Fourth Down Showdown

In October of 1977 (there he goes again with the 1977), a week after Texas had defeated Oklahoma in heart-pounding game that concluded with a fourth down goal line stop by Texas in which Johnny Johnson knocked himself out when he tackled Thomas Lott, Texas was playing #8 Arkansas in Fayetteville. Once again the outcome wasn’t decided until late in the fourth quarter when Ham Jones, capping off an 80-yard drive, scored the only touchdown of the game, on 1-yard run that sealed a Texas win 13-9. The touchdown was set up by a 28-yard screen pass and run by Earl Campbell. Though Earl had 188 yards on 34 carries, he lost three fumbles during the game. Two weeks in a row and two dramatic wins over highly ranked bitter rivals that were exhausting watches for Longhorn fans.

I watched the game with my brother David at his duplex off of Barton Springs Rd. Just minutes after the game ended, the phone rang, and I answered. It was my father calling from Reston, Virginia. A nano second after I answered, my father screamed “I’m sick of this s – – t”!  The s – – t he was referring to were the dramatic finishes to the Oklahoma and Arkansas victories.

Back in real time, I’ll bet there are Texas fans that are sick of the current excrement coming from the Texas football team. I’m not one of them. It’s been several years since I’ve been perturbed by UT football, and you know my opinion on Steve Sarkisian.

Bad look?

Squatting on the sideline, staring at his big, laminated play card looking for answers as his team falters down the stretch, Steve Sarkisian looks in over his head.

Just the facts ma’am

Courtesy of Rod Babers here are some bad facts on Steve Sarkisian’s coaching record.

– He’s 1-6 in road games in 2021 and ‘22

– He’s lost 5 games in which Texas was leading in the second half in 2021 and ’22.

– Dating back to 2010, 80% of college football teams that have the lead to start the second half win.

-Dating back to 2010, 84% of college football teams that have the lead starting the 4th quarter win.

– In his tenure at Texas, 4 of his 7 wins have come against non-power 5 opponents. For the record, those wins were against ULM, UTSA, Louisiana, and Rice.

-He’s 3-6 in the Big 12.

– His overall record at Texas is 7-9.

– In his head coaching record overall, he’s won 38% of the games versus head coaches that have won 60% or more of their games.


After the Texas Tech game, a reader texted me his observation that the Texas offense was vanilla and stale with a lack of varied formations and motion during the second half.  This is a point that Rod Babers has been harping on and breaking down all week on his talk show. Willie Earl has readers that are experts.

During the game a reader texted me that Pete whatever his name is, the Texas defensive coordinator, should be fired after the game. I agree. During the game another reader texted me that Texas will win no more than 5 games this season. I can’t go all the way to agreement with that but give me a few days. I also received a text offering testosterone replacement.

A reckoning?

I read a book a few years ago by an author who was an alcoholic and after ruining yet again another family gathering with her drinking, she decided to quit drinking forever. And I read that George Bush 43, woke up hungover after bender celebrating his fortieth birthday and decided to stop drinking.

Could Steve Sarkisian, after blowing yet another second half lead against Texas Tech by repeating for the umpteenth time some of his coaching bad habits, have decided this week to stop ruining family gatherings (Texas football games) and break those habits?

We may soon find out.

Hook ‘Em,


Author’s note        

The title for this column was partially inspired by the Clair Bee book, “Fourth Down Showdown”. I read it when I was in the sixth grade. Good read.

Willie Earl’s Song of the Week

This song is a shout out to Tom, Andy, Bob, Molly, Kate, and Zach

3 Comments to “Fourth Down Showdown”

  1. Ain’t no sunshine here on the East Coast because of the visiting team, Ian. Hoping for some rays tomorrow (figuratively for the Horns), otherwise they’ll be burning couches in Morgantown.

  2. Totally agree that Sarkisian has a clearly demonstrated penchant for going turtle in the second half of games while leading — and it has caused at least several of the losses. Impossible to explain or understand. With regard to the losses, many of which came after leading at some point in second half (which I happen to think is a misleading stat, but that’s for another conversation; briefly, there two equally timed halves, folks), the 2021 Horns were littered with decidedly below-average linemen (due to Tom Herman’s lack of interest, or ability to recruit them). In fact, he signed not a single offensive lineman in one class. The 2022 Horns are littered with true freshmen or red-shirted freshman on the lines and elsewhere on the field. A full 35 players are new to this year’s team. Ipso-facto, and despite Sarkisian’s second-half play calling, I fundamentally believe the Horns also are hamstrung by youth, inexperience and far from fully developed. However, I believe it’s obvious there HAS BEEN development under Sarkisian that we did not see during the two previous administrations. For anyone talking or thinking about how long a tenure Sarkisian may have or deserve, I have news: He’s gonna get at least four, and probably five, years. Period. I hope and actually believe that the team we’ve seen and been disappointed in the past two weeks probably won’t be the team we see in the next two-to-four weeks. And despite the fact the Clair Bee’s Fourth Down Showdown is one of my favorite books ever, Sarkisian isn’t remotely close to his fourth-down showdown. However, after more than a decade in the wilderness, only 8-4 or maybe 7-5, will come close to regaining Willie Earl’s era of good feelings. We’ll see. Eight games, maybe, hopefully nine, to go. Other than the never-too-soon dismissal of Pete Kwiatkowski, a little patience is in order.

    • Not sure what you mean about misleading stat on the second half leads when since 2010 80% of teams leading in the second half have won.

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