two seasons Arkansas is 0 for 4. In its two most recent Armageddons against Texas, when all sorts of conference and national titles were being decided, the Razorbacks lost a heartbreaker 15-14, and last year a bone-breaker 42-7.
To a man, Arkansas is aware of this reputation. Take Joe Ferguson. He was a sophomore last season, the best arm on the team—perhaps in the entire Southwest—but only the No. 2 quarterback behind Bill Montgomery. But now Montgomery is gone, as are Bill Burnett and All-America Chuck Dicus, and Ferguson is the man in charge. "Yeah, we know what they're saying about us," says Ferguson. "I cut out one of those articles and pasted it on my wall. I think everybody's conscious of it."
Arkansas fans think Ferguson might be the finest passer east of Sonny Sixkiller. He comes from Shreveport, La., where he broke most of Terry Bradshaw's high school records, and playing behind Montgomery, he passed for 741 yards. But Ferguson also became so disenchanted with life on the bench that there were rumors he might transfer. All that is over now, however, and so is the bad back that bothered Ferguson last season. The trouble, it seems, was that Ferguson's right leg is shorter than his left. So in the spring he began wearing one-eighth-inch foot pads in the heel of his right shoe and now, he says, "I haven't noticed any more problems."
Ferguson is not the only star. "We've got some big-play people with special skills," says Coach Frank Broyles with satisfaction, "so we will be throwing a bit more this season." Tailback Jon Richardson, a big-play person, is blessed with strength and speed, so he will be a threat both as a runner and receiver. Also on hand are Ferguson's top high school receivers—redshirt Mark Hollingsworth and wide receiver Jim Hodge. The defense will be a collection of new faces built around David Reavis, a 6'4", 240-pound tackle. A 6'6", 250-pound offensive tackle, Tom Mabry, is perhaps closest to Broyles' heart, however, partly because he is 6'6" and 250, and partly because he is a golfer. "He has a two handicap," says Broyles, who is so much of a golf fan that he traveled all the way to the Masters to follow Jack Nicklaus. "He must hit it a mile."
The Razorbacks are young and cocky and their schedule includes a number of patsies, so they should fare well—9-2 at the worst. However, Texas comes to Little Rock on Oct. 16 and the game is on national television, so....
8 PENN STATE
The real world caught up with Joe Paterno last season. In five years as head coach at Penn State, he had built a gaudy record of 42-10-1, including a streak of 31 games without a loss, and most of it was due to the toughest defense in the country. Last year most of that defense had graduated, and boom! In the second game, and on national TV, Colorado racked up 41 points. A week later Wisconsin scored 29, then Syracuse 24 to give the Lions three losses by midseason. But the real problem, Paterno felt, was the offense. Not one to wait till next year, Paterno switched from an open attack to the wing-T and put John Hufnagel, a sophomore, at quarterback. Penn State won its last five games, averaging 36 points.