For more than a decade Texas and Arkansas lined up and went at each other for the football championship of the Southwest Conference.
For 12 of 14 years, until 1973, the meetings between Darrell Royal's Longhorns and the Razorbacks of Frank Broyles so exciting and inspiring they even drew Presidents.
They called them "shootouts," in these parts another word for important football games. But as do many things, the "shootouts" faded out.
And when the "shootout" became merely another game, the coaches, Royal and Broyles, knew it was time to get out. And they did, after the 1976 season.
But surprise, the players the football, and guess what happened?
Texas, under Fred Akers, has won four straight, including last Saturday's 13-6 victory over Oklahoma, to attain the No. 2 ranking in both polls. And Arkansas under Lou Holtz, has won four straight, grabbing the No. 8 spot in both polls.
Saturday, they'll take the field for a legitimate "shootout" (at 12:50 p.m. EDT on WJAL TV 7.)
Arkansas has snuck up on everybody under Holtz, refugee from the New York Jets. Arkansas is passing more this season and its key players are healthy. But the Razorbacks credit their records to the infusion of fresh coaching blood.
"Coach Broyles had too easy an attitude and it hurt us," said Steve Little, a good punter and place kicker who takes a backseat in this conference to Texas' Russell Exrleben and Texas A & M's T
Broyles delegated authority and watched practices with a somewhat detached view from a tower beside the practice field. In practice, Holtz runs the offense from the huddle.
"He's a contrast from coach Broyles," said Little "Coach Holtz is more of a personal person. Everybody really likes him and respects him. Everybody wants to put out for him because he's put us in the position we're in now.
"When the head coach is on the field, it makes you put out more because he's there."
The way the Arkansas players have it figured, this is their big chance to prove themselves. They say the game means more for them than it does for the Longhorns.
"Texas played its big game against Oklahoma," said running back Ben Cowins, who ranks ahead of Texas' Earl Campbell as the conference's top rusher.
"There's a whole lot of things that we have to prove that Texas proved in beating Oklahoma." Cowins added,"Plus we've only beat Texas once in the last 10 years."
For Arkansas, a one-point under-dog, to prevail, the Razorbacks need to control the ball more consistently than they have and get their passing attack going.
Ear ly in the season, the Razorbacks gained the reputation of a big-play team. They have averaged 15 yards or better. But they also average 21 plays a game that they gained 7.7 yards a rush from the Arkansas veer offense that averages 450 yards a game, two more than Texas.
But the key offensive factor will be passing. At one point, Arkansas went an entire game - against Oklahoma State - without attempting a pass last season.
Broyles had good reason for his conservatism. Starting quarterback Ron Calcagni suffered shoulder and knee injuries and, without him, the Razorbacks completed only 29 per cent of their passes. This year Calcagni has completed 56 per cent of his 36 passes (the team has thrown 65) for 11.1 yards per attempt.
Texas has excellent pass defense, allowing only 30 completions in 84 attempts. Texas has yielded only 21 points in four games but Arkansas is no defensive slouch, yielding only 25 with a defense built around its linebackers, especially Larry Jackson.
Randy McEarchin, senior nonletterman who led Texas to victory over Oklahoma after the top two Longhorn quarterbacks were injuried, will start in the Texas I-formation, a switch from Royal's recent wishbone. Campbell, with 498 yards in 72 carriers for a 6.9 average, is being touted for the Helsman Trophy.
Sources say Campbell took a beating in the Oklahoma game and may not be 100 per cent this week.
While Arkansas is looking for a victory over Texas, it also is seeking to recapture its mascot. Big Red III. an Australian wild boar which escaped from his quarters in August and has not been recaptured in swampy marsh land near here.
It's big news here. Even the Arkansas Air National Guard helped in the search. One fan called the assistant athletic director at 3 a.m. with a suggestion: his sow was in heat. He would take her to Eureka Springs and hitch her to a post. Certainly that would bring Big Red out of hiding.
Athletic department officials rejected the idea as too far-fetched.
Another Razorback fan offered them a substitute, a wild pig named Ragnar. His ability, unlike the team's, is proven. Ragnar killed a 450-pound duroc put in his cage as company, devoured a coyote which sneaked in one night and, at last count, had killed seven rattlesnakes, from Texas, no doubt.