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Pre-Game North Texas

Confessions of a Prodigal Willie Earl

And a Few Season Opening Observations

My ambivalence about Longhorn Football started during the 2011 OU game. Suffering through the third humiliating blowout to OU during the Mack Brown era was the beginning of my breaking point with Mack Brown. The game itself would have been bad enough, but 2011 just happened to be the year that I brought one of my best friends—whom had known since I was 5-years old, whom I had regaled with descriptions of Texas-OU weekend for 35 years and who is a Notre Dame Graduate—to his first OU game, which made it downright embarrassing. The last-second win over Texas A&M later that year provided an Indian Summer for my Longhorn passion, but it was very brief.
The last game that in my heart I truly rooted for a Longhorn win was the 2012 West Virginia game in Austin. Texas should have won that game, but Mack Brown frittered it away in the second half by totally mismanaging a couple of offensive series. Starting that night—because my love for the Longhorns is all-consuming—I wanted the Mack Brown era to come to a close as quickly as possible. So there it is. I secretly rooted for the Longhorns to lose football games from October 13, 2012, through the Baylor game last year.

Now I’m back baby. Let’s put the boot to the ball.

More confessions and Some Season Opening Observations

Charlie Strong may not be the next “One” — but I am infatuated with him.

Last week I downloaded a couple of Cowsill songs to my iTunes Library.

I don’t understand David Ash’s decision to continue playing football.  Of course I hope it works out for him and that he plays great for the next two seasons, but I think he’s made a foolish decision. I wonder if anyone close to him besides his mother advised him to hang it up.  In my experience mothers are often the wisest advisers, even when it seems that their advice is skewed by motherhood its own self.

I got viscerally angry the other day trying to kill a fly in my kitchen.

For god’s sake somebody please tell me that Mack Brown didn’t recruit Kenny Hill as a defensive back.

I’m so vain you probably think this blog is about me.

Charlie Strong refers to Jonathan Gray as “J Gray.” Reminds me of a the Longhorn great, “Ray Clay.”  Anybody younger than 55 know who I’m talking about?

I went to my High School 40-year class reunion in July. Ever since then, I’ve been tossing and turning at night about how my life would have been changed if I hadn’t got cut from the J.V. Basketball team.

Out on the road today I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac. A little voice inside my head said don’t look back you can never look back.

Charlie Strong is direct and to the point, but he does have a sneaky sense of humor. I like that.

In the post-Darrell era, two Longhorn head coaches have had good first seasons. Fred Akers went 11-1 in 1977, and Mack Brown posted 9-3 in 1998. Akers had Earl Campbell. Brown had Ricky Williams. Charlie Strong has….? Reminds me of when Sonny said to Tom Hagen, “Pop had Genco, look what I got.” Sonny Corleone

On the other hand ,Charlie Strong has Cedric Reed, and he’s at least as valuable as Brad Shearer was to Fred Akers. Malcolm Brown—the d line variety—may turn out to be a superstar as well.

By the way, I’m not saying I don’t think Malcolm Brown the running back is good. I think he’s real good. I think he compares favorably to Cedric Benson.

I heard Joe Bergeron was dismissed from the team, because he went Blutarsky when Charlie Strong took away the smoothie bar.

I would like to have seen Charlie Strong’s reaction when he found out there was a smoothie bar in the locker room.

I have no idea why Kansas State. is projected to be a Big 12 Title contender this year. They were so bad last year that even we beat them….finally.

Baylor will lose at least three conference games this year.

Saying it the way my father would say it, “Do we really believe UCLA is the national contender they’re predicted to be?” Yeah, they were 10-3, last year but their three losses were to the only good teams they played, unless you consider Nebraska a good team.  Anyway, I’m not buying into UCLA’s emergence as a national title contender.  They’ll probably give us a tough game, but we’ll win.

This just in. Charlie Strong has suspended Jaxon Shipley for the North Texas game for failing to hold the chair for a female classmate when she sat down next to him in History class.

Time for Willie Earl’s preseason prediction of the Longhorns final regular season record. See where this is gong?

11-1.

Put that in your tailgate beer cooler and drink it.

HooK eM,

W.E.

Over/Under Contest

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Remembering Darrell Royal

One Degree of Separation

I made my decision to go to The University of Texas when I was in the fifth grade. Unlike my earlier goals of becoming an astronaut and a United States Senator destined for the presidency, this ambition was realized.  At the first fraternity party I went to a few days before my first classes at U.T.,I was asked several times, why I came all the way from Reston, Virginia to attend The University of Texas.  My answer: because they have a good football team. I thought it was a pretty good line and people laughed that night every time I said it. It wasn’t a joke. It was the truth and Texas wouldn’t have had a good football team if not for Darrell Royal. To be totally honest the fact that my two older brothers had graduated from U.T. and lived in Austin also had a lot to do with my choice of a college.

During that fall semester in 1974 I watched the Texas-Texas Tech game, that some of us reminisced about last week, with my older brother David and his roommate Robert at their Riverside apartment. Robert was a graduate assistant football coach and former U.T. reserve quarterback.  During the first half of the game, Texas’ quarterback, Mike Presley, scrambled around on one play far behind the line of scrimmage and without purpose.  Eventually he was tackled for a big loss and Texas had to punt.  Robert told us that Presley would not be going back in the game after that because Coach Royal didn’t tolerate screwing around and making dumb plays the way Presley just had.  David and I were surprised to hear that Presley would be yanked for that one bad play and thought Robert’s prediction was a little hasty. Well what did we know?  Presley didn’t play again that day and lost his starting job for the rest of the season after that game.  Royal was demanding of his players and had little tolerance for sloppy play and mental errors.  Royal was a hard ass.

Over the next three and a half years I had the quiet thrill to meet and become acquainted with a handful of Texas Football Players who were fraternity brothers of mine.  A couple of them were starting linebackers. One of them was All Southwest Conference.  I would describe their feelings about Darrell Royal as somewhere between fear and loathing.  I never heard the term “nice guy” when they talked about Royal.  I don’t know this for a fact but I didn’t get the feeling that my football player fraternity brothers considered Royal a father figure. Nor do I believe that Royal told their parents that he would take care of them and treat them like family. I never got the sense that the program under Royal had a family atmosphere.

After my mother died and my father moved to assisted living my brothers and I sorted through and divided up furniture and their personal belongings.  Among the items that I kept was a treasure trove of letters that my brothers and I wrote my parents while we were in college.  Many of the letters included news about the football team.  One of the letters, from my brother David in November of 1971, mentioned that all the players hated Royal.

In the middle eighties I was in the convenience store business and my banker was a former Texas defensive back who was a starter in 1967 and 68.  Naturally we talked a fair amount about football. At the time the Texas Coach, Fred Akers, was under heavy fire for an 8-4 record in 1985.  In the context of one conversation about Akers and coaches my banker said, “Royal can kiss my ass. The only time he ever spoke to me was when I had a bad ankle and he asked me before a game if I was going to play.”  Remember he was a two year starter and not some bitter reserve player.

As I listened to former U.T greats Bill Bradley, Tommy Nobis and Ed Small talk about Royal this week on sports talk radio I heard them express genuine feelings of admiration and love for Darrell Royal.  They told great stories about playing for Royal. Some of the stories were funny and the funny ones usually had something to do with Royal’s reaction to a misstep or mistake on the field that they had made.  The bottom line was these guys never made the same mistake twice because they were afraid to face Royal if they did.  As players Royal was not their friend. They became friends after their playing days were over.

I’m not trying to tear the cover off the Darrell Royal that is being mourned and celebrated this week. Darrell Royal is probably my favorite of all Longhorns coaches and players alike.  The Darrell Royal that I learned about from the people that I knew who knew him and played for him is a man that I respected and admired.  It was fascinating to hear first-hand accounts about how one of the all-time great College Football Coaches led and motivated.  Royal’s style and methodology probably wouldn’t work in today’s world and to me that’s a shame.

Royal’s retirement from coaching at an early age was something else about him that I came to admire.   My father may not have been the first one to say it but he told me somewhere around 1975 that he thought perhaps Royal found it difficult to be hard on his players after his daughter was killed in an auto accident in 1973. I think what many people now admire about Royal is his growth into the person he became after football which was something much larger than just being a great football coach.

************

I must bore you with a personal anecdote as it relates to Darrell Royal.  In the 1973 Cotton Bowl Texas defeated heavily favored #4 Alabama.  It was a thrilling win which wasn’t decided until Texas stopped Alabama on a dramatic fourth and one very late in the game.  The Frinks of Vestal, New York were jubilant.  A few days after the game my father and I couldn’t help but to continue to talk about our team’s great win. My father thought it was perhaps Royal’s finest coaching performance and admitted, that rightly or wrongly in the grand scheme of things, how much he appreciated the joy the win had given us.  I suggested we write Darrell Royal a Thank You note.  So together we sat down at the dining room table and collaborated on the letter that my father wrote out on a legal pad. If memory serves the letter ended up being two complete pages and part of a third.  In addition to talking about the team’s performance we introduced our family telling Coach Royal that David was a student,  Clayton was a U.T. graduate and that we were former neighbors and good friends with Dan and Corey Adams whose son Dan was a Texas player.

About 10 days later we got a short but warm reply from Darrell Royal.  That letter is another is another treasure that I inherited from my parents.

HooK eM,

W.E.

Over/Under Contest

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Post-Game Wyoming

First Games as Harbingers

First Games as Harbingers

From where I was sitting Texas’ over whelming advantage in depth versus Wyoming was the only thing separating the Longhorns from a 31-24 nail biter and an embarrassment of a home opener. If the Longhorns had lived up to the pre-season hype emanating  from the practice bubble on I-35 and the bloggers we would have seen a trio of running backs running through gaping holes from the get go. We would have seen a smothering defense led by a dominating front line and a take no prisoners secondary.  What we saw was three and out by Texas on its first possession and a 10 play 56 yard drive culminating in a field goal for Wyoming on their first possession.  Wyoming’s second possession ended with an 82 yard touchdown on a pass where two Texas defensive backs knocked each other out of the play.  Bring on West Virginia!

*******************

Peter Gardere

Okay. The final numbers look good for Texas especially the 280 yards rushing with a six yard per carry average. Joe Bergeron, Malcolm Brown and D.J. Monroe were terrific. Keep in mind though that Wyoming was 115th in the country defending the rush in 2011.  Texas’ defense held Wyoming to 345 yards which would be impressive against any Big 12 rival but is just so so against an opponent who had only the ball for 24:48. Most disturbing to me was Wyoming’s 276 yards passing and Texas’ defense didn’t get a three and out until the 4thquarter.  Texas fans should also be worried by Mike Davis’ drops and the failure of  Texas receivers to get open. When Jordan Shipley did get wide, wide open on a post pattern Ash was still holding the ball and when he finally threw it he threw it short and to a well-covered Davis. Sorry folks but in my opinion David Ash is not the answer we’re hoping for. When Texas faces Big 12 opponents they’ll need more than a game manager. They’ll need a quarterback who can make plays and Ash hasn’t shown that he can.  Shouldn’t we have had at least three or four “wow moments” from Ash by now?  I can’t even remember one.  Anybody remember Peter Gardere?  He certainly won’t be mentioned when talking about great  Texas quarterbacks but even he had many“wow” moments  running and passing during his freshman year. In his sophomore year Gardere was a very good “game manager” and led Texas to a conference championship and a 10-2 record.  “Mr. Ash, I watched Peter Gardere , Peter Gardere was a friend of mine, Mr. Ash, you’re no Peter Gardere.”  So I lied, I’ve never even met Peter Gardere but you get the point.

So I guess you can call me a glass half empty guy but I’ve been closely following one football team from seasons start to finish for about 39 years and every great year they’ve had started off with an exciting blow out win with many “wow” moments.  Afterwards the coaches may have said we want to improve in this area or that. They weren’t saying we need to fix this and we need to fix that.  Texas versus Wyoming looked like the 14th game of the 2011 season.  At this point I’m calling 2012 8-4.

 

HooK eM,

W.E.

 

Over/Under Results

The ever popular growing by leaps and bounds Willie Earl’s Longhorn Blog fielded a near record 13 entries for the season opener with several regulars on the sideline.  Jerry Smith the all time leading money winner starts of the season with yet another win with 8 correct picks.  A rookie known only as “Keegan” takes second with 7 correct.  There was a six way logjam at third place highlighted by Willie Earl’s nod to diversity player Helen Frink. Keep up the good work Helen.  If you expect to win the 2012 championship you’ll need to play as many games as possible.  A minimum of four games must be played to earn a letter.

Points are awarded thusly:

First place – 10 points.

Second place – 6 points

Third place – 3 points.

W.E.

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Reed Ramlow

Willie Earl, the Grateful Dead did have it right, it has been a long strange trip, through the years. In 1970, we were repatriating to the USA from Clark Air Base in the Philippines, right after the Cambodia invasion that my air force dad helped to support, landing first in San Francisco to see the lunatic fringe at work and then on to the backwater of Jacksonville, Arkansas, our next posting. It was a stunning turn of events after an overseas adventure and there was no greater reverse culture shock than being caught in the maelstrom of Razorback football fan hysteria, “woooo…pig soooie!” A year after the vaunted ’69 shootout, there was great anticipation of another dogfight, but the Texas wishbone and Woo Woo Wooster slaughtered the pigs, 42-7. (They went squealing to the SEC a couple decades later, followed recently by our longtime friends in College Station.) Fast forward to 1974-75, it was college decision time in my senior year in high school in San Antonio, and I could still not bring myself to liking the idea of Texas and the Horns after the trauma in Arkansas. Nonetheless, I made the pilgrimage to Austin, saw the UT tower, the communications school, the stadium…it was all large and I was impressed, but what made the biggest impression was the Drag. Mid-1970′s, Austin was in its truly weird heyday. There were hippies all over the place, selling bongs, beads, pipes and trinkets in random makeshift stalls all up and down Guadalupe Ave. The whole street reeked of incense, covering the tracks of a drag that was up in smoke. Commies controlled the city council; the “heads” ruled the day. Post-60′s, the radicals had won, but as Hunter Thompson wrote, they had reached the high water point — the wave finally broke and rolled back. Five years later we marched into the Reagan era. In any event, I was hooked on Austin, and hooked on the Horns. The strange trip continues. Austin needs to stay weird and Texas football needs to get back on track. Woo Woo to our backfield trio that’s trying to take us back to the rampaging running game, and we’re counting on ‘em to lay a whuppin’ on those visiting Cowboys from the northern sagebrush. RIP Pigpen and Jerry G.

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OU Weekend 1977

   Things don’t always work out the way you want them to.

Friday October 7, 1977

9am Sigma Phi Epsilon house, Austin, Texas

I dropped by the Sig Ep house for a Lone Star donut. I hadn’t been at the house this early in the morning since I had lived there my sophomore year.  Now I was a senior and I had perhaps the best job I’ve ever had. I was an advertising sales rep. for The Daily Texan and I’d been on a sales call that morning at 8am at Love Tire on Burnet road.  That was a pretty early call time for me but OU weekend had officially begun the night before and I wouldn’t have slept very late that morning anyway.  When I first got there I was the only one in the main part of the house.  I was eating my donut and was soon joined by Jerry who had clearly not been home the night before.  He wasn’t hung over or anything, in fact he looked like the proverbial cat that had swallowed the canary.  We were chatting about the big weekend ahead of us, “who you going with, where are you staying …” when Philip “Beaver” or “The Beave” Jordan walked in, back from an 8am class.  Philip bore a striking resemblance to Jerry Mathers hence “Beaver.”

“Beave do you have an 8 o’clock class?” I asked.

“Yea I got fucked.” Beaver lamented.

“I got a blow job.” cracked Jerry.

Ah youth.

I stopped by The Daily Texan office briefly on my way to the only class I was attending that day, “The Cuban Missile Crisis,” at 11am in the RLM.  During class I watched the clock and day dreamed about the impending weekend.  I was really exited.  I had a date for the entire OU weekend for the first time.  That meant Tanya was riding with me to Dallas, going to the Sig Ep party with me in a suite at the Adolphus hotel Friday night, going to the big semi-formal Sig Ep party in the ballroom of a downtown hotel Saturday night and riding back to Austin with me Sunday.   Oh yeah and she was going to the game with me. The OU game, Oklahoma ranked #2 and our beloved Longhorns #5. Both teams undefeated.  “Holy hoopla and pageantry Batman!”

Some, if not most, Longhorn fans weren’t exactly sanguine about the Horns’ chance of winning.  Despite the closeness in ranking Oklahoma was a 13 point favorite to beat Texas for the seventh time in eight years.  The previous year Texas had managed to tie the Sooners.  Darrel Royal had retired after that season mainly because of his frustration in not being able to compete in recruiting and on the field with Barry Switzer the coach of Oklahoma.  I myself, the eternal optimist believed “we” could win.  In fact I had lectured a few of the doubters that “we” could finally win this year. We had the best defense in the country and we had Earl.

I get very emotional about Earl. We arrived at the University at the same time, the fall semester of 1974. We lived in the same dorm, Jester, where I encountered him frequently my freshman year.  The coke machines were in the basement of Jester. Often there was a long wait for the lone elevator that went to the basement after you scored your Coke, Dr. Pepper or whatever.  One night Earl stepped out of the elevator as I was stepping on to go back upstairs. Knowing that he might be in for the long wait Earl asked me if I would hold the elevator for him while he got his drink. Yes, yes of course I told him, I couldn’t believe this was happening. But while I was answering the humble Earl Campbell demurred, “No, no,” he said in his thick rural east Texas accent, “don’t worry about it.”

“It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s not a problem.” I answered obsequiously.

“Nah” he said, “go ahead.”

Damn. That would have been great.

Anyway the thing about Earl Campbell is that there has never been anyone who ran with the football the way he did.  Of course there have been many running backs with the combination size and speed that Earl possessed. Hershel Walker and Bo Jackson and our own Ricky Williams come to mind and they were certainly great backs. But Earl, my god the way he ran; moving the pile, pile driving would be tacklers, dragging multiple defenders, absorbing a big hit, spinning around and then hurdling another tackler you were sure had him. And the speed, when there was a hole he shot through it faster than anyone ever had before and suddenly there was this big mass barreling down the field and in these instances this huge running back didn’t run over tacklers, he set them up and faked them out of their jocks.  Sometimes I think the defenders wanted to be faked out rather than dealing with Earl head on.

1pm, The Delta Gamma sorority house.   

Sporting a white Izod and with a styrofoam cooler wedged between the bucket seats of my 76 Mustang I picked up Tanya and we headed north on I35 to big D.  Even though we had been dating since the weekend before classes started that fall until I called her from the lobby of the DG house and she answered that she was on her way out, I was worried that the whole thing wouldn’t actually happen.  That Tanya would tell me that something had come up and wouldn’t be going with me after all. I had been cancelled on a few times before. Six months earlier a girl I had been out with a few times broke our date to “Round Up” one of the big Sig Ep soirees of the spring semester.  Until this moment I considered myself a loser with women.

Tanya was warm, had great smile, laughed easily, she was unpretentious–she drove what had been her father’s five year old Dodge pick up truck, and she left little notes under the windshield wiper of my car when it was parked on campus at The Daily Texan office. Apparently she liked me.  And she was really pretty.  I had been asked a few times that semester, “Frink, whooo was your date last night?” She was Miss San Antonio 1976. You can look it up.  For me, dating Tanya was like moving from the “outhouse” to the “penthouse” in one fell swoop.

The drive was as good as the drive from Austin to Dallas can get. We engaged in non stop conversation and Tanya laughed as I feigned incredulity when she insisted that we listen to Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue, by Crystal Gale every time it came on the radio, at least 3 times, on one top 40 station after another as drove from Austin to Temple to Waco and on to Dallas.  The usually boring drive had never gone by so quickly.

Dallas 5pm

As we pulled up to Tanya’s brother’s apartment in Dallas she wanted to sit in the car to listen to the end another song on the radio, Midnight Blue by Melissa Manchester…. “And I think we can make it one more time if we try…” Tanya had lost her father to cancer just a few months earlier and this song reminded her of him and the struggles they shared as he battled the disease to his death.  I knew about her father but this was the first time she had confided in me about him. She was heart broken. I couldn’t imagine the pain I would feel if one of my parents had died. We sat in the car as she talked about her Dad and she cried a little.  I listened.  I was totally there and I was moved but I didn’t say much which was just the right thing to say.  I liked her a lot. I admit I calculated that maybe she liked me even more than I had suspected after she opened up that part of herself to me.

The Adolphus Hotel, downtown Dallas, 8pm

Accompanied by Tanya and my good friend Rick Mosher, I painstakingly navigated my Mustang through bumper to bumper downtown traffic and hundreds Texas-OU pedestrian revelers to the Adolphus Hotel.  At one point while stopped dead, one of the spirited pedestrians came right up to my open window and asked if me we were from Texas or Oklahoma.  “SMU,” I cleverly answered hoping to avoid a confrontation.  Tanya thought I was funny. Rick, not so much.

Still looking in the window, our new acquaintance said, “That’s a beautiful girl” before he disappeared into the crowd.

Embarrassed, Tanya asked me, “Why did he say that?”

I answered succinctly, “Because you are.”

If ever there was a place to be in a given circumstance — a suite, about 7 stories up in the old Adolphus hotel, in downtown Dallas, the Friday night of Texas-OU weekend with: your fraternity brothers, a really good date and other assorted “beautiful people”– was the place to be.  The windows in the suite were thrown wide open and you could lean out and watch the hordes of rowdy Texas-OU revelers parading up and down the street below.  It was absolutely sublime.  Tanya and I held court while sitting on one of the beds; she sipped white wine, I drank scotch.  An interesting thing about dating Tanya was that we often found ourselves unintentionally holding court at parties and gatherings. We were mainly interested in talking with each other but I think my fraternity brothers wanted to figure out how I could possibly be dating Tanya.

Saturday, October 8, 1977

12 noon, The Cotton Bowl

Finally the game. We had great seats, row 35 of the lower section, west side of the stadium on the north 30 yard line.  This was the first year the University distributed the student tickets via a lottery instead of on a first come first serve basis. It was the end of the traditional camp out at the ticket office which for a really big OU game would begin on the Monday night before the Wednesday morning draw. For an upperclassman in a fraternity this was a great system because we made the pledges do the camping out and we could force them to get in line really early.  I think the University changed the system to eliminate this advantage for the frat rats.  I did not get the tickets I applied for through the lottery. Many students didn’t.  Crap!  What now?  As in many times over the previous 3 years that I had been in Austin, one of my brothers came to my rescue. I mean one of my real brothers as in Clayton and David. Clayton had season tickets and had 4 seats on the 30 yard line.  For some reason which is totally foreign to me Clayton wasn’t hot to attend the game. The tickets though were quite valuable and I couldn’t afford the market rate. I called Clayton.  His wife said he was expecting my call but I needed to call him at some poker game where ever that was. Clayton was willing to part with the 4 tickets that had a face value of $35 for around $250. This was generous, tickets as good as these had a street value of about $150 to $175 each.  He must have been winning.  I’m kidding of course he has always been willing to give me the shirt off his back.  I sold two of the tickets to a couple of Sig Ep fifth year seniors who never had dates, Jim Huey and Don Heckman.  They paid me $120 each.  Clayton accepted $240 as payment in full leaving me with a total outlay for tickets of… I’ll let you do the arithmetic.

On one of Texas’ first possessions Earl threw a really bad half back pass and it was intercepted at about “our” own 35 yard line. Oklahoma hadn’t been the least bit fooled. Maybe Switzer was still spying on our practices. The defense held Oklahoma to a field goal.  On Texas’ next possession starting quarterback Mark McBath broke his ankle on an option keeper. Okay we can deal with this because he was replaced by Jon Aune who we considered not the #2 quarterback but quarterback #1A.  Still in the first quarter Aune blows out his ACL. We’re in big trouble. Who the heck is going to play quarterback now?  Randy McEachern. At about 5’ 9” he looked like a junior high player as he ran out on to the field.  Well at least I liked my date. So I had that going for me–which was nice.

I shouldn’t have sold McEachern short. On his second series early in the second quarter he and Earl got the Horns in to position for Russell Erxleben to attempt, ahem, a 64 yard field goal. It would have been good from 74. To give you a little perspective, college kickers were kicking off tees in those days and the wind was at his back. Still, 64 yards, it was a clutch kick to say the least.  So now were tied up 3-3. Did we have a chance?  With “our” defense the answer was a definite maybe.

With about 5 minutes remaining in the first half the game still tied 3-3, Randy McEachern and Earl Campbell led Texas on the most important drive in Texas football history from that time going forward not to be surpassed for 28 years and 3 months.  It was of the 80 yard variety. McEachern threw darts over the middle to Alfred Jackson. Earl bulled and clawed for 3, 4 and 5 yards gains.  Post game film study revealed that of the 124 yards Earl gained that day, 114 came after an initial contact by an OU defender. Again, you can look it up.  The touchdown came on a 24 yard run by Earl behind a down field clearing block from second team tight end Steve Hall from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Earl avoided the last defender with one of his classic hurdles with a form that any low hurdler would be proud of. When Earl hurdled his head didn’t bob. Texas fans felt like they had been to the gates of hell and back and now “we” had the halftime lead 10-3. Incredible.

Oklahoma kicked a field goal in the third quarter to bring the score to 10-6. Erxleben hit a “chip shot” 58 yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, extending the lead to 13-6. It was the most exciting 13-6 game that you’re ever going to see. Jim Huey one of my SiG-Ep brothers I had sold the tickets to was going crazy, dying a thousand deaths, physically trying to run, block and tackle for the Horns.  Oklahoma hadn’t sustained a serious offensive drive the entire day when they got the ball on their own 20 yard line with about 8 minutes left in the game. For the first time in the game they methodically marched the ball down the field mixing in a half back reverse pass with some Thomas Lott passes and the OU offensive line finally opened up a few holes for Billy Simms and company. Oklahoma was good. Oklahoma was clutch. I hate Oklahoma.  Now I’m dying along with brother Huey.  It all came down to forth and less than a yard from “our” 4 yard line. Thomas Lott takes the snap and starts to his left on the option play.  He sees a seam and cuts up field hard between the left tackle and the tight end. The seam is immediately filled by Johnny Johnson who smashes Lott head on. No gain. Johnson had knocked himself unconscious. Ecstasy, Huey and I had moved about 8 rows down the isle as if we could help the Horns by getting closer to the field. Huey and I are jumping around like mad men. I don’t know how we didn’t fall and injure ourselves.  McEachern took a knee three times and Erxleben boomed a 69 yard punt to seal the biggest win of my college career.  Tanya and I embraced.  A lady sitting behind us told Jim Huey that he had played a wonderful game.

After the game I wandered around the fair with Tanya in a euphoric haze for about an hour before we headed to the car.

Now it was time for reunions with close friends and a phone call home to my parents. The first reunion was with one of my best friends, Rick Mosher. I was staying at his house in Richardson.  Rick, an RTF major had watched the game from the press box as an assistant producer. His dad had been the PR guy for the Cowboys for years and now was the GM for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  When I got to the house Rick was in his room trying to catch a nap before the night’s Sig Ep party downtown.  He was lying down but he wasn’t a sleep when I came into his room.  We exchanged a warm, vigorous celebratory soul hand shake. There were big smiles but we didn’t say much at first. I think both of us needed a second to collect our emotions.  We briefly talked about the game and then I went to make a collect phone call to my parents in Virginia. Again it was hard to say much. My mother was the most effusive, “Billy I’m so happy for you”

I managed to say, “I know”.

The game hadn’t been televised in Virginia and I recounted as best I could the details of the victory to my father. He hung on every word.

I picked up Tanya and we drove downtown to the party.  I was standing in a circle of guys talking about the game when I spotted a good friend, John Scott standing at the bar about 30 feet away. We made eye contact and smiled knowingly almost like the Texas victory was ours alone.

You know I had to distribute a few “I told you we could wins” to the biggest doubters. The party of course was big fun. Tanya and I danced, she wore my suit coat over her party dress and we held hands most of the evening. I don’t know what led to her remarking to me at one point late in the evening, “things don’t always turn out the way you want them to.” I heard her but I pretended to myself that I didn’t understand the significance of the comment.  Some time after the remark pointed she out to me that I had dropped her hand which I hadn’t been consciously aware of. I grabbed her hand and compartmentalized that brief part of the evening.

Dallas Sunday1130a.m.

I met Tanya and her brother for lunch on Greenville Avenue. I hoped he would offer to pay since I had about $6 on me and no other visible means of support.  He paid.  After lunch the three of us went downtown to see his new office in a Dallas office tower. His office had a great view.  He introduced Tanya and me to a co-worker who was the only other person at the office early Sunday afternoon, “This is my sister and her ‘friend’ Bill from Austin.”  Friend ?  I sensed trouble on the horizon.

We weren’t far south of Dallas on the drive back to Austin when I asked Tanya to go to a Rusty Weir concert the following weekend.  I was sure it was just a pro-forma request. We were dating after all and what else would she be doing on Saturday night other than going out with me. Wrong again. Tanya decided it was time to let me know she didn’t think it was a good idea that we continued dating because of her serious relationship with a guy in San Antonio.  I knew about the guy in San Antonio, Craig, a 25 year old officer in the Air Force.  In fact Andy Garrod, my roommate who had known Tanya for over a year because his fiancé was in Tanya’s sorority, had warned me from the beginning that there was no long term future for Tanya and me.

For the next two and a half hours I grilled Tanya like a prosecuting attorney along the lines of, there’s no way we are going to have a serious, exclusive, long term relationship?

“No”.

“There’s no way you’re going to change your mind.”

“No”.

“But how–but why – but what if,” I pleaded fourteen ways from Sunday.

“No.” and “I’m so sorry”, she replied over and over again.

I was dumfounded but mostly I was heart broken. The drive back to Austin was in stark contrast to the drive to Dallas 48 hours earlier.  It wasn’t wonderful.

I dropped her off at the DG house at about 6pm.  There was no kiss good bye?  I started the drive home. Heading south down Nueces Street I slowed down for some guys who were playing touch football in the street. As I drove by one of the guys flashed the “Hook- Em” sign to me.  I burst into tears and sobbed the rest of the 10 minute drive home.

Was it a great weekend?  Your dam right it was heart break and all. Bill Montgomery, the great quarterback of the Arkansas team that lost the game for the National Championship to Texas 15-14 in 1969 said that he had great and fond memories of that game.  I understand

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