Somewhere east of Stillwater Creek in north central Oklahoma lies the quiet campus of Oklahoma State University, a place noted heretofore chiefly for its pretty coeds, its school of veterinary medicine and wrestling teams that have won 27 national championships. Traditionally, OSU men have mud on their boots and cauliflower in their ears, the sort of conservative country fellows who would lead their dates to romantic Theta Pond to discuss the relative merits of soybeans and oats. Football naturally had its proper place—as a preseason conditioner for heavyweight wrestlers who thought a touchdown was when you forced your opponent's shoulders to the mat for the count of three.
That's exaggeration, of course, the kind of slander spread by those tea sippers at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, 90 miles away. But it is nevertheless true that the Cowboys have not given the gridiron the reverent attention needed to survive in the Big Eight, where folks check the football polls even before they check the pork-belly futures. The Aggies have beaten Oklahoma only twice in the last 28 years and their almost-annual trips to play nonconference rival Arkansas have been almost as dismal: four victories in the last 24 years.
There are signs, however, that the Okie-Arkie situation, at least, is changing. Last Saturday night before 54,535 people in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium, Oklahoma State whipped Arkansas for the second straight season by a lopsided score, 26-7, and it was accomplished without a single hammerlock.
The game was billed as a battle of Wishbone offenses, but it turned out instead to be a battle of old-fashioned tough defense, with what coaches like to call "hat on the numbers" tackling. Arkansas failed to Wishbone its way past the 50-yard line until early in the fourth quarter and OSU failed to cash in on numerous touchdown opportunities, more often having to settle for field-goal attempts by Abby Daigle, who made four of seven, the longest success from 33 yards.
Arkansas was a six-point favorite and should have been. The Razorbacks upset USC the week before and the game was being played in front of their own fanatical fans, all in red, with their HOGS SMELL GOOD buttons and their eardrum-smashing calls to the hogs: "Whoooo, PIG, Sooooey!" Not only that, but the trickle of blacks into Arkansas uniforms (Jon Richardson was the first in 1969) had grown into a flood: AP Lineman of the Week Dennis Winston, Running Backs Marsh White, Barnabas White and Ike Forte and many more. So many, in fact, that the black-activist newspaper on the Fayetteville campus called the team the Razorblacks.
Oklahoma State had some talented people of its own, but Coach Jim Stanley's team was suspect because of last season, which was the sort of up and down, bronco-busting ride no cowboy in his right mind would enjoy. Oklahoma State bashed Arkansas 38-6 on regional television (only its second appearance on the tube in 15 years), but then was whipped by Texas Tech. Tied Nebraska but also tied Kansas. Beat Colorado but dropped a surprising 28-12 decision to Iowa State. Part of the problem was that Quarterback Brent Blackman, slick at running the Wishbone, got hurt too often, as quarterbacks are apt to do running that offense.
Blackman was graduated and this year Stanley has a sturdier man in charge, Charlie Weatherbie, and platoons of good runners: Leonard Thompson and Kenny Walker from Arizona, Fullbacks George Palmer and Robert Turner from around home and freshman Terry Miller, who had been the most sought-after player in the state of Colorado. Stillwater runs deep, at least in offensive backs. Then there is the defensive line, which has two men from the Little Rock vicinity, James (Duck) White and Phillip Dokes. Oklahoma State easily beat Wichita State the previous week, but that is not the sort of thing to scare a team that has defeated USC.
"If we play like that against Arkansas," Stanley told his team, "we'll get beat by three touchdowns. We've gotta get better or we're in for a tough time."
"Playing in Little Rock is a monster with all those people calling the hogs," said Fullback Palmer. "I was so nervous playing there my first two years, both times I went the wrong way on the first play."
On the first play from scrimmage this time, Arkansas' Barnabas White fumbled deep in his territory and the Hogs fought with their razorbacks to the goal line for the rest of the half. They held once with hitting so sudden and hard that Linebacker Billy Burns almost swallowed the pinch of snuff he keeps between his lower lip and gums. Oklahoma State came right back to threaten again but could not capitalize with a first-and-goal-on-the-five and had to settle for a Daigle field goal.
Well, it could have been worse. Nobody in the stands or in Hog Heaven, the special glass-enclosed section beneath the press box, panicked. Then Arkansas punted and still another Cowpoke running threat, freshman Wes Hankins, a 9.7 sprinter from Bristow, Okla., returned it 83 yards for a touchdown. Panic. The visitors had enough points right there.
Arkansas' Wishbone attack looked pitifully weak most of the game, especially the passing. Against USC the Hogs had tried two passes; one was intercepted and one was completed—for an 11-yard loss. Against Oklahoma State, Quarterbacks Mark Miller and Scott Bull completed three passes in 14 attempts, resulting in minus three yards and two interceptions. It was hard to believe this was the same team that was ranked among the nation's top ten. Arkansas finally put together a 73-yard drive in the fourth quarter, but it was too late.
"We've got nine games left," said Coach Frank Broyles later, "and we're just gonna have to circle our wagons and get tougher the rest of the season."
"I think this will be a determining factor in our season," said Weatherbie, but Stanley, whose face is as unexpressive as it is handsome, seemed no more pleased than he had been after beating Wichita State.
Broyles, no Winston Churchill phrase-maker, at least had some wagons circling. Stanley unsmilingly told the press, "One game doesn't make a season. We've got to play 'em one at a time." Which means right up till they meet the Oklahoma Tea Sippers in late November.