Arkansas vs. USC in the 1970's

Just something I’ve always wondered but never seen addressed:

Most Hog fans are aware of our big win over USC in Little Rock in 1974.

But that was the last game of a three-game series. The 1972 and 1974 games were in Little Rock, sandwiched between a trip to Los Angeles in 1973.

How did we get USC to come to Arkansas for two of the three games?

Was it always designed to be just a three-game series, or did a game get canceled?

We had a run of Pac-8 opponents in non-conference games in the early 70’s, starting with Stanford (and Jim Plunkett) in 1970 and then California in 1971. Then we had the USC series. (The Pac-8 wouldn’t become the Pac-10 until 1978, and that was obviously long before the Pac-12 came to be.)

I believe all those games were added as a direct result of the regular season going from 10 to 11 games. But I’m still wondering why the Trojans agreed to play two of the three games here.

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It was designed as a 3-game series. How JFB and John Barnhill got John McKay to come to WMS twice, I’ll never know. USC didn’t mind playing anyone anywhere, and their '72 team is still one of the best college football teams I’ve ever seen, but it was a 3-game deal.

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Arkansas had a similar arrangement with Oklahoma State in the late '70s — two games in Little Rock for every game in Stillwater.

Yeah Okie Lite came to WMS virtually every year from 1952 to '74; the exceptions were years they didn’t play at all. Finally they insisted on the 2-for-1 deal which started in 75 – one in Stillwater, followed by two in Little Rock. After two cycles of that, the series ended.

We haven’t played them in Fayetteville since 1945, so the scheduled game in RRS in 2027 will/would end an 82-year absence.

Never will forget the last time we played OSU, in 1980. I was always assigned to go to the visiting locker room after each football game and get quotes. I walked into the steambath known as the visiting locker room at WMS and the first person I see is an old friend, an Arkadelphia native a few years older than me. I’m like “what are YOU doing here?” Turns out he was a graduate assistant on the Okie Lite staff that year. Got out of coaching, got a doctorate from Ole Miss and is now a consultant living in Mississippi.

I don’t know how far in advance they scheduled in those days but we were a pretty hot team in those years. Game of the Century in '69, we were highly ranked going into '70, '71, '72, I believe top 5 each year. Remember when Joe Ferguson was mentioned as the Heisman favorite by many in the press?

If memory serves me correctly, when the NCAA went to a 11 game schedule, CFB went to the PAC 10 for the extra game. He signed up to play California, Stanford and the three game series with USC. Keep in mind the UA was a top 10 team in the 60s. Playing and beating the Hogs in the early 70s gave PAC 10 teams credibility. The Hogs beat California but lost to Stanford at LR (Jim Plunkett) and lost two out of three to USC.
The 1974 win over USC is one of my all-time favorites.
UA….Campus of Champions

Correct. 1970 was the first 11-game year and the year we played Cal.

So we played five games against the P-8 in that period and only one of them was out west.

Just a minor correction. The Hogs played Stanford in 1970 and Cal in 1971.

The Hogs’ 34-28 loss to Stanford and Jim Plunkett in 1970 was their third loss in a row dating back to The Big Shootout in '69, and the Sugar Bowl loss to Ole Miss (and Archie Manning) 27-22 in January, 1970.

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You are of course correct. And yes, Stanford was the last of a three-game skid after IIRC winning 15 in a row.

Joe was the cover boy on Street and Smith’s College Football Magazine in 1971…quite an honor considering he had never started a game in college yet.

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Seeing this picture of Joe Ferguson, raised a question or curiosity I have had for years. What was the connection or attraction we had to recruit him? I know that we had a real good year in ‘69, but would that have been a strong enough draw?

I know we got Alworth because of Vaught’s policy against married players and Billy Ray Smith Jr. was a legacy, so the explanation is more straightforward on these and some others.

The lure was the passing game. What Broyles did to showcase Montgomery plus the winning throughout the 60s was the lure. Texas was in the wishbone. Arkansas was the other strong team in the region.


As Clay points out, it wasn’t just 1969…we were one of THE elite programs for the entirety of the 1960’s. So, as an elite player who became aware of football that decade, Joe would have been fully aware of that.

Here is the record of the Top 3 teams of the decade, according to W/L record:

Alabama 110 90 16 4 .836
Texas 108 86 19 3 .810
Arkansas 107 82 24 1 .771

(Remember, they had tie games back then; no tie-breaker)

And then there is this composite UPI (Coaches) poll for the decade.

Honor system: By the way, “bonus points” to anyone who remembers WITHOUT LOOKING IT UP who our 1 tie in the decade was against, and what year. I remember…but there’s a reason why I do.

You forget that Frank Broyles was a dynamic recruiter. He also plucked other top players out of other regions like Steve Little. Bruce James is another out of stater (Ocean Springs, MIss.) who was highly coveted by the SEC schools at home and in bordering states. He thought Frank Broyles was the sharpest cookie who came into his home and picked Arkansas. Bill Montgomery and Chuck Dicus were top recruits. Texas didn’t go hard after Loyd Phillips but every other SWC team wanted him badly.

I would also credit Don Breaux (1968-71) as a reason offensive players picked Arkansas. He was a good recruiter and an elite backfield coach.


I’m just glad Joe’s pretty face survived that season without a facemask. His O-line must have done a heckuva job that year. Before USC played that series with us, they had one with Texas. I guess John McKay had a thing for testing his teams against SWC powerhouses.

Good guess, but not correct. I’m guessing that you’re remembering the tie in 1971 with the Owls that cost us a SWC title and Cotton Bowl bid.

While we’re talking about it (at least, I am…lol), there was an odd twist to that outcome as well. The Hogs were trailing in the last couple of minutes and things didn’t look good. Arkansas had outplayed Rice, but 4 lost fumbles and an interception had kept the Owls in it.

The last of those fumbles came with just under 2 minutes left, when Ferguson put the ball on the ground at the Rice 9 yard line. Rice took the clock down as far as they could, but had to punt out of their own EZ with just a few seconds left in the game. The ball was fair caught at midfield. However, a Rice defender ran into the Arkansas player who caught the punt.

So, the ball was moved to the Rice 35 yard line. from where the Hogs utilized a rarely used and (to most fans) unknown rule that allows for a free kick FG attempt from the spot of a fair catch. That meant that Bill McClard could attempt the kick from the 35,with no one rushing, instead of from the 42 after a snap. McClard drilled the kick as time expired to give the Razorbacks a tie instead of a loss.

Still, after losing to Texas A&M (of all people), the blemish dropped the Hogs behind Texas, who they had pummeled in Little Rock earlier in the year. So Texas returned to the Cotton Bowl, and we went to Memphis where Preston Watts was waiting to screw us.

Here’s a recap of the Rice game.

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I had completely forgotten about the Rice tie and the free kick. I was at that A&M game. That was a strange night in War Memorial. I think Ferguson set a completion record that night, but we had trouble putting the ball in the end zone. I also remember a man near where I was sitting,having a heart attack and dying that night.

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Off the top of my head, I believe Joe was 30 or 31 for 50 for about 350 yards…BUT…he also had some interceptions that cost us the Aggie game. Coming just a couple of weeks after we had clobbered Texas, it was a crushing blow.

It was the best of times. Sitting in the rain with my dad, watching us destroy the horns. And the worst of times,. Losing to an inferior Aggie team.