The University of Texas football team is killing time in its dressing room tucked under the Cotton Bowl, secluded for the moment from any further "Hook 'em Horns" exhortations of its followers. More important, the players are protected from having to endure any more of the oldie-but-awful Boomer Sooner, the song of their hated rivals from Oklahoma. They sprawl on the light blue carpet flecked with brown and dark blue, tending to last-minute preparations. Which is to say, looking at their own pictures in the program.
The battle of the unbeatens will unfold in a few minutes. But everyone knows Oklahoma is more unbeaten than Texas, for the Sooners count among their victims Ohio State; Texas counts among its victims Virginia. Besides, Oklahoma was considered a hot prospect for a national championship: Texas was considered a hot prospect for finishing fourth in the Southwest Conference. Earlier this year, when Fred Akers was thrust into the uncomfortable position of taking over as head coach from Darrell Royal, Akers said, "We are not ready at this point to be a contender."
Youth is a big problem for the Longhorns. Leon Fuller, the defensive coordinator, laments, "We're so young we hold hands going onto the field." Not having whipped the squad from Norman since 1970, Akers summons his flock up off the floor and evangelizes, "There is nothing we can't overcome. Nothing. Good luck, men." Pause. "Ah, the hell with luck! Let's go out there and be us."
At which point the Horns raced onto the field in front of 72,032. For this game, hysteria was the norm, and things advanced from there.
First, a new Texas trick play resulted in an interception, and OU took over at the Texas 14 with the game six seconds old. Then, on Texas' seventh offensive play, starting Quarterback Mark McBath was torn, spindled and mutilated and hobbled from view. On the team's 16th offensive play, with a couple of minutes remaining in the first quarter. Texas' second-string quarterback, Jon Aune, was crushed and towed away. So out trotted the third-team quarterback, Randy McEachern, whose college record reads like that of a guy not considered good enough to play for most junior colleges. So unknown is McEachern that when Aune went down, star Running Back Earl Campbell stood on the field wondering. "Golly, who's gonna quarterback us?"
After being introduced around in the huddle, McEachern promptly set about helping Texas win. The final score was 13-6 in a wacky and wonderful game that forevermore will be held up as a model for overcoming adversity.
Beforehand, common sense suggested an Oklahoma victory. Sure, the Sooners had almost been dumped by Vanderbilt. But Oklahoma people called that a fluke. Texas, on the other horn, was rolling up box-car numbers, but the names of their rivals produced standing-room laughter: Boston College fell 44-0; Virginia fell 68-0; Rice fell 72-15 and displayed little interest in getting up. Texas was the nation's leader in rushing offense, scoring offense, rushing defense and scoring defense. And everybody said, "So what?" Akers also told his team moments before the contest, "We have a big advantage because Oklahoma does not know how good a football team you are." Neither, of course, did Akers.
All week Heisman candidate Campbell had worked secretly on a halfback pass. The beauty of it was that Campbell passing is like Babe Ruth bunting. But when the maneuver was tried on the Horns' second offensive play. Oklahoma Tackle Dave Hudgens intercepted. Three plays later, however, Fullback Kenny King fumbled, the 28th time a Sooner had this year. Midway in the first quarter Oklahoma got things together enough to score a 47-yard field goal by the hero of the Ohio State win, Uwe von Schamann.
In the next series of downs, McBath, who plans to be a doctor because "I like to mess around hospitals and nurses," was running an option. Before he could pitch out, he was caught by an Oklahoma defender, who started to twist him down by his ankle. At the same time, McBath was hit from the opposite side. Ironically. McBath had said earlier, "I always feel better after I'm popped good once, and I figure Oklahoma will accommodate me." X rays disclosed that McBath had a torn ligament in his left ankle and will be out for the season.
This was a serious problem for Akers because even with McBath, the quarterback situation was a little shaky. (Ted Constanzo, the second-string quarterback during spring practice, hurt his knee playing racketball this summer.) In fact, when Akers got the head job his first decision was to junk the famed wishbone offense that was born in Texas in favor of the veer and the. The wishbone has a fullback, which helps out on blocking, but it requires great quarterbacking to be effective. The veer has no fullback, but there is an additional receiver, which helps passing. It also can succeed with mediocre quarterbacks.