- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
On Saturday morning Akers gathered his charges for one last assault on their minds, saying, "It must feel good to know you have teammates who are as good as you are. We can weave a web with our kicking game that they can't get out of." Elsewhere, Switzer was exhorting his charges to "fight your guts out." At which point, one of his players, Tight End Forrest Valora, raced onto the field and collided with a TV cameraman filming for—of all things—The Barry Switzer Show. It took six stitches in the forehead to put Valora together again.
The 'Horns offense got off to a typical start. Directed by sophomore Quarterback Donnie Little and relying on Halfback Jam Jones, who carried nine times for 45 yards in the Longhorns' 54-yard, 14-play first-quarter drive, Texas moved up the field. But then the 'Horns became frightened of their own shadow when they got to the Oklahoma 13. Cool Hand Goodson came in and kicked a 37-yard field goal to salvage three points. In the ensuing series, Oklahoma failed to move and was forced to punt. The kick was fumbled by the normally reliable Johnnie Johnson, and the Sooners' Ken Sitton recovered the ball on the Texas 16. Three plays later Oklahoma Quarterback J. C. Watts connected on an 11-yard pass play over the middle to freshman Fullback Stanley Wilson for the go-ahead touchdown. It was a nifty play named "The Freddie Akers Special" because it was designed to take advantage of Texas' aggressive rush defense.
Late in the second quarter Watts attempted another pass, but he was leveled by McMichael as he threw, and the ball headed toward Texas Cornerback Derrick Hatchett. "When I saw the pass thrown, I thought it was an excellent opportunity for me to do something good," said Hatchett, who ran the interception back 36 yards to the Oklahoma five. Three plays later Little, using a play he had not called before this season, connected with Tight End Steve Hall for the two-yard score. Oddly, it was Hall's first reception in two seasons. And ironically, Hall is one of only two Oklahomans on the Texas roster; Oklahoma has 23 Texans, inculuding Sims. Hall's reception gave Texas a 10-7 lead.
The play also helped vindicate Little, a sophomore who keenly feels the criticism he has received for not getting his team into the end zone often. In his defense, Little has been troubled with a sprained thumb on his throwing hand since the Longhorns' 21-0 win over Missouri on Sept. 29. Evaluating his performance against Oklahoma, Little said, "I was fine, good, O.K.—but not great." That's a fair self-evaluation. Several times Little missed glorious opportunities to run for big yardage when he passed instead. But he has overcome his tendency of last year to fumble. "Before each game, I review my own game plan with myself—fumbling is not in it," Little says. Akers, meanwhile, keeps Little pumped up. "He's a winner. That's why he's my quarterback," Akers says.
At halftime Akers was not only thinking of victory but of domination. "Men, just because it's tough doesn't mean it has to be close," he said. "You'll have 'em suckin' wind in the fourth quarter."
Midway in the third quarter came the key Sooner field-goal miss. Meanwhile, Texas continued acting just like Texas. With 3:43 remaining, Linebacker Robin Sendlein made a blind-side hit on Watts as Watts dropped back to pass. The ball popped up—right into the hands of Acker, who returned it two yards to the Oklahoma 22. But the 'Horns failed to make a first down on fourth-and-one at the Oklahoma 13 and handed the ball over without even getting a field-goal try.
In the fourth quarter Texas marched again, from its own 35 to the Sooner six, whereupon Goodson booted a 23-yard field goal—a bit to the right of dead center, it should be noted. Moments later Sims fumbled and End Tim Campbell, Earl's little brother, jumped on it. Texas got the ball to the Oklahoma 11 this time. Is it really necessary to explain what happened this time, or are you getting the drift? O.K., you-know-who kicked another you-know-what from 38 yards to make it 16-7.
Throughout the afternoon Texas' Jam Jones continued to shred the Oklahoma defense as he led all rushers with 127 yards on 31 carries. Like Goodson, Jones was calm. "I'm not a person that gets overwhelmed by anything," he said.
But it was all overwhelming enough to send Akers clambering atop a folding table in the locker room after the game. "This was no fluke," said Akers, correctly. "You can use this win as a springboard to whatever you want in this country." That's as close as Akers would get to alluding to a national championship. It was at this point that Texas Governor William P. Clements showed up to slip in front of the television cameras and announced that in a bet on the game with Oklahoma Governor George Nigh, he had won a buffalo. Nobody much cared, but when the Governor said he would have the buffalo barbecued for the players, interest perked right up.
And much later, upon returning to his Austin home—keys firmly in hand—Akers opened the door, made himself a pot of coffee and sat down with the pleased expression of a man who had just done precisely what he had intended to do all along. Which is easy if you remember the keys.