RECORD: 11-0 COACH: FRANK BROYLES
ALL-AMERICA: RONNIE CAVENESS, LB
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: 1 (1964)
AFTER New Year's Day 1965 there was one more No. 1 award left to be earned. Since 1954 the Football Writers Association of America has believed that the wire-service polls were impulsive and inconclusive, and has waited until after the bowl games to select the winner of its Grantland Rice Trophy. After Alabama, already crowned by both AP and UPI, lost to Texas in the Orange Bowl, it was only right that the writers should name Arkansas the nation's best college football team of '64.
The 10-7 win over Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl left coach Frank Broyles's Razorbacks undefeated and untied through 11 games and deserving of the mythical award as national champion. Among the major teams, Arkansas had the only perfect record. It could also boast that it had defeated not only the Cornhuskers, the Big Eight champion; but also Texas, conqueror of Alabama; and Tulsa, the Bluebonnet Bowl winner.
This was an Arkansas team whose main strength was in its defense. (It had five straight shutouts.) All-America Ronnie Caveness and Ronnie Mac Smith were superb linebackers but no faster or more effective than middle guard Jim Johnson or tackles Jim Williams and Loyd Phillips. With the ends, All-Conference Jim Finch and Bobby Roper, they formed a cohesive unit, often moving as one mass to the ball.
But this was also a Broyles team that had, for the first time, something more than defense. It used the rules, oddly ignored by other potentially good teams, that permitted offensive and defensive units. Broyles wisely platooned early. "Always in the past," he said, "our offense has suffered because we went first with our best defensive boys. Sometime during a game we'd lose a key down when our attack would stall because one of those defensive boys would not have the technique to make a block. We didn't have that this year. We had good blocking specialists—and still had our defense."
Broyles had passing, too, in Fred Marshall, a fifth-year quarterback. He admitted, "It's not our nature, but it's now a necessity. Both the Texas and Nebraska games convinced me of something. When you're a conservative team with a three-point lead, you're actually behind. And when you have a seven-point lead, you're tied. But we're learning down here. We're learning it's better to attack when you're ahead."
From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, January 11, 1965