There was a time, not so many years ago, when the University of Arkansas would open its football season by joyously slaughtering East Central Oklahoma or Pittsburg State Teachers or the College of the Ozarks in the serene foothills that surround Fayetteville. It was not very joyous or serene for East Central Oklahoma and the other victims, of course, but that is the way most big colleges operated in those days. Warm-ups, they were called.
Today hardly anyone warms up any more, and in recent years Arkansas has been opening against Oklahoma State or Tulsa, and it has been winning Southwest Conference championships, which it seldom used to do. But last Saturday, to open the 1961 season, Arkansas stepped up yet another notch in class, and, as it turned out, Arkansas stepped into a bear trap. By the time the Razor-backs had escaped Jackson, Miss. they were ready to settle for the College of the Ozarks again. For Mississippi had joyously slaughtered Arkansas, losing its shirt (left and below) but winning its game, 16-0.
Played before a sellout crowd in the gleaming new 46,000-seat Mississippi Memorial Stadium, this was the first big game of the year and figured to be one of the most attractive. Mississippi was 1960 champion of the Southeastern Conference, Arkansas the champion of the Southwest. Mississippi, unbeaten, had been named the best college team in America by one postseason poll; Arkansas was ranked seventh by two others and both were reported to be loaded again. Mississippi had lost an All-America quarterback, Jake Gibbs, but with the kind of boys Johnny Vaught entices to Ole Miss, big and rough as riverboat deckhands, even an All-America is hardly missed. Arkansas, with the dazzling Lance Alworth at halfback and two superb quarterbacks in George McKinney and Billy Moore, expected to have its best offensive team in history.
Finally, this was to be the last game of a long and rarely peaceful rivalry that stretched back to 1908. Each team had won 12 games in the series, although Arkansas claimed that it had won 13, since an ineligible player named Little Joe Evans took part in Mississippi's 1914 win. In 1938 Wild Bill Schneller intercepted an Arkansas pass and returned it 45 yards for the winning touchdown. This would have been bad enough, since Arkansas was favored but, nearing the goal line, Schneller turned and thumbed his nose at the pursuing Porkers. This led to intersquad fisticuffs.
October 1, 1961
Last year Mississippi won 10-7 in the last three seconds on the most controversial single play of the 1960 season—a 39-yard field goal which every citizen of the state of Arkansas will swear on his deathbed curved foul by three feet. After the game, usually mild-mannered Coach Frank Broyles of Arkansas made several remarks about officiating, which led to a reprimand from the Southwest Conference. He also swore that he would never play Mississippi again after 1961, when the present four-year contract was scheduled to run out. Unfortunately for Broyles, it didn't run out soon enough.
There were three major factors contributing to Arkansas's defeat last Saturday. First, strangely enough, the weather in Fayetteville had been too cold for southern football. On the Thursday before the game Broyles looked out of his office at the lovely 60° day and shook his head. "I've never run into this before," he said. "It's actually such nice weather that we can't make the kids sweat. We've been practicing for a month and we haven't tired a boy out yet. And how hot do you suppose it's going to be over there in Jackson on Saturday, 105 degrees?" It was only 90.
The second item was the complete loss of Moore, who hurt a knee in scrimmage a week before the opener and was unable to play a down. McKinney is Arkansas's senior quarterback, a fine passer and a tremendous pressure player, but there are those in the Southwest Conference who consider Moore, a dashing, twisting runner, much the more dangerous of the two. As a pair, they make a beautiful team. Alone, McKinney had more than he could handle, particularly when forced to play almost every minute of a long, hot afternoon.
Finally, and not exactly incidentally, Ole Miss had a better team. "I don't like to say this," said Broyles before the game, "but that field goal last year really had very little to do with our discontinuing the series after this year. Mississippi is just too big and too deep and too rough. They wear you out and leave you in bad shape for your conference games. Even if we beat them, it doesn't mean anything in the Southwest Conference. All that counts down here is beating Texas and Baylor and Rice."
Johnny Vaught has indeed built a magnificent football dynasty at Ole Miss (SI, Sept. 19, 1960). His record, going into his 15th year at Oxford, was 110 victories, 29 defeats and seven ties, second only to Bud Wilkinson among the nation's major college coaches. He has lost only three games while winning 29 in the last three years. His boys are recruited almost entirely from the state of Mississippi and, just as Broyles says, they are big and fast and rough. With such material, hardly anyone would blame Vaught for overpowering the teams on his schedule, smashing their tackles and guards into insensibility in order to gain three and four yards a play. But Vaught, a gambler, doesn't play the game that way. "He goes for the big play, he tries to kill you quick," says Broyles. "His defense is the same way. Most college teams play a containing defense: Mississippi attacks 90% of the time. They're always waiting across that line on one foot ready to come after you. They force you. They may guess wrong and give you 15 yards on a play that is supposed to gain only four, but the next time they knock you back 10 yards when you try the same thing. Mississippi doesn't play tag out there. They come after you."
From shadow to substance
On Saturday the big Rebel line—in fact three big Rebel lines—went after Arkansas early and never let up. And Ole Miss also discovered that it didn't really miss Jake Gibbs so much after all. Doug Elmore stepped out of Gibbs's shadow after two years and you could hardly tell the difference.
Elmore is 6 feet tall and weighs 190 pounds. He is not as tricky as Gibbs but he is stronger, and if he is a less capable passer, you couldn't have guessed it Saturday. His quarterbacking was poised and often brilliant. Elmore and that Ole Miss line went straight to a touchdown the first time they had the ball. Elmore sent his halfbacks through tackle and around end for eight and six yards. He kept once himself for 10 and then threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to End Woody Dabbs for the score. Wes Sullivan kicked the point and Ole Miss led 7-0 after three minutes and six plays.
Arkansas could do nothing in the first quarter. In the second Alworth broke over right tackle on one 24-yard run and eventually the Razorbacks reached the Mississippi 24. There McKinney fumbled on first down, and Arkansas was never to get so close again.
Mississippi scored again before the half, Sullivan booting a field goal from the 17 after Elmore completed two passes and ran once for 28 yards on a quick keeper through left guard. And the Rebels scored again midway through the third quarter when Elmore crossed up the Arkansas defense by running his halfbacks through a Razorback line which, outweighed 15 pounds to the man, was beginning to droop like day-old spaghetti under the pounding of the huge Ole Miss forwards and the blazing sun. One of the halfbacks, Art Doty, scrambled a yard over right guard for the touchdown.
That was all of the scoring, although Mississippi's sophomores gave another opportunity away in the fourth quarter when, after a hasty consultation, they refused a penalty that would have placed the ball on the Arkansas two-yard line, third down. Instead, they took the play, which left them on the Arkansas one-yard line on fourth down. The Razorbacks stopped the one play. "Sophomores!" said Vaught later, shaking his head. He might not have grinned if the score hadn't been 16-0. Of course, he might not have played sophomores, either.
Vaught was particularly pleased that Mississippi had stopped Alworth with only 51 yards rushing in nine carries. Alworth, a handsome, friendly young-man who can run 100 yards in 9.6 seconds, is from Mississippi and once thought that he would go to school there. But there was some confusion over a Johnny Vaught rule which bars married men from receiving Ole Miss football scholarships (Alworth was married, so they offered him a baseball scholarship instead, to get around the rule), and Alworth ended up at Arkansas. Even though he didn't exactly tear the Ole Miss line apart, Arkansas would have been in sad shape without him. The next best Arkansas ball carrier gained only 13 yards for the entire afternoon. Alworth punted four times for a 42-yard average, including an amazing 73-yarder that sailed over the heads of both Mississippi safety men. He also returned three Mississippi kickoffs for 73 yards with his beautiful, spurting runs, and Vaught would love to have Alworth now, no matter what he says.
But Alworth alone was no match for that Mississippi line. The latter held Arkansas to 92 yards rushing while smashing holes through which its own backs poured for 259. And it hounded McKinney so unmercifully that the Arkansas quarterback could get only nine passes away, and of these could complete only two. Meanwhile Elmore was running for 61 yards in seven carries, completing five of six passes for 81 yards and calling a masterful game. If Mississippi hadn't been penalized an almost unbelievable 160 yards, the game might have turned into a genuine rout.
The day before the game Mississippi trotted out for a final light drill, and a member of the ABC television crew whistled in amazement at the team's size. "They wouldn't look so big without those pads," another TV man said.
"Pads?" said the first. "They're not wearing pads."
Mississippi might be just big enough to become national champions again. None of the Arkansas players are going to argue with you on that.