The outlaw image centers on the rosters: the same players seem to be listed year after year. There is a reason for this impression. Since Yeoman became coach 17 years ago, redshirting has been commonplace at Houston. The Cougars were independent until 1976, and had difficulty recruiting top players. It was Yeoman's plan to bring in promising kids, then give them a chance to develop. Offensive Line Coach Billy Willingham figures half of his linemen are redshirted each season. "The offense here is a finesse deal," he says. "It's not a mash attack where a freshman might come in and start right off. We play freshmen a little, then red-shirt them as sophomores so they have experience to reflect on. Then, if they develop physically, get some school work behind them and improve on technique, we might have them for two years. Redshirting is all in the selling. We encourage it and it sells pretty well." On the current depth chart, 16 players have redshirted at one time or another, including all three quarterbacks.
It may sell, but the players aren't bought. Of Houston's first 44 players, only 24 have some kind of automobile—mostly beat-up—and the rest are known as steppers. Davis is a stepper. So is Hosea Taylor, Houston's most valuable defender and a guy who ought to have a car if anyone does.
"Outlaws? I like being outlaws," Davis says. "For a long time nobody wanted us and now everybody is after us. We must be something to people. When we were nothing, our games weren't sellouts."
A record sellout crowd of 83,053 showed up under smoky skies and a light drizzle for the Texas game. In the first half both teams played cautiously, and neither was able to penetrate the other's 26-yard line. Then came the explosion. On Houston's first possession of the third quarter, Davis—optioning to the left—slid inside left end and dashed 29 yards to the Texas 28. Two plays later he hit Garrett Jurgajtis over the middle with a 25-yard pass to the Texas four.
Earlier in the week, Yeoman had said that he had high expectations for his trap option series. It's tricky business. The idea is to force a linebacker to be responsible for covering the dive play. If he does, it frees a guard to pull and block on the other side of the line. Yeoman's plan was to feed the ball to the dive man several times to keep the linebacker coming; in other words, sacrifice a few plays. Then, with the linebacker in tight, Yeoman would fake the dive and run an option to the opposite side, where the pulling guard would supply an extra blocker. It was this extra block that freed Davis for his run. After the Jurgajtis reception, Randy Love carried twice to the two and then Emmett King swept the right side to give Houston a 7-0 lead. The Cougars capped the quarter with Kenny Hatfield's 33-yard field goal, and it was 10-0.
But Texas finally came to life. Freshman Quarterback Donnie Little marched the Longhorns from their 18 to the Houston 29, mixing passes to Lam Jones and Sampleton with hand-offs to LeRoy King and Kermit Goode. From the 29, Little hit Sampleton for a 28-yard gain to the one-yard mark, and A.J. (Jam) Jones plunged across for Texas' only score.
When it was all over, Davis had a few words to say, as expected. "We're not a great team yet," he said. "But if we get to the Cotton Bowl, then I'll say that this is truly a great team." Danny Davis, who talks a lot, has spoken.