Waiting in the wings to replace Little was the perfect man to be the Texas quarterback—junior Rick McIvor. He's everything a Longhorn signal-caller should be, straight off a ranch in West Texas, equipped with a goal-to-goal arm ("Naw," he demurs, "I only throw 83 yards...with accuracy") and throws nothing but ropes. He's tough, tall (6'4"), rangy (200 pounds) and, best of all, a real, sure-as-shootin' cowboy who can ride fences and doctor cattle and yup and nope with the best of them. He can also be expansive.
Sitting around in Austin last week savoring a pinch of Skoal, McIvor talked of how roping cattle on his relatives' ranches around Fort Stockton had strengthened his wrist and shoulders. "I enjoy every minute I'm on a ranch," he says. "It's the one place where your freedom is really free. When I'm just aridin' along on a horse from one pasture to another, the pleasure's all mine."
These days, the pleasure is all Texas', as Oklahoma discovered. It took a while for the truth to sink in, however. The Sooners' opening kickoff, to John Walker, was fumbled, John Truitt recovered, and Oklahoma had the ball on the Texas 16. Said Walker later, "I could see in Coach Akers' eyes that he felt like I could do better." Three plays later, Halfback Chet Winters punched over from the one for Oklahoma's first TD. In the second quarter it was McIvor who fumbled, and the Sooners went 34 yards for their second—and last—score, Fullback Stanley Wilson going in from the one.
It was a start bad enough to make Akers wonder if all his players had been snoozing when, in his pregame oration, he had exhausted them with this declamation: "Men, you've grown this season. And you'll be bigger after today. If any team should have confidence, it ought to be this one. Let your skill free-flow. When you have it, take advantage of it. When you don't, fight like hell to get it back. Go for the throat."
The third quarter was go-for-the-throat time. Three times Texas had the ball, and three times it scored. Senior Tailback A.J. (Jam) Jones, who was thought to be all-world when he arrived in Austin but who has turned out to be all-whirlpool, carried on eight of 10 plays in the first drive, finally diving in from the one. That narrowed the Oklahoma lead to 14-10. "I've always been a power runner and a slasher," said the oft-injured Jones, who ended up with 134 yards on 36 carries. "The difference in this game is I was a little more of a power runner and a whole lot more of a slasher."
Moments later, following a Wilson fumble on his own seven, the Longhorns' Raul Allegre, from Mexico City via two years at the University of Montana, kicked a 22-yard field goal to make it 14-13. Then, after Sims's and Holle's fourth-and-one stop of Phelps at the Longhorn 31, Texas came back up the field, pushing the Oklahoma defense around so much the Sooners should have ordered backup lights for their hip pads. With third and 15 on the Sooner 36, McIvor was looking to throw to Jones but couldn't find him. He scrambled to his left, forcing Oklahoma Free Safety Dwight Drane to come up and try to contain him. Drane having committed himself, McIvor gunned the ball to Wide Receiver Maurice McCloney in the end zone. Texas 20, Oklahoma 14. When the previously unheralded McCloney was asked if he ever thought he'd be a star in this sort of game, he said, "Sure, I was planning on it all along." That ought to give him an A-plus in Akers' positive-thinking seminar.
When McIvor threw a four-yard scoring pass to 6'6" Tight End Lawrence Sampleton with 8:19 to go in the fourth quarter, Longhorn Offensive Coordinator Ron Toman jumped up in the coaching booth and hollered, "We've got their number." But another assistant, Craig Rider, said, "Let's stick one more down their throats." Which the Longhorns did, with only 17 seconds to go, when third-team Tailback Rodney Tate raced in from 17 yards out. A deflated Switzer said, "We just have to get better as a team."
And assuming that Texas, too, will get better, its opposition could be feeling a lot worse. Make no mistake. The Longhorns are good all over. They have depth, with only the offensive line being short on experienced reserves. Collectively they might be the most talented team Akers has had. Physically, the hay is in the barn. What's left is to work on their minds. And like an engineered-for-the-'80s Rockne, the 43-year-old Akers is working overtime. "Picture that locker room after the game," he was telling his players before the Longhorns met Oklahoma. "Think how exuberant it's going to be." Picture how right he was.