Over a three-year period, Bill Montgomery had the best winning percentage of any Arkansas quarterback in history.
Despite a 28-5 record (an 84.8 winning percentage), it was Montgomery’s misfortune that the Razorbacks never could seem to quite get over a hurdle.
Standing in the way of what could have been three straight conference and perhaps national championships was maybe Darrell Royal’s finest Texas teams.
Montgomery lost all three times against the Longhorns’ first three Wishbone teams. Over those three years, the Hogs also lost to Archie Manning and OleMiss, then Jim Plunkett and Stanford, who would win the Heisman in 1970.
Three of those losses came back-to-back. Montgomery never lost to a team ranked lower than eighth in the nation. Recruited out of the Dallas suburb of Carrollton, he started as a sophomore and was the unquestioned leader of the team all three years.
But it’s the first of those that still haunts Montgomery. The 1969 Big Shootout against Texas.
In the fourth quarter, leading 14-8, Montgomery had surgically directed a drive to the Longhorns’ 8-yard-line and easily in field goal range of sophomore kicker Bill McClard.
On third down, Montgomery tried to get a touchdown. He rolled left with fullback Bruce Maxwell and tailback Bill Burnett blocking for him (Montgomery was one of the all-time great right-handers throwing while rolling to his left).
All-American Chuck Dicus made a cut in the north end zone and was wide open. Montgomery intended to either hit Dicus in stride or throw it away. Instead, the pass came out uncharacteristically off-course, sailing behind Dicus. Texas defensive back Danny Lester broke on the ball, caught it in stride and set up the final dramatics.
“That play never ends in my dreams,” Montgomery has said repeatedly over the years since. “If I could change one thing, that would be it.”
Over his three years, Montgomery did everything he could to win. The beginning and end of the 1970 seasons were proof of that.
Against Stanford to open the 1970 season, it was Bill’s decision to cut up field on the option (instead of pitching to an uncovered Burnett) and getting stuffed inches short of a first down that ended that loss.
In the 1970 finale against Texas in what was supposed to be Big Shootout II, Arkansas had gotten down early, 14-0, but battled back and made it 14-7. On another fourth-down play — again on the option to the left — Montgomery tried to keep for the first down instead of pitching to Jon Richardson and was stopped inches short (and he still maintains he got over the goal).
The Longhorns won that one handily and Montgomery’s career was over.
After his career, Montgomery launched a successful business career in Dallas. He was the color analyst for the Razorback Radio Network in the 1970’s, but the NFL was never an option … and Bill never forgot or forgave, even living in NFL-crazy Dallas-Fort Worth.
“I wouldn’t walk across the street to see an NFL game,” he said in the 70’s, “but I’ll drive across the country to see the Razorbacks play.”