Texas, Arkansas set to renew historic football rivalry

Matthew Boncosky

The Texas Longhorns and Arkansas Razorbacks are set to renew a centuries old Southwest Conference rivalry on Saturday when No. 15 Texas travels to Fayetteville to face off on the gridiron.

Texas and Arkansas were founding members of the now-defunct Southwest Conference in 1914, but the two first met in 1894 ending in a 54-0 Texas blowout, fueling the first bits of hatred that would follow in the proceeding games. Since then, the series has seen many iconic moments including the 1969 “Game of the Century”, a showdown between No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Arkansas that ended in a Texas comeback victory and the school’s second football national championship.

“Going to Arkansas, it’s a pretty cool game,” Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday. “To think this will be the 79th time these two schools have met, it’s pretty special for that opportunity obviously (for) old Southwest Conference foes to meet.”

When Arkansas left the Southwest Conference after the 1991 season, regular meetings between the two rival schools ended. Saturday will be just the sixth game in the last 30 years between Arkansas and Texas. 

For current students on the Arkansas campus, the Razorbacks’ main rivals are Southeastern Conference foes LSU and Missouri. Many younger fans don’t understand the utter disdain that elder generations have for Texas, but they want to, especially with Texas joining the SEC soon.

“(LSU and Missouri) are fine and good, but they don’t feel like real rivalries,” said Mason Choate, sports editor at The Arkansas Traveler. “Even for the students on campus, you can just feel the hate a little bit more than you feel for LSU or Missouri, and I think that just comes from the history that comes with the rivalry. Even though we haven’t been a part of it really, it’s still that big of a deal here in Fayetteville.”

Early signs indicate emotions will run hot this weekend with Saturday being the first sellout at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium since 2017. Fans have spent the week chirping at each other on Twitter with local barbecue joints exchanging jabs as well.

The hostile crowd will present a big test to the Longhorns, who haven’t experienced a true road environment since 2019. Linebacker DeMarvion Overshown said nonverbal communication and making sure  all levels of the defense are on the same page will be key in handling the atmosphere.

“I’m fired up about it,” Overshown said. “I know they’re going to be loud. It’s gonna get dirty, it’s gonna get physical, but the fact that I get to play in one of the biggest rivalries ever, I’m excited for it and I’m blessed.”

The Arkansas-Texas rivalry used to be one of the best in college football, especially from the Razorbacks’ perspective. “Texas week” was the only week of the regular season that got its own name among the Arkansas faithful during the rivalry’s heyday in the 1960s.

While all the pageantry and lore has been largely lost in the last 30 years, stories about the rivalry have been passed down from parents and grandparents onto the current generation of fans and athletes. Running back Bijan Robinson grew up in Arizona, but even he’s heard some of them.

“I heard we are much hated out there in Arkansas, but you know what, it’s all good,” Robinson said. “That’s what rivalries are for, and that’s what makes it even more fun to go play against a team like that.”