Much ado about a football game.
College Football News recently ranked the Texas-Arkansas game of December 6, 1969, as the fourth greatest college football game ever. Sportswriter Frei gives us an exhaustive reckoning of both football teams’ ’69 season and of the game itself, with, sometimes, little lucidity (“The fact that Peschel was held up on the half count because of contact with the ‘monster’ outside him didn’t seem to register or trigger significant adjustments”). Frei is enamored of football terminology, and while fans will find the plethora of names familiar, some will be more so than others, like James Street, the Longhorn quarterback, or the Razorback quarterback and split end duo of Bill Montgomery and Chuck Dicus. Frei has background stories for nearly all the athletes, often about injuries and illnesses or colorful off-field behavior. Freddie Steinmark takes the prize for most inspiring story (small for college football, he drove himself to be a star safety; his later bout with cancer, which he finally lost, drew national attention). Frei tries to make the game an emblem of social changes of the ’60s. Nixon was at the game, and so was Congressman George Bush. Black students at Arkansas had been protesting the playing of “Dixie” as a school spirit song, and 200 antiwar demonstrators, on a hill behind the Razorback stadium, protested Nixon. Things fizzled when “Dixie” wasn’t played and the demonstrators’ banners weren’t shown on TV, though the game did signal the welcome end of an era: it was the last time the national championship team was all white. The game itself was a test of Texas’ “wishbone” offense. The excitement fans remember includes Razorback Rees’s catch on the Texas 2 yard line, setting up a Razorback touchdown only 87 seconds into play; and an unexpected pass, “Right 53 Veer,” which Longhorn coach Darrell Royal ordered and Street and receiver Randy Peschel flawlessly implemented.
Definitely the final word on this game.