|1978 Orange Bowl|
|Date||January 2, 1978|
|MVP||Roland Sales (Arkansas RB)|
|Favorite||Oklahoma by 18 points |
|Referee||R. Pete Williams (SEC)|
(split crew: SEC and Big Ten)
|United States TV coverage|
|Announcers||Jim Simpson and Merlin Olsen|
The sixth-ranked Razorbacks were 10–1, but were heavy underdogs to the #2 Sooners. Earlier in the day, top-ranked Texas and their Heisman Trophy-winning running back Earl Campbell had lost the Cotton Bowl 38–10 to #5 Notre Dame (led by quarterback Joe Montana). Oklahoma now had the inside track to the national championship, if they beat Arkansas. In the regular season, Texas defeated Oklahoma and Arkansas on consecutive weekends en route to its 11–0 record.
To complicate matters for Arkansas, first-year head coach Lou Holtz suspended three players prior to the game for team violations. Two of those players, running backs Ben Cowins and Donny Bobo, had together accounted for 78% of their points. Oklahoma was led by redshirt sophomore halfback Billy Sims, a future Heisman Trophy winner, and on defense by safety Darrol Ray and linebacker Daryl Hunt.
Although the suspended Arkansas players protested, Holtz refused to back down and the suspensions stood. Already considered a heavy underdog to Oklahoma, with the loss of those starters Arkansas was expected to give little competition in the game. Arkansas was an 18-point underdog prior to the suspensions. After the suspensions, they were given as 24-point underdogs by Las Vegas oddsmakers. The Orange Bowl would likely decide the national championship; it did, but not in the way that most expected.
Backup running back Roland Sales started for Arkansas in the place of Cowins. With Sales doing most of the running of the ball, Arkansas out-rushed Oklahoma 126 yards to 116 yards in the first half, with Sims fumbling the ball early in the first quarter causing the Razorbacks to recover on the Oklahoma 9 yard line. That resulted in a Sales touchdown (followed by a PAT kicker Steve Little). Another Oklahoma fumble by Kenny King resulted in another Arkansas touchdown rushed in by Hog quarterback Ron Calcagni in the first quarter. In the second half, Sales rushed for another touchdown, Brian White rushed for a touchdown and Little kicked a field goal. A ferocious Arkansas defense, led by defensive tackle Dan Hampton, built a 24–0 lead after three quarters. Oklahoma scored early in the fourth, but the two-point conversion attempt failed.
Sales rushed 22 times for 205 yards, an Orange Bowl record; he also caught four passes for 52 yards and rushed for two touchdowns. Arkansas defeated Oklahoma 31–6. Sales' Orange Bowl rushing record stood for twenty years, until broken by Ahman Green (206 yards in 1998). Sales and Arkansas teammate Reggie Freeman were named MVPs for the game. Arkansas was third in both final polls, behind Notre Dame and Alabama.
- Nissenson, Herschel (January 2, 1978). "Orange: the bookies' nightmare". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. p. 3B.
- "Arkansas rips Sooners' chances for national title". Milwaukee Journal. AP, UPI. January 3, 1978. p. 9, part 2.
- "Arkansas humiliates Oklahoma". Wilmington Morning Star (location=North Carolina). Associated Press. January 3, 1978. p. 1B.
- Looney, Douglas S. (January 9, 1978). "At last, Lou has the last laugh". Sports Illustrated. p. 10.
- "News Year-by-Year: 1978". OrangeBowl.org. November 24, 1978. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
- "eCongregate.com". Pixeltop.org. Retrieved October 24, 2011.[permanent dead link]
- "Holtz took a stand with suspensions when he was at Arkansas | stand, suspensions, took – Buckeyes". varsity.limaohio.com. December 29, 2010. Archived from the original on July 28, 2011. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
- "1978 Orange Bowl ... Arkansas 31 Oklahoma 6". Secblitz.com. July 16, 2008. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
- Stayton, Wynton. "1978 Orange Bowl Halftime Show - Main Street Electrical Parade". youtube.com.