The tale this month is about one of the most notorious missed calls made by a ref that changed the outcome of a game. The song this month is not from the '60s, but was written in 1913 by an undergraduate student named William Edwin Douglas and set to music by Henry Tovey who was the director of the Glee Club at the time. He also wrote the music for the Alma Mater.
It was the fall of 1982. No, better yet, it was November 20, 1982, and Lou Holtz’s sixth season with the Hogs when Bobby Collins brought his No. 2 rated SMU Mustangs (10-0) to do gridiron battle with the No. 9 Razorbacks (8-1). The game was played in Texas Stadium in Dallas before a sellout crowd of 65,101, and featured “The Pony Express” of Craig James and Eric Dickerson.
Coming into the game, Dickerson trailed Texas’ Earl Campbell for the all-time SWC rushing record by 74 yards. Between 1974 and 1977, Campbell (from Tyler, TX) had rushed for 4,443 yards. For those who don't remember Earl Campbell, he was a massive running back that you knew would have the ball on most every play, but you still couldn’t stop him! This game would find Dickerson rushing 18 times for 81 yards, setting a new record of 4,450 yards. Keep in mind that this was while he shared ball carrying time with the other half of “The Pony Express”: Craig James.
The game began much like most, however midway during the first quarter the Razorbacks took over the ball at midfield after a Gary Anderson punt return. From this point, they proceeded to move down the field aided with a fourth down dive play by running back Jesse Clark. The Hogs scored first behind the running of Anderson as he found the end zone on a sweep around end from the three. Arkansas 7, SMU 0. The drive had erased four minutes from the game clock.
The field goal squad came on. The ball was snapped. Defensive end Russell Carter rushed from his right end spot, into the backfield, and was able to knock the ball from its predestined course, preserving the 7-0 score. This play alone added the much needed motivation that SMU required to get back on track and into the game. Much to the Hogs dismay, they would not score for the remainder of the half.
During the second quarter, SMU would even the score at seven each after a 21 yard run by quarterback Lance McIlhenny on a third and 17 made during the drive. The scoring would then come after a six yard run by Dickerson. Halftime would find the game much as it had started, with a tied score, except this time both teams were at seven apiece.
The third quarter would see the Mustangs take a 10-7 lead on a Jeff Harrell 49-yard field goal, set up by passes from McIlhenny to split end Gary Smith for both 11 and 12 yards each. The Hogs would tie it at 10 all with a 27-yard field goal by Martin Smith following a 45 yard pass from Hog quarterback Brad Taylor to Derek Holloway. Again the quarter would end in a tie.
Fourth quarter and it was crunch time. Arkansas scored first. The Hogs would march 77 yards finishing with an end sweep by Anderson from the three. It was
now 17-10, Hogs. The battle continued and with six minutes left, McIlhenny led
his team 80 yards in what was one of the most controversial drives in Hog football history.
On third and eight McIlhenny threw left to his split end Bobby Leach for a 21 yard gain. Next came the play that only reinforced the feelings of Hog fans everywhere, that the cards were always stacked against them in the SWC.
The ball was snapped. McIlhenny faded left and threw a bomb to his senior flanker Jackie Wilson. Wilson was being tightly covered by cornerback Nathan Jones as the ball sailed over both players. Being uncatchable was one thing, but Wilson ran up the back of Jones. Out came the yellow flag. The referee named Horton Nsersta had called pass interference. What had been seen by the fans as offensive pass interference had all of a sudden taken a 180 and turned into defensive pass interference. This resulted in a 40-yard penalty moving SMU to the Arkansas 17 with 4:25 left in the game (after the game, it was noted that SMU practiced this fake to be used in desperate situations to gain pass interference calls). To no surprise, after the game, bumper stickers emerged throughout Arkansas with the sentiments of “Damn Texas Refs” and “Pass Interference, My @##”.
Dickerson would rush to the left side for four and six yards resulting in a first and goal at the seven. From here, noseguard Ricky Richardson stopped Dickerson for no gain. SMU would now go to their bread and butter play which had always been the option. McIlhenny faked left to both Dickerson and James, went right, got one block and found himself in the end zone. Kicker Jeff Harrell again tied the score at 17-17.
Although SMU had not been able to stop the Hogs for most of the second half, they were now fired up. The defense held and forced a punt to the Mustang 13 with 1:34 left in the game. Two downs later, Dickerson ran for 35 yards from the 15. McIlhenny runs for nine yards around left end. Dickerson gets a first down at the 39.
Dickerson now runs for two, followed by a four yard pass reception by Leach with seven seconds left. Harrell, who had previously kicked a 49-yard field goal earlier, would now come on and attempt a 52-yarder for the win. Ball snapped. Kick up. Short, wide right. Final score Arkansas 17, SMU 17.
With this tie, SMU would go on to win the SWC title and proceed to the Cotton Bowl (for the first time since 1966) where they defeated Pittsburg 7-3 before a crowd of 72,000 fans. The Mustangs ended the season ranked No. 2 by AP, and UPI. Hog fans from yesteryear all know that without the pass interference call SMU would most likely not have won the SWC or have been rated No. 2. But all that can be said is “Damn Texas Refs”.
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