The Rice captains, Stahle Vincent and Dale Grounds, went out to midfield and won the toss for Rice, and then all the players were gathering around Peterson and he was saying something, but the noise was so loud that none of them could hear. This did not matter, though. They did not need to be told anything at this point. And then they were breaking out and the receiving team was running onto the field as Houston prepared to kick off.
Tommy Clanton and Eddie Collins were deep for Rice. The crowd rose as the Houston kicker advanced on the ball and hit it and sent it tumbling high in the air. It went end over end, short, and Tommy Clanton took it at the 13 and came up the left sideline. He was hit at the 25, spun away, turned toward the center of the field, fought off one tackier with an outstretched hand, and then ran into a knot of blockers and tacklers and went down on the 32. It was good field position. It was a good place to try the Houston Special.
Peterson had Gadd by the arm on the sideline. "Run it," he said urgently. "Go to the Special."
Gadd nodded and trotted out on the field buckling on his chin strap. He was so nervous and tense he had trouble running. He got to the huddle and leaned in. " Houston Special," he said, his mouth dry as cotton. "On hut. Break!"
The players broke out of the huddle with a single handclap and rushed up to the line. Gadd walked deliberately to the center, looking to the left and right, supposedly looking over the Houston defense. But he was so tight and so scared that he was seeing nothing. He was just going through the motions. He crouched behind Wright Moody and stuck in his hands. "Blue!" he yelled, "76, 55, 22, hut, hut...."
The ball hit his hands on the first hut and he whirled, feeling it slipping even as he turned. Behind him he could hear the impact as the two lines met. But all he was aware of was the ball hitting the ground at his feet and bouncing backward. He chased it, one step, two steps, and leaped and smothered it with his chest. Immediately he felt crushing weights come piling in as the Houston players tried to knock him loose from the ball.
He had fumbled and lost three yards. He got up feeling very bad and still very scared. Stahle Vincent touched him on the arm. "Shake it off, man. That don't make no difference."
On the sidelines Peterson spit out the cigar he was chewing with a violent sound.
Midway through the second quarter the Houston bench was beginning to look worried. The offense had moved well, driving deep into Rice territory on several occasions, but each time the drive sputtered and two field goal attempts had failed. So it was still a scoreless game as Rice took over on its own 30. Stahle Vincent went over right guard for 12 yards, pulling two tacklers along for three yards before they could bring him down. Something was becoming apparent. The Houston defense was tiring. Even with all their depth they were beginning to drag. From the 42 Stahle again went into the line and made five more yards. In the press box Tobin Rote was studying the Houston defense. He suddenly said into the phone, "Coach Pete, they're going to be in Five Short. The Special will go right now."
Gadd came rolling out with the snap while a flurry of receivers went short. Eddie Collins did a hesitation fake and then turned on his speed down the sideline. He caught the Houston defensive back going the wrong way, got by him, and gathered in the pass on the Houston 15. But the back, running hard, slanted in and knocked Collins out of bounds at the eight-yard line.