No one had to tell the Arkansas Razorbacks their defense was suspect. Their coach, Frank Broyles, had been saying it all season.
As Georgia coach Vince Dooley observed, the Hog defense earned its keep with its adeptness at forcing turnovers.
For Arkansas to be able to stay with Georgia, Broyles felt he had to be able to find some way to exploit the Bulldog defense, and that his own defense would have to find ways to pry the ball away from the Dawgs.
Part of the plan was to bring on a personal duel between Georgia All-American safety Jake Scott and Arkansas’ Chuck Dicus, then a 171-pound sophomore and an outstanding pass receiver.
When Arkansas went to a slot formation, where the split end, flanker and tight end were lined up on the same side, Scott would cover whoever was in the slot. Quarterback Bill Montgomery said, “The idea was to get Scott one-on-one with Dicus.” The defensive part of the plan was for the Razorback defensive backs to delay the Georgia receivers. Broyles also put in a blitz package, the idea being to pressure quarterback Mike Cavan into hurrying his plays, perhaps forcing turnovers, and preventing the receivers from getting deep before the pressure could be applied.
A game plan has seldom worked as successfully as this one, particularly early.
In Georgia’s first six possessions the Bulldogs lost the ball four times with three fumbles and an interception. The problem for Broyles was that Arkansas fared only slightly better, with Montgomery throwing seven incompletions and one interception as well as being sacked once before his first successful pass, a one-yarder.
On the first play of the second quarter, though, Dicus faked a down-and-out, then blew downfield on a post pattern and made an arms extended, fingertip grab at the goal line for a 27-yard touchdown. “I had been running the down-and-out with some success,” said Dicus. “I think Scott had gotten to where he was anticipating it, so we changed to the post. I couldn’t believe I was past him.”
Later, after a clipping penalty put Arkansas back to its 6, tailback Bill Burnett started a sweep. But end David McKnight broke through and dropped the runner for a safety.
Montgomery, who had to be administered a nerve shot at the half, the result of a spinning tackle, took the Hogs on a long drive after a lost Georgia fumble – in the process tying Glenn Dobbs’ 26-year-old record of nine straight completions – to a 24-yard field goal by Bob White.
Georgia no sooner came out in the second half when it was in threatening position again. After Cavan took the Bulldogs to the Razorbacks 3, Brad Johnson tried to hurdle the line.
Defenders Dick Bumpus and Lynn Garner sandwiched the runner and the ball jettisoned from Johnson’s arm straight out of the end zone for a touchback.
“It was about then that I realized how much better off I might have been 22 years before,” Dooley said, “when I was a kid sitting on the curb outside the stadium [see How They Got Here].” Broyles added, “You could almost feel the lift that gave us. And it had to take something out of them.”
Two fourth-quarter Arkansas field goals of 24 and 31 yards by White put the game out of reach for Georgia.
With just 40 yards rushing, it was obvious Broyles’ aerial plan was essential. It produced only one touchdown but Dicus caught a then-Sugar Bowl record 12 passes for 169 of Arkansas’ 183 air yards.
The Arkansas defense was striking, slicing Georgia’s 397-yard per game average in half, and the Hogs recovered all five of Georgia’s fumbles and picked off a pass. It wasn’t pretty, but Broyles handicapped the game perfectly.
Noting these stats and that Cliff Powell had eight unassisted tackles and was in on seven others, that Guy Parker had 10 solos, and that defensive back Jerry Moore had two interceptions, broke up two passes, and was in on four tackles, lineman Gordon McNulty had one question for his coach in the locker room: “Coach,” he asked, “is the defense still suspect?”
Broyles returned the grin.
Recap excerpted from the book “Sugar Bowl Classic: A History” by Marty Mulé, who covered the game and the organization for decades for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Ark: Dicus 27-yard pass from Montgomery (White kick)
Ga: Safety Burnett tackled in end zone
Ark: White 34-yard field goal
Ark: White 24-yard field goal
Ark: White 31-yard field goal