Arkansas offensive linemen Greg Koch and R.C. Thielemann walked into a Little Rock restaurant on December 6, 1975, ready to celebrate.
The Hogs had just toppled undefeated Texas A&M 31-6 at War Memorial Stadium to earn a berth in the Cotton Bowl.
Koch and Thielemann were met by a familiar face — Hogs defensive coordinator Jimmy Johnson (Yes, that Jimmy Johnson). Johnson threw his arms around Koch and Thielemann and declared them “the two best (gosh darn) offensive linemen in the country.”
“I’ll just never forget that,” Koch said. “I don’t know if Jimmy ever spoke many words to R.C. and I because we were on the offensive side of the ball, but that was pretty exciting.
“What was weird about it was the Cotton Bowl was kind of anticlimactic after that. We had already beat the No. 2 team that was 10-0.”
The outcome eliminated Texas A&M from national title contention. Because top-ranked Ohio State lost to UCLA in the Rose Bowl, the Aggies would’ve played Georgia in the Cotton Bowl for a chance to capture their first title since 1939.
Instead, Arkansas derailed those dreams with a thrashing of Texas A&M by forcing numerous turnovers on a cold and rainy afternoon. The game had been moved from midseason to early December for television purposes.
“It was weird,” Koch said. “Usually we play them early November, or something like that. It was strange that it worked out like that. I don’t think many people gave us a chance because of how good their defense was. Had they beaten us, they would’ve beaten Georgia in the Cotton Bowl and they would’ve won the national championship.”
Arkansas went on to defeat Georgia 31-10 in the Cotton Bowl and finish the season ranked No. 7 with a 10-2 record. The win over Texas A&M remains one of the most memorable in Razorbacks history.
Aggies running back Bubba Bean appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated following a 20-10 win over No. 5 Texas the week before Texas A&M fell to Arkansas. Bean remains the only Texas A&M player ever to appear on the magazine’s cover nationally. Quarterback Johnny Manziel was on a regional cover in 2013.
“It was an emotional letdown,” Bean once told MyAggieNation.com. “You go up there and we weren’t ready. We had an opportunity to play for it all and we blew it with Arkansas.”
Koch said he remembers the win over Texas A&M like it was yesterday. The 1975 Hogs closed the season with six consecutive wins, the biggest coming against the Aggies.
“I remember Bo Rein, our offensive coordinator … man, he gave a fired-up speech and we were just ready to play,” Koch said. “We knew we matched up well with them and we were very confident on both sides of the football. A&M turning over the ball was really the story of that game.
“At the end of that season, I thought we were the best team in the country.”