AUSTIN (AP) – Charlie Strong knows as well as anyone about the long history between Arkansas and Texas, having grown up in Arkansas and played in college at Central Arkansas.
The first-year Longhorns coach will have his first opportunity to take part in the long-standing rivalry when the former Southwest Conference opponents face each other in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 29 — a game featuring two rebuilding programs led by coaches early in their tenures.
Strong, who was born in Batesville, Arkansas, took over at Texas (6-6) following last season. And after some early growing pains, including removing several players from the program, the Longhorns used a late-season three-game winning streak to finish 5-4 in the Big 12 and secure their bowl eligibility.
Awaiting Texas are the Razorbacks, a school the Longhorns have faced 77 times — holding a 56-21 advantage in the series that includes 1969’s Big Shootout matchup of the top-two ranked teams in the country.
“Growing up there, you’re a Razorback fan,” Strong said. “… I saw a lot of matchups with Texas, and I’m really excited about playing.”
Arkansas is led by second-year coach Bret Bielema, who helped the Razorbacks rebound from back-to-back losing seasons this year. Arkansas finished 6-6 while playing in the difficult Southeastern Conference West division, ending a 17-game SEC losing streak along the way and reaching a bowl game for the first time in three seasons.
The game will be the third game in the state of Texas this season for the Razorbacks, who won at Texas Tech and lost in overtime against Texas A&M at Cowboys Stadium.
“For us, in this season, to be able to play Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Texas, and to have TCU on the future docket on the schedule, that’s pretty cool for us as far as trying to recruit our TexHogs,” Bielema said.
The two schools last played in 2008, with Texas winning 52-10 in Austin. They last met in a bowl game in the 2000 Cotton Bowl, a game Arkansas won 27-6.
Razorbacks senior right tackle Brey Cook, from Springdale, Arkansas, left little doubt about his thoughts about facing Texas.
“I never dreamed of the NFL growing up,” Cook tweeted. “I dreamt of playing Texas. In Texas. As a Razorback.”
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