In terms of notoriety, Houston's Kenny Hatfield was the second-fiddle kicker on the field today, a poor second counsin to Arkansas' Ish Ordonez.
But it was Hatfield, operating under pressure almost foreign to him, who kicked 37- and 19-yard field goals in the fourth quarter to send Houston past Arkansas, 13-10, in a battle of undefeated Southwest Conference teams. Hatfield's 19-yarder was the game-winner, coming with 1:12 to play.
Ordonez, holder of the NCAA record for consecutive field goals at 16, had a shot at providing Arkansas a tie in the closing moments. But the 5-foot-7 junior was to see his string snapped as Houston tackle Josea Taylor deflected the 41-yard attempt and the Cougars had themselves a 7-0 record.
Arkansas went into the Razorback Stadium game with a 6-0 mark and shared a fourth-place ranking with Ohio State. Houston held the No. 6 position. Most important to the Cougars, however, is their spot atop the SWC standings. They are in an excellent position to win their second straight conference championship, third in four years, and return to Dallas New Years' Day as host team in the Cotton Bowl.
Ordonez had closed last season with six straight field goals and had added 10 this year, including a 35-yarder in the first quarter today that gave the Razorbacks an early advantage.
Hatfield had made seven of 11 field goal attempts going into the game. He added his eighth with the final quarter only 1:45 old. The clincher could not have come under more pressure.
"The only other time I was in that situation was when we played Baylor this year," said Hatfield, a senior. "I kicked two field goals in the fourth quarter and we won, 13-10. Last year against Texas I kicked one in the fourth quarter to beat them (13-10), but none of those came as late as this one. There was quite a bit of wind here (24 mph in his face), but when you kick you don't know whether it will be windy or not because it was gusting."
It would have been a cruel twist, but Hatfield could have been something of a goat had Ordonez made his field goal. Hatfield also plays cornerback for the Cougars, and it was his man who caught a pass to provide Ordonez with his chance.
The Razorbacks made a wild charge down the field after Hatfield's kick. With 12 seconds remaining and at midfield, quarterback Kevin Scanlon threw down the left side to 6-5 wide receiver Robert Farrell. Hatfield was on him but was beaten by half a step. Farrell went high to pull the ball down, the 6-0 Hatfield made the tackle at the 25, and the Hogs called time out with four seconds remaining.
In came Ordonez, and a pro-Arkansas gathering of 43,319 went wild. This was the man who couldn't miss. But he did.
"I felt like I kicked the ball well," he said. "With the wind behind me I thought I had a definite advantage. I set the ball back as far as I normally do. After the ball was snapped, the next thing I knew somebody was passing the line of scrimmage . . . the distance was exactly the same as I kick every day in practice. I didn't choke. I had a good snap and the hold was perfect."
Taylor, a 6-5, 207-pounder, came in from the right side.
"I have never blocked a kick before," he said. "I just said a little prayer. I jumped on top of someone and the ball hit me on the head. I think it would have been good if it hadn't hit me. I believe it was high enough."
Houston drove 57 yards in nine plays to set up Hatfield's first field goal, the 37-yarder. The second came following an interception of a Scanlon pass by linebacker Grady Turner, who earlier recovered a fumble to set up Houston's only touchdown.
It took Houston 11 plays to move 61 yards for the winning field goal. The big play was a 19-yard bolt around the left side by halfback Terale Clark. He finished with 135 yards on 19 carries. Quarterback Delrick Brown also sparked the drive when, on third down and needing six at his 41, he threw for a 14-yard gain to tight end Garrett Jurgajtis.
A 46-yard run by freshman halfback Garry Anderson on the game's first play set up Ordonez's 35-yard field goal. But the Cougars came back to lead at the end of the first quarter, 7-3. They had to go only 25 yards for the score following Turner's recovery of an Anderson fumble. Clark got the touchdown on a five-yard run over right guard.
Arkansas got its only touchdown on a 12-play, 80-yard drive with 6:13 left in the half. Scanlon, considered to be a good-pass, poor-run quarterback, took over after the Hogs reached the Cougar 34. He went for 23 yards over left guard and kept around the right side for the final 11. Scanlon was Arkansas' leading rusher with 66 yards on 20 carries.
"A lot of people will think Arkansas wasn't ready to play two emotional games in a row," said Arkansas Coach Lou Holtz, referring to his team's 14-7 win over Texas last week. "Nothing could be further from the truth. We were ready and played as well as we could. I'm proud of our team, but Houston deserves credit for the victory."