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Echoes of Texas Football
The Greatest Stories Ever Told
By Ken Samelson
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2006 Triumph Books
All rights reserved.
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
The Play That Changed the Face of Texas Football
There might have been bigger Texas-Arkansas games through the years, but a good case can be made that the Longhorns' victory in 1939, led by Cowboy Jack Crain's heroics, might have been one of the most significant of them all. Previewing the 2003 Texas — Arkansas game, Bill Little took a look back at that historical game.
As a kid in the 1960s, Mack Brown grew up watching college football on TV with his dad and granddad.
So it was in that spirit and tradition that he urged the scheduling of this current two-game series between Texas and Arkansas. In the 1960s, there were no two greater figures in college football than Darrell Royal of Texas and Frank Broyles of Arkansas.
The two were the dominant figures in coaching in this part of the country, and despite their battles on the field, they were, and remain, close friends. So Saturday morning, for the first time since they both retired here in Austin in 1976, the two will appear on the field in the stadium which now shares Royal's name.
As they walk to midfield with their respective game captains, a flood of memories will accompany them.
In a home-and-home series this season and next, Texas and Arkansas will play again during the regular season. The last Razorback appearance in Austin came in 1990, when David McWilliams's Longhorns crushed Arkansas, 49 — 17. It was an all-too-familiar finish for a proud program which rose to great heights under Broyles, but always seemed foiled by Royal's Longhorns in the 20 years in which his teams competed against them. In fact, in the 20 meetings between Royal and Broyles, Texas won 15 and Arkansas five.
This will be the 75th meeting between the two schools in a series that began in 1894. And over the years, Texas has dominated, 54 — 20. That is one strong reason the rivalry in Arkansas is a whole lot more heated than it is in Texas. Of those 20, three of them came in the window in the middle of the 1960s, when Broyles's teams denied Texas a national championship in 1964 and posted back-to-back wins in 1965 and 1966. Broyles's teams won in 1960 in Austin and in 1971 in Little Rock. Otherwise, Royal's teams prevailed.
The world remembers — and if it didn't, it will be thoroughly reminded this week — the famed "Game of the Century," the Longhorns' 15 — 14 victory in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 1969. That was known as "the Big Shootout," matching the nation's number one and number two teams in the final game of the year in what was the Centennial Year of college football. A year later, the game billed as "Shootout Two" resulted in a Razorback misfire, as Texas claimed its 30th-straight win and second National Championship with a 42 — 7 victory in Austin. But the staunch historians of Texas football, while acknowledging with the rest of the world that the James-Street-to- Randy-Peschel pass in 1969 is the most famous play in the series, would maintain it is not the most important.
For had it not been for a young sophomore named Jack Crain 30 years before, Street's heroics likely would never have been in a position to happen.
In his various definitions of the word "renaissance," our friend Webster uses the words "rebirth" and "revival."
And that is what happened in 1939 when Jack Crain touched the ball in the final minute of play against Arkansas.
D. X. Bible had been hired in 1937, at the unheard-of salary of $15,000, to rekindle the flame of Texas football. It had been flickering for a decade, and not long after Jack Chevigny's team beat Notre Dame 7–6 in 1934, it had gone out. Following seasons of 4–6 in 1935 and 2–6–1 in 1936, Chevigny was fired.
Bible, who had tremendous success at Texas A&M and Nebraska, was heralded as the savior.
But after a 2–6–1 season in 1937 and a 1–8 year in 1938, fans, who were none too pleased with his salary in the wake of the Great Depression, started calling him "Ali Bible and the Forty Sieves," a reference to what they obviously considered a leak in Bible's defensive construction.
And so it was that Texas came to the 1939 Arkansas game in Austin, having just lost to Oklahoma 24–12, and with little hope for a change.
"Things had been down for so long," says Bill Sansing, who watched the game as a student and later became the Longhorns' first sports information director. "There was a loser mentality. We were losing again, 13–7, with a minute to play. No one could have expected what was about to happen."
Many in the so-so crowd of 17,000 who had come to see if the Longhorns could win their first conference opener since 1933 were headed to the exits. Only 30 seconds remained. In the huddle, quarterback Johnny Gill gathered his teammates and changed a play, and therefore the face of Texas football.
Gill directed Crain, the halfback, to switch positions with him. He told Crain to brush block the end and drift out into the flat for a screen pass. Fullback R. B. Patrick took the ball, and he threw.
To that point, Texas had just five first downs and 78 yards of offense. Only an 82-yard quick kick return for a touchdown by Crain had put the 'Horns on the scoreboard.
Cowboy Jack Crain would become a Texas legend and go on to serve in the Texas legislature, but nothing he would ever do would have an impact on something as much as his weaving run for 67 yards and a touchdown. Only seconds remained when he crossed the south goal line, tying the score at 13, and it took several minutes to clear the fans from the field so Crain could kick what turned out to be the game-winning extra point.
Years after his Hall of Fame coaching career was over, Bible recalled the significance. "That play and that victory changed our outlook — mine, the players', the student body's, and the ex-students'," said Bible. "Things had been going pretty badly up until that game. The way was still long, but we had tasted the fruits of victory and we were on our way."
The Longhorns finished 5–4 that year, posting their first winning season in six years, but the foundation was in place. Over the next seasons, Bible would field some of the greatest teams in Texas and Southwest Conference history, and he would end his career at Texas as athletics director, a post from which he hired Darrell Royal as the Longhorns coach in December 1956. When Royal was so supportive of the hiring of Mack Brown in 1997, 60 years of Longhorn legacy had come full circle.
Sansing, the wordsmith, said it best, and he didn't even have to look the word up in Webster.
"It was the renaissance of Texas football," he said. "Before that, everything was down. After that, everything was on the way up."CHAPTER 2
Victor Davis, the Dallas Morning News
Field's 60-Yard Dash Beats Tech in Cotton Bowl
The 1943 Cotton Bowl marked the Longhorns' very first bowl game. Underdogs to fifth-ranked Georgia, which had won both of its first two bowl appearances, Texas rose to the occasion, as described in the following day's Dallas Morning News.
Inspired University of Texas football stalwarts, behind a pile-driving line which performed almost perfectly over the route, rode over Georgia Tech's Yellow Jackets Friday afternoon at Cotton Bowl Stadium to win by a 14–7 count the seventh game of the annual New Year's Day gridiron classic.
It was one of the sweetest triumphs an orange-clad team has ever turned in for Skipper D. X. Bible, whose happy smile after the game stretched clear across his face and far back on the bald spot of his head. Sharing in the fruits of a well-earned Longhorn victory was a strictly partisan crowd of 36,000 deliriously joyful fans, an excellent turnout under present-day conditions.
Pretty near perfect it was — for Texas fans.
The weather was ideal, the best in the bowl's history. The crowd was tops, too. And in the football department Bible's lads roundly outplayed the conquerors of Notre Dame, Alabama, and Duke most of the way to bring a finish which found sound satisfaction for every Texan present.
Longhorn Line Performs
The story of the game was pretty simple. The big, fast, bruising Longhorn line Friday was a superb thing to watch. It cleared the way ahead for the Texas backs to plunge and gallop, and on defense, until Tech's final period outburst, kept the Ramblin' Wreck attack so well shackled the southerners were almost helpless.
Behind the magnificent performance of the white-shirted forwards, the Longhorn backs drove hard and fast. Time after time it was third down and five, and in this crucial spot the Steer ball luggers not only got the five, but often made it seven and eight.
Sheer beauty it was, if you'll pardon our rapture, to watch the Texas forwards operate. It was about as close to perfection in the way of line play as will ever be seen.
It was a colorful ball game, with thrills aplenty, and despite the fact the Wrecks were badly outplayed for three periods, they staged a last-period windup which netted one quick touchdown and had the tying marker in sight before the Longhorns dug in to hold on their 4-yard stripe.
Rather apparent from the first was the game's outcome when the opening plays showed this Texas team was primed to the gills and the line was out- handling the Tech forwards.
Texas Gets Rolling
Texas started rolling midway of the opening period after Joe Schwarting nabbed Bill McHugh's fumble on the Longhorn 48. It took 12 plays to eat up the yardage remaining from there to pay dirt. Roy McKay started it off with a pass to Wally Scott to the Tech 42, and the same combination clicked again to advance the leather to the 29. Jackie Field picked up five more at right end, added four through the middle, and McKay followed with a smash which carried to the Engineers' 14. Three line plays by McKay, Field, and Max Minor netted but eight yards. That made it fourth down and two to go on the Jacket 6. Field cracked right tackle for the yardage, and the Longhorns had four downs from the 4 to make it.
McKay got a yard of it in a drive over left guard. Then came the payoff. McKay faded back and shot a pass into the end zone. Clint Castleberry, Tech's brilliant freshman All-American back, slapped at the ball but merely deflected it into the waiting arms of Minor, who nabbed the hoghide just inches from the out-of-bounds line. He fell out of bounds after completing the catch, but the six-pointer went up on the board as the play actually was made within the end zone.
From placement, Jackie Field added the seventh point.
The Longhorns kept Tech well bottled up through the second period but were unable to launch a sustained drive themselves, and the half found Texas in front, 7 — 0.
Field Gallops 60 Yards
Jackie Field, the lad with the twinkling heels, sacked up the victory for Texas in the third period with the game's longest run — a beautiful 60-yard sprint through the entire Jacket 11.
It came after Tech had bogged down a Longhorn drive on the Engineers' 10-yard line. J. A. Helms, Tech wingman, stepped back to the goal line and lifted a beauty of a punt, which the Steer sprinter nabbed on his own 40. He got a perfect block by Jack Freeman to get him started, and he did the rest. Running hard and fast, he brushed off Tech tacklers and then broke into the clear. His stride wasn't broken all the way. This time McKay booted the extra point.
To the credit of the Georgians, they didn't fold. Quite to the contrary, in fact, as many a Longhorn fan got the shakes during a spirited comeback the visitors staged in the closing period.
Early in the final chapter Castleberry lugged a Texas punt back to the Georgians' 33, and from there the Engineers rolled all the way.
Striking mainly through the air, they went 67 yards for the touchdown through a Longhorn team which, at that time, was made up mainly of third- stringers.
Castleberry slipped through the line for nine, and R. W. Sheldon made it first down on the Tech 44. Then came a honey of a pass, Sheldon to J. A. Marshall, good for 32 yards and a first down on the Steer 24. In three line thrusts Castleberry netted but a couple of yards, but the Engineers kept the drive alive with a last-down toss. It read Castleberry to Helms and was good for 15 yards and a first and 10 on the Longhorn 6.
Steers Caught Napping
The Orange forwards were pretty tough about it for three plays, limiting Dodd and Prokop to two yards in three tries, but on the final down, the Georgians caught the Steers napping with one of the oldest chestnuts in the book — the Statue of Liberty play. They had tried it a couple of times before without success, but here in the clutch, David Eldridge plucked the cherry from Castleberry's hands and slanted off left end for the touchdown. Jordan's place kick was partially blocked but had enough momentum to wobble between the uprights for the extra point.
Well, Longhorn fans figured that was just a flash and settled back in their seats. But they got jumpy in a hurry when the Engineers barged right back to knock at the door again.
The stage for the second drive was set when McKay's poor punt sailed out of bounds on the Tech 46. Prokop started it off with a strike to Sheldon, which the latter caught on the Texas 42. After a line play added yardage, Prokop went back to pitching and this time connected with Marshall for 28 yards and a first down on the Texas 9. The Jackets drew a five-yard tax here, but Jordan got that back and four yards more on a triple reverse which carried to the 5.
The Texas crowd was sweating right here, brother, and not from the heat. But the Steers dug in, nailed Prokop after a yard gain, and Sheldon's pass across the line was wild, probably because he had a swarm of Texas forwards on his neck. That left it last down and four to go for the score which could tie the game. Tech's in-the-pinch effort was feeble. Sheldon faded back to pass, but the ball somehow rolled off his hand as he aimed to fire. The play fizzled, and Texas took over.
The Longhorns took no further chances. Back again they went to the business of banging through the Georgia Tech line, and the gun found them still driving after racking up two first downs.
Field's Dash Clincher
As it turned out, Field's fleet dash in the third period was the clincher. But the modest Jackie, who has learned long ago that backs don't romp unless the boys up front are moving 'em out of the way, would be the first to give the game's accolade to the boys who earned it — that magnificent, bristling Texas line.
How completely the Orange forwards outplayed their vaunted rivals is shown by the cold figures, which didn't lie a bit in this instance. Tech, noted for a hard-driving running game, picked up but 57 yards in this manner as compared to 201 for the victors. Holding Tech to 57 yards on the ground is something that just wasn't done by any team during this regular season — not even Georgia, which handled the Jackets in their lone setback of the 1942 campaign.
Tech coaches after the game ruefully admitted they had been shown. To a man they stamped the fine Texas line as the best they had met all season — Georgia, Notre Dame, Duke, and Alabama and the rest.
Quite a compliment this to the Bible brand of football, especially in view of the fact that the tough southeastern circuit long has looked upon Southwest Conference football as a lot of silly forward-passing razzle-dazzle.
As has been remarked, it was a sweet triumph for the Texas coach. It was Texas's first venture in bowl play, and the result was not only extremely pleasing to the legion of Longhorn exes, but generally helpful to the Southwest Conference as a whole. It was a prestige ball game — Georgia Tech really rates in national football — and the Longhorns won it, not with the fabled Southwest pass-and-pray system, but with honest-to-gosh sound old fundamental football. The writer doubts if there is a team in the country which could have stopped the Texas power Friday.
So close was the Texas defense it made the flashy Castleberry, Tech's ace back, look bad at times. But nevertheless, the kid showed he had the stuff even in the face of adverse conditions. He just could go because his line couldn't budge those tough babies with Orange on 'em. And the fact Texas covered him with four men didn't help either.
Frank Guess, the Longhorn freshman kicking star, had a few minutes of glory in the second period. Operating with veterans around him, the kid looked good. He'll be scampering this fall.
Crowd Pleased Officials
Cotton Bowl officials were tickled pink at the turnout. There were few vacant spots in the big bowl, and the last-minute press for tickets was so great they were still passing them out well along in the second period.
All told, [it was] a colorful, brilliant spectacle and one of the best games the seven-year-old classic has produced. It will be a long train ride back for Atlanta for coach W. A. "Bill" Alexander's boys. This, incidentally, was their first defeat in three bowl starts.
Excerpted from Echoes of Texas Football by Ken Samelson. Copyright © 2006 Triumph Books. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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