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.
October 24, 1965
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.
"Of course it was bizarre," said Broyles later. "But our kids were fast enough to be there to hit him and get the ball. Luck follows speed."
Now it's just 10 plays later, and Texas has driven 58 yards to the Arkansas 24. Texas, it seems, will get back by hard play what it has given away so easily. Harris slams into left tackle. Snap, crackle, crunch. Up pops the ball directly into the hands of Arkansas' Tommy Trantham, who has nothing before him except 77 yards of inviting sunshine. Touchdown. Said Broyles, "Harris cut for an opening without a real grip on the ball, and our tackle, Jim Williams, hit him awfully hard, and anybody in Terrapin Neck will tell you that Trantham is a fine football player."
The next thing Texas did was get convicted of holding on a punt, which forced it to punt again, the result being a difference in Arkansas' favor of 25 yards in field position. Brittenum, perhaps a little disappointed because Arkansas's defense was outscoring him, took over at his own 40 with Texas in a visible daze. He promptly dazed the Longhorns even more.
"Well, big Frank, he said to Jon Brittenum,
Come out, and show us what you've got.
And if you can fake and run and pass and block,
We'll use you in the quarterback slot,
You'd better know it,
We'll use you in the quarterback slot."
Brittenum wheeled the Razorbacks across in nine plays, hitting Harry Jones, the 9.6 halfback, on a 23-yard pass, running five yards on a clutch keeper himself, then beautifully firing an 11-yard touchdown pass to End Bobby Crockett, who caught last year's winning pass and hasn't been covered by Texas yet.
Thus ended the first stage of the game, the totally unreal part, where a Texas writer upstairs stood shaking his head and saying, "I never thought I'd see the day when the Longhorns could be driving the ball and I'd feel like Arkansas might score on any play." Texas had given up the two easiest touchdowns of Darrell Royal's career, and it was the worst a Royal team had trailed in seven years, and since Arkansas itself was strong and in fact favored by three points ("Arkansas has certainly come a long way," brooded Broyles during the week, "when it's favored over the No. 1 team in the country"), it looked like Arkansas could select the final score and even send in Governor Orval Faubus for a few plays.
A champion dies hard, however, and Texas, though one found it difficult to realize, had been moving the ball. Quarterback Marv Kristynik, who looks more like the team manager than the clever operator he is, was almost as hot as Brittenum. Using a new wing set outside the end with motion that confused Arkansas, he started the action one way, then threw the ball or gave it to a running back going the other way. And the blocking was superb, especially that of Guard-Linebacker Tommy Nobis, who played both ways despite three pounds of tape on an injured left knee. All the Longhorns had to do was hold the ball, and except for a few plays they did just that for the next 38 minutes, or until the game-winning Arkansas drive. The span was interrupted at half time when Royal merely wrote "21-20" on a blackboard and reminded his players who they were—Texans.
Kristynik hit two passes and drove Texas to within range of David Conway's first field goal, this one from 35 yards out. He hit three passes, all counter-throws back across the flow of action, in a 73-yard drive that ended with him scoring the touchdown himself on a one-yard sneak. That narrowed the gap to 20-11. Kristynik passed and ran the Longhorns to Conway's second field goal (34 yards) in the third quarter, which made it 20-14.
Still mixing his plays up, Kristynik appeared to have indeed won the game in the fourth quarter. He sent his runners into Arkansas' sagging middle, and when the Razorbacks stopped that he went outside himself. In seven quick plays he whirled the Longhorns 40 yards to the go-ahead touchdown, weaving and wriggling free from 14 yards out, after failing to find a pass receiver.
Conway's placement made the score 21-20 as Royal had ordered. But Kristynik, whose individual brilliance was largely responsible for Texas' big statistical edge in the game (401 total yards gained to 181, 23 first downs to 12), was not through. He sped away on runs of 19 and 16 yards and moved his team 51 more yards to another Conway field goal. Texas thus moved four points up and out of Arkansas field-goal range. The Texas band played The Eyes, Royal licked his fingers again, the bench grinned and not a "Whoooo, pig, sooey!" was to be heard anywhere.
Had things ended there, the real hero of the day would have been a wealthy businessman from Houston named Jack Perry. One of Darrell Royal's closest friends, Perry flies around in a $600,000 Lear jet and proved his love of sport and the ability of his flying machine not long ago by attending a wedding in Baton Rouge, the LSU-Florida game in Gainesville and the Texas-Indiana game in Austin, all in the same day. Jack Perry is the man who went back just an hour before the Arkansas game to Fort Smith, where the Texas team had stayed Friday night, to get Marvin Kristynik's contact lenses. Without his contacts, Kristynik would have been of no more use to Royal than an acorn in a river bottom. He could not have played, could not have directed his best game for Texas nor sparked the finest comeback a Royal team ever has made. But Jack Perry was not the biggest hero.
"Well, Jon Brittenum, he rose to the challenge,
Just like all good Razorbacks do,
He worked on his plays every night and day,
And he worked on weekends, too...
He worked on weekends, too."
When Arkansas prepared for its last drive, Broyles was an emotional wreck, sickened by the fact that he had blown a huge lead—he, not the team. "Sometimes I hate myself because I won't throw deep in my own end of the field," he said. "They were making things happen; we weren't. But we could have, I think. We were concentrating on defense because they had us confused. Jim Lindsey is who rallied our team. Not me. I was a babbling idiot."
Jim Lindsey is a wiry, blond halfback who was Arkansas' best runner last year but a team man willing this season to devote his efforts to blocking for a better, more dangerous runner, Jones. On the Arkansas sideline Lindsey summoned Arkansas' offensive unit together as if he, not Broyles, were the coach. Almost tearfully, he reminded the players that Texas was not double-covering Bobby Crockett; that he was wide open; that Brittenum could hit him if they blocked; that if the coverage was doubled up Jones could run outside; that this was the last chance. Then it began.
Brittenum instantly hit Crockett for 22 yards to the Arkansas 42. Crockett was the only receiver going out, just eight yards, then hooking or turning out, depending on how the Texas defender played him. Brittenum rolled out instead of sprinting ("Better for my throwing balance, Coach says," said Brittenum) and hit Crockett again for 13 yards to the Texas 40. Then he hit him for eight, and 11 and Arkansas was on the 22.
Brittenum, who played unspectacularly as a sophomore in 1963 and was red-shirted last year, then hit Crockett on the biggest pass of all. It was third down and four at the 15. Same play. Brittenum rolled out to the right, and Crockett angled out toward the right corner by the flag. He had his man beaten by a step, and Brittenum put the ball right at his fingertips. Crockett lunged, got it and crumpled out of bounds at the one. It was Brittenum's 10th completion in 19 attempts for 131 yards, and Crockett's eighth catch for 102 yards.
The play came from Tulsa, actually. "I don't mind saying we borrowed it," said Broyles. "Glenn Dobbs has done a great job, and they ran us ragged with this pattern. We've worked on it for three weeks, saving it for Texas."
Brittenum scored on the next play and Broyles was the happiest man in the Western world, which includes Arkansas, last Saturday night. He stood around clapping his hands in his living room and eating cheese dip. He gave his team two days off instead of one. And he could not stop talking.
"For the first time, the very first time," he said, "everybody in this state knew we were going to win. They didn't consider anything else. We were tight about Tuesday, but we loosened up. We weren't grim, even though this was the most pressure any Arkansas team ever faced. This was the first time we ever went into a game knowing we had a chance to be No. 1 if we won, although it was the fourth straight year Texas has been No. 1 in this game. Hey, you know what? John McKay taught me the I formation in the spring of 1964 and we haven't lost a game with it.
"I decided a long time ago, 1960, I'm sure, that we were never gonna beat Texas unless we could throw. Nobody is. Texas is great. They're a great team. Why, that comeback they made—fantastic courage. And they were injured, no doubt about it. Darrell's a great friend of mine, but we like to beat each other, and the one thing we said out there before the game, we talked about it, was what a great privilege it was for us to be in this position, playing a game this important. Great for both schools, both states and the Southwest Conference. But I honestly think we've a better team this year. If that last drive had failed for some reason, I would have felt the best team lost."
After upsetting Texas a year ago 14-13, the Hogs became darts, flashing to five straight shutouts, then a Cotton Bowl victory over Nebraska. Arkansas should gain even more momentum from this victory, its 17th in a row, and in every way it appears to be, as Broyles says, a better team than last year's. Each of its five remaining opponents will be no less than two-touchdown underdogs, often more, and none appears capable of dealing out the faintest misery. Texas did what it had to do first—stop Harry Jones (he gained only 31 yards). But in the end it could not stop Jones outside and Brittenum's passing as well. Brittenum and Jones and just about everybody else return to Arkansas next season. It is therefore more than possible that the Razorbacks, with a song in their hearts, may be headed for the brightest streak since Oklahoma won 47 straight games in the 1950s. Until someone writes a song about that, the followers of the newest dynasty in college football will be more than content with:
"Now Jon Brittenum is happy callin' signals,
Behind the quickest line in the land,
And anyone you ask in the Razorback State,
Will tell you he's our quarterbackin' man...
Jon Brittenum, he's our quarterbackin' man."