A sign held by a University of Texas supporter outside Memorial Stadium in Austin last Saturday night said, LET'S MAKE ARKANSAS THE NEXT NAGASAKI, and a countersign lofted by a red-shrouded Razorback fanatic suggested, OUR COACHING STAFF IS WORTH 10 POINTS. Thus the scene was set for another game between two teams that have made their rivalry the Marat-Sade of college football. But this time more was involved than just the usual blast-off of opponents that get higher than rockets for each other. This would be an ideological conflict that would prove whether Texas Coach Darrell Royal was going conservatively batty.
Here came the Arkansas team of progressive Frank Broyles, undefeated and averaging 35 points a game with a prostyle offense that Broyles described as "two split people and two runners." And here stood Texas in a furnace of criticism, because in this era of pitch-and-catch football, Royal was running an offense that was three yards and a cloud of protest.
Throughout the first half, as 66,000 stood and screamed, the game was every bit as hysterical as most Texas-Arkansas confrontations are. Quarterback Bill Montgomery, a brash sophomore, was passing Arkansas all over the field, and the Texas corps of runners—Chris Gilbert, Steve Worster and Ted Koy—was barging and butting back with equal success from Royal's Y-T formation, which looks so out of date he hasn't even bothered to name it. All of this had the scoreboard flickering like a pinball machine. Arkansas led 3-0, Texas tied it 3-3, Arkansas went ahead 9-3, Texas came back 10-9, Arkansas jumped up again 15-10, and Texas made it 18-15 and then 25-15 before everybody staggered into the locker room for a half-time sedative.
In the second half, however, it became evident that one team had more muscle. It was Texas. And it also became evident that with this kind of ground-ripping force and everything clicking, Darrell Royal can run the flying wedge if he wants to and the Long-horns will be difficult to handle. Texas swept through and around Arkansas—hammer, bang, squirt—and put the contest out of reach as it ran to a 39-15 lead before the third quarter was over. Royal's stubbornness now looked most gratifying. Gilbert had made 108 yards and two touchdowns, Worster had slashed inside for 82 yards, Koy had hit the tackles for 53 yards and Quarterback James Street had wiggled on wide keepers for 71 more yards. The Texas ground game was in the process of rolling up 329 yards, and Street, the recent discovery at quarterback who could put it all together, had even thrown a 51-yard pass for a touchdown. It was one of only eight passes Texas tried all evening, compared to the 35 that Montgomery hurled for reeling Arkansas. In the end, Montgomery got the Razor-backs two more scores to make the final count 39-29, but that was after Royal had achieved one of the more precious and necessary victories of his career.
October 28, 1968
Long before all of the thousands of Razorback rooters came to Austin, wearing their red coats, vests and wives, a big question was being asked about Texas and Darrell Royal. "Goodness gracious, why is Texas performing so indifferently?" is the way Longhorn fans were not phrasing it. Texas, with what everyone expected to be an excellent team, had been tied by Houston and beaten by Texas Tech. The last-minute victory over Oklahoma had helped ease the criticism of Royal to a degree, but no one could forget that Texas was a team struggling to overcome a lot of difficulties Texas does not usually have. Some players had quit the squad—name recruits when they were in high school—Royal's run-conscious attack was being giggled at, and Bill Bradley had not only been demoted from first-team quarterback, he had been moved to split end where he was only sharing time with a sophomore, Cotton Speyrer.
Among the explanations offered by anti-Royal forces were the following: Royal's practices were too grueling for the "modern" athlete (thus, the quitting of nine players); Royal's offense was not suited to the current vogue of aerial football and therefore Texas could not "out-score" the other team, which is what you have to do in this day and time; Royal had been plain stubborn about Bill Bradley, a nifty little operator but inconsistent, not smart and hardly what you would call a Slingin' Sam Fingerlace, what with his tiny hands.
On Friday night before the game Royal had answers for all of his critics. "I'll go out of this business saying the same things," Royal began. "Give me an O.J. Simpson and I'll show you a coaching genius. Winning takes care of everything, and you've got to try to win with the talent you have available. I may be one of the few people around who recognizes what has happened in our conference. Other people have good athletes, that's what. Other people have athletes in school, under conference rules, that could not play at Texas because our scholastic requirements are higher. Anyone who does not believe that is welcome to look at some documentation."
Royal said his practices had been no tougher than usual, but some of his off-the-field restrictions had been tightened. "Most of the kids who quit were 6-4 season players who had been beaten out. Deryl Comer was the only one that shocked me. Deryl came in one day and said, 'Coach, I'm just tired of football. I don't like to play it anymore. I've been playing all my life because other people wanted me to.' So Comer left. I was sick. He was one of our best. But a day later he was back. He just came back and said he couldn't understand why he left and he's been great. His catches helped us beat Oklahoma."
Then there was Bradley. Super Bill was Texas' starting quarterback as a sophomore in 1966, and few players ever entered Austin with more fanfare. But in the third game of that season he hurt his knee and he was never the same after that. "Up to then he had honestly looked like we thought he would," Royal argues.
James Street was a sophomore who could have beaten Bradley out in 1967, but Street had pitched baseball in the spring, had not been impressive in drills, and Bradley's natural ability carried him slowly along. Bradley won some and lost some—and Texas was 6-4 again.
"You kept looking at that ability and telling yourself he might explode with consistency next Saturday," Royal says.
Super Bill exploded this season, but in a different way. He threw only one completion—and three interceptions—in the opener against Houston, which Texas barely managed to tie 20-20. Then he lost his job to Street in the Texas Tech game when Street was sent in as a desperation measure and brought Texas back into the game from 6-21. Tech held on to win 31-22, but Street got the Long-horn offense rolling and earned the team's confidence. A cocky, good-looking youngster with sideburns, Street proved himself under pressure two weeks later when he passed Texas to its 26-20 win over Oklahoma.
By the end of the Arkansas game last Saturday night Street had looked so sharp that Royal is probably headed for another round of criticism. It will begin, "Why didn't Royal discover James Street sooner?" Or even, perhaps, "Why wasn't Texas running this Y-T formation during all those awful 6-4 years? Everybody knows the passing game is on the way out."