The first Texas touchdown came on a dusted-off quarterback draw that wasn't even in the game plan. It's a wonder the Longhorns remembered how it was supposed to go; the last time they used it was against Oklahoma—in 1980. The second Texas touchdown, an unsophisticated thrust that put away favored Alabama 14-12 in the Cotton Bowl, wasn't scored by one of those flashy Texas tailbacks but by a fullback—a Longhorn synonym for blocker—who couldn't believe his number had been called.
Until those golden moments, the first of which came with less than 11 minutes remaining in the game, the Texas attack had come up empty against an Alabama defense that had been thinned by injury and exile. Mostly the Longhorns had shown a fruitless routine of tailback right, tailback left, followed by the sacking of Quarterback Robert Brewer (seven times) and a punt. After three quarters, the closest the Longhorns had come to putting points up was a missed 50-yard field goal by Raul Allegre.
Bear Bryant's third-ranked Tide, at that point on New Year's Day still within range of a national championship, was delighted. It had gotten a touchdown on a six-yard pass from scrambling-for-his-life Quarterback Walter Lewis to Split End Jesse Bendross in the second quarter. And Peter Kim, a 5'8" Korean who discovered football in Hawaii, had increased Alabama's advantage to 10-0 with a 24-yard field goal a few minutes into the fourth quarter.
But 'Bama, historically strong in the last quarter, was starting to flag badly. All week Bryant had been saying that he had never had a bowl team so crippled, crippled not just by injury—to which Texas wasn't immune, All-America Defensive Tackle Kenneth Sims being out with torn ligaments and a broken bone in his right leg—but by less than exemplary behavior. Bryant's linebacking corps was in a shambles. Thomas Boyd, the team's second-leading tackier, had been suspended after being arrested on a marijuana possession charge. In Coventry with him were starting Offensive Tackle Bob Cayavec, who was arrested for driving under the influence, top Running Back Linnie Patrick, who was with Boyd when he was arrested, and reserve Guard Gary Bramblett, who was with Cayavec. And then Eddie Lowe, Boyd's replacement and the season's third-leading tackier, sprained a knee in practice for the Cotton Bowl and was lost. He was replaced by Steve Booker.
"We're starting a No. 5 linebacker," growled Bryant, who was nevertheless looking for Alabama's first victory ever over Texas in eight tries dating all the way back to 1902.
Don't leave now, folks. Late in the first half last Friday the right hand of strong-side Linebacker Robbie Jones, Alabama's leading tackier, became entangled in a Texas face mask. When Jones pulled his hand free, there was intense pain. The trainers iced it down at halftime. Todd Roper, a freshman not even listed on the Alabama roster, replaced Jones for much of the second half. He wasn't credited with a single tackle.
This is to take nothing away from Texas, which, as did Alabama, finished the regular season with a 9-1-1 record, and was ranked fifth by SI and the UPI and sixth in the AP poll. And, like Alabama, it is a remarkably strong fourth-quarter team.
At halftime, down by only 7-0, Texas Coach Fred Akers told his team hot to worry. "You hold them in the third quarter," he told his defense. Then, turning to his offense, he said, "And you get them in the fourth."
The Longhorn defense did as ordered. It had had its moments of confusion against Alabama's creative wishbone-plus offense in the first half, and Texas' secondary, which basically plays a man-to-man, had been burned by five passes for 113 yards and the touchdown. "On every play they give you a different formation, a different look," said William Graham, the safety who led Texas in interceptions (7) and was second in tackles. "We weren't reacting quickly enough. Then we realized that they weren't beating us physically but we were being out-coached. We were out of position."
"They really weren't moving the ball on us that well in the first half," Akers said later. "But they were making the big play. In the second half we just didn't give them the big play."