Throughout this season, the offenses of Ole Miss and Oklahoma State caused opposing fans to look up how much their team's defensive coordinator makes per year, and then report that information to legions of Twitter followers or the nearest message board. The two teams rank 11th and 18th in offensive S&P+, respectively, and are both in the top 14 in points per game. With both schools shaky on the defensive end -- Oklahoma State is 58th in defensive S&P+ and while Ole Miss is 23rd, it's had, AHEM, certain struggles with passing downs -- a shootout could be in order for the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day.
In fact, those defensive numbers combined with the aforementioned offensive successes could allow us to see something similar to Ole Miss' last Sugar Bowl, a 27-22 upset win over No. 3 Arkansas in 1970.
The 1970 game saw a combined 954 yards of total offense, with 611 of those yards coming by way of the forward pass. Given how successful offenses have become, those may not seem like overwhelming numbers, but I would like to remind you that this was the first day of 1970 and innovative offenses had the same appeal as good-for-nothing dirty hippies.
And we should note those New Year's Day numbers were well above each team's average output. Take a look at these crunched numbers:
|Total yds. average through 1st 10 games
|Total yds. in Sugar Bowl
|Passing yds. average through 1st 10 games
|Passing yds. in Sugar Bowl
WELL HELLO THERE, OLE MISS SECONDARY.
Let's attempt to put "today's yardage value" on those numbers.
First, Archie Manning finished the season (11 games) with 1,762 passing yards, which was good for 15th in the country. This season, his 1,762 passing yards would find him at 89th in the country, between Everett Golson of Florida State and Kansas' Ryan Willis. Additionally, only one player in 1969 threw for over 3,000 yards (we all remember that crazy bastard Dennis Shaw). In 2015, 26 players broke the 3,000-yard barrier.
Going into the 1970 Sugar Bowl, Arkansas was ranked No. 3 and Ole Miss was No. 11. Today's Nos. 3 and 11 teams are, respectively, Michigan State, quarterbacked by Connor Cook, and TCU, led by Trevone Boykin. Cook, in 11.5 games, averaged 254 yards passing. Boykin, in 10.5 games, averaged 340.5 (!!!) passing yards. Using the maths available to us, we know that, in the 1970 Sugar Bowl, Bill Montgomery's passing yards increased from his regular seasons numbers by 239.7 percent, and Archie Manning's jumped by 83.3 percent.
That means if Cook and Boykin were to replicate that percentage jump, Cook would pass for around 607 yards against Alabama, and Boykin would wreck Oregon with roughly 624 passing yards. Granted, my math is probably crap, but you get the idea. Manning and Montgomery helped their offenses throw up numbers no one could have expected.
While we can sit here and fire off number after number and math after math, to really appreciate an offensive showcase back when football ran the dang ball all the dang time, we need to take a look at the 1970 Sugar Bowl and experience how it all went down.
Fortunately, some hero uploaded the entire game to YouTube, which allows us to see all three hours in its grainy glory. So let's get to reminiscing on the old color TV.
Here's a little bit of trivia you can use to impress your friends. Did you know that Jefferson Pilot broadcast the 1970 Sugar Bowl? It's true!
As we discussed above, this game took place in an era when offenses finished behind defense and punting in most coaches' rankings of their favorite part of football. But another really weird feature of this era, perhaps only in bowl games, was REFEREE INTRODUCTIONS.
"At back judge, a 5' 11", 47-year old from Monroe, Louisiana, it's Billy Harrison!"
But enough with the formalities, it's time to dive into the game action. We shall start with Arkansas, who repeatedly ran a play in the first quarter with three (THREE!) offensive lineman pulling.
That's both guards and the left tackle looking to crush the left side of Ole Miss' defense. #AllTheBeef
After Ole Miss opened with a punt and Arkansas countered with a missed field goal, Johnny Vaught sent in the "Give the Ball to Bo Bowen and Let Him Score" play.
I'd like to take a closer look at that play, if only ABC had replay. ABC, did you have replay in 1970?
Indeed they did! Now let's really dig in to this touchdown run.
Did that play remind anyone of another number 22 making fools miss left and right?
That's right, y'all. Dexter McCluster learned at least one move, possibly more, from Bo Bowen's fire Sugar Bowl highlight video mixtape.
With Ole Miss on the board and the broadcast returning from commercial, ABC gave viewers a sweeping view of Tulane Stadium (RIP) as it once sat in New Orleans.
On the next possession, Arkansas would go straight down the field and eventually face a third down on the Ole Miss 15. Check out the yardsticks right before the play.
They literally speared the first-down marker into the earth. Dangerous for the players? Probably. Convenient for the chain gang? No doubt. Look how relaxed that guy is.
Arkansas failed to convert that third down, which meant it was time for another short field goal attempt. How did this one go?
Not great, Bob! And I should mention the ball is actually moving away from the goalposts, so it landed somewhere over by the end zone pylons.
Seizing the momentum, Ole Miss decided to see if the best player on the team could do something with the ball.
That's Archie slinging it to your boy Vernon Studdard, who would catch five passes for 108 yards and, in keeping with this game's inflated theme, finished the year with only 337 receiving yards and one football spike in an Arkansas defender's face.
Upon further review:
Most surprising about that play was that a penalty was even called for throwing a football at someone's face. I guess those liberal agenda-pushers who declared war on football got their way and brought rules and order to the game. Smdh.
Despite being flagged 15 yards for "football to the face" (Ole Miss would end up with 11 penalties for 101 yards - THE U BEFORE THE U), the Rebels were able to close out the drive with Archie Manning doing his best Archie Manning impression on a 4th and 1 from Arkansas' 18-yard line.
Wait, my bad. Archie actually did his best Chad Kelly-from-the-future impression.
I would be remiss if we didn't review another quirk of football in the time of Nixon. This was taken before that last touchdown run. Observe the distance between the offensive huddle and the line of scrimmage:
Anyway, the first quarter ended with Ole Miss leading 14-0, but remember when we discussed Arkansas throwing for 338 yards? That tornado had yet to arrive.
Even though we know things are about to get tight, we've reached the portion of the program where we just relax and enjoy Archie doing things that Johnny Manziel would do some 42 years later.
In fact, let's get a first-half head count of those who were unblocked, chased after Archie, and then had a little piece of their souls removed after he escaped and threw for positive yardage.
Thanks to Archie's superior speed, strong arm, and ability to make it up as he went, Ole Miss was able to keep some scoring drives alive. The last touchdown drive occurred just before halftime when the Rebels hit Arkansas with the earliest recorded version of Four Verts*.
*Probably not true, but it's also not UNTRUE without further proof
Once again, Vernon Studdard ripped through the Arkansas secondary, much like receivers do against Arkansas' current secondary. Vernon should've been commended for not spiking the ball off someone's face because that's what I'd do if I ever scored a touchdown in a bowl game.
Let's take a quick look at how Four Verts led to this touchdown.
Ole Miss led Arkansas 24-6 with 2:37 left in the second quarter, which meant surely the Rebels coasted into halftime with a three-possession lead, yes? OH YOU SILLY MAN.
Here was the sight of Arkansas connecting on a 47-yard touchdown pass with just over 30 seconds to play until half.
Ole Miss cheerleader, your thoughts on average hair and that last defensive series?
Ole Miss took a 24-12 lead into the break, which meant it was time to hear from that day's corporate partners.
Hooooooooooooooo boy. I mean, O.J. Simpson and that single-bar facemask, right? What running back would do that?
As exciting as the first half was, the second half took on the feel of a Jefferson Pilot 11:30 game. Both teams managed only a field goal in the third quarter, which meant Ole Miss led 27-15 at the end of three quarters.
The fourth quarter saw much of the same boredom, though I've just been reminded that we should all set our DVRs:
Certainly can't miss any of that fine programming.
Arkansas cut the lead to 27-22 with about 10:30 to play, and had two drives with chances to take the lead in the last 6:47. The first drive ended with a turnover on downs, and the second ended when the pre-Landshark Landsharks decided it was time to BRING THE PAIN*.
*Cause a fumble without a crushing hit
After the fumble recovery, Ole Miss ran out the clock and collected its fourth win against a top 10 team in the 1969-70 season, which was quite an accomplishment.
But, as the critics were quick to point out, THAT TEAM DIDN'T GET TO ATLANTA DESPITE ALL THEM BOUGHT PLAYERS.
Let us hope the spirit of the 1970 Sugar Bowl is invoked next Friday, mostly due to Ole Miss winning, but also because watching SWAG drop 700 yards and 8 touchdowns on Oklahoma State would be a pretty awesome way to start 2016.