Dec. 28, 2009
Lead by Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
(Editor’s Note: Texas first played Alabama in 1902, and thus this pairing ranks as one of the oldest on record for the Longhorns. Texas holds a 7-0-1 lead. The first three games – in 1902, 1915 and 1922 – all ended with the Longhorns’ shutting out Alabama. The teams didn’t play again until the 1948 Sugar Bowl following the 1947 season. That began a series of five bowl games that featured some of the best match-ups in college football, as well as a couple of individual efforts where one player, and one play, made all the difference. Here is a look at those bowl games.)
1965 Orange Bowl – The Epic Showdown between Namath and Nobis
Texas had followed its first National Championship season in 1963 with an almost-perfect one again in 1964. Only a failed two-point conversion that left Arkansas with a 14-13 victory over the then No. 1 ranked Longhorns had kept UT from winning all of its games. But that loss was enough to give the Razorbacks the right to represent the Southwest Conference in the Cotton Bowl game. Texas, instead, drew the most attractive trip to the Orange Bowl in Miami. The game was historic in its own right. It marked the first night national telecast of a January 1st bowl game.
Here is the way Lou Maysel, described it in his book, “Here Come The Texas Longhorns”:
The Thanksgiving victory over Texas A&M closed Texas’ regular-season books with a 9-1 record, good for the runner-up spot to Arkansas in the SWC and the No. 5 ranking in both national polls. Alabama concluded its season with a 21-14 Thanksgiving win over Auburn, accepted the Orange Bowl spot opposite Texas and then eagerly awaited the final weekly polls. They crowned the Tide as the National Champions with Arkansas second. Both moved up a peg with Notre Dame’s 20-17 upset by Southern California.
The Longhorns naturally welcomed the chance to meet the team that had succeeded them as national champs. “If we beat them, people might respect us a little more,” end George Sauer commented. “The last time we played the No. 1 team it was Oklahoma,” defensive end Dan Mauldin remembered the 28-7 game that put Texas into the top ranking for the duration of the 1963 season.
Bear Bryant’s undefeated Alabama team had the best of it in the statistics matchup with Texas. The Tide had compiled 312.9 yards per game and allowed 191 yards while Texas showed a 276.2-yard offense and a 202.7-yard defense. Only in defense against scoring did Texas have a scant 64-67 edge in points. Historically, though, Texas had ruled their intermittent meetings. Alabama’s only near success in five meetings was the 3-3 tie in the 1960 Bluebonnet Bowl.
Alabama fell from a six-point favorite to a mere three-point edge as the two teams went through their final workouts. Quarterback Joe Namath, the object of a big behind-the-scenes pro bidding battle, re-injured a bad knee on a routine handoff and was doubtful for the game. However, his alternate, Steve Sloan, had recovered from a knee injury against Auburn. Texas’ main lingering casualty was end Sandy Sands, although offensive line coach Jim Pittman had to watch via TV from Austin because of a heart reaction he suffered after racing onto the field to help break up a slight scuffle at the end of the Thanksgiving game with Texas A&M.
Namath was given clearance after he warmed up before the game, but Bryant held him in reserve during most of the preliminary action. The first quarter was uneventful until the Tide was short with a 55-yard field goal. Two plays after the miss, Texas lashed out with the first killer play in a 21-17 upset win. Tailback Ernie Koy ran the power sweep at right tackle, broke through a big hole, cut back behind the downfield blocking of Sauer and guard Lee Hensley and finished the bowl-record 79-yard touchdown. “We caught them in a stunt (end crashing and tackle looping outside) and it was one of those perfect plays just like you diagram,” Royal said after inspecting the game films.
When Alabama missed on a second shorter field goal, Texas struck again with the help of a fourth-down penalty that rubbed out a Koy punt. Jim Hudson entered the game at quarterback and after faking a handoff lofted a long pass to Sauer, who completed the 69-yard touchdown play. “I just threw it high and let George run under it,” said Hudson of the bench call he executed.
Namath took charge and passed Alabama to a touchdown with a seven-yard throw to halfback Wayne Trimble. Texas ran the score to 21-7 when Koy scored from a foot away 23 seconds before the half. Alabama made a spirited second-half charge and narrowed the margin to 21-17 with Namath’s 20-yard touchdown pass to end Tommy Tolleson and David Ray’s 26-yard field goal.
Alabama was presented with an opportunity to forge ahead when Texas quarterback Marvin Kistynik had an ill-advised desperation pass intercepted at the UT 34. Two Namath passes carried to the six and fullback Steve Bowman knifed to the two. “I just about fainted when they made four yards on first down,” Royal said, but the big gain led to what Royal described as “one of those old steady-knucks-down type” of goal-line stands.
Sniffing success up the middle, Alabama slammed Bowman into the line twice but only for a yard gain. Namath took the fourth-down snap and tried again, ramming at right guard on a sneak. Tom Currie, who had just relieved the tiring and smaller Clayton Lacy at tackle, neutralized the line charge, guard Frank Bedrick hit Namath from the side and linebacker Tommy Nobis put the clamps on him. Whistles blew but an instant later Bowman barged into Nobis and knocked Namath free. The Alabama quarterback went spinning into the end zone during the belated action and Tide fans protested loudly when the ball was turned over to Texas a foot short of the goal line.
Bryant would have no part of the quibbling over the miss at the goal line. “When you can’t score from the one, you don’t deserve to win,” he said to writers in the dressing room. “Let’s face it, gentlemen, Texas was just better prepared for the game. Darrell and his staff simply did a better job than I.”
Namath completed 18-of-37 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns, but after the Longhorns rebuffed him at the goal line with 6:30 to play, they also managed to muzzle his passing. Pete Lammons made a diving interception to stop his next try and Timmy Doerr batted away the final of four incompletions at the end of the game.
Namath, who signed a fabulous (at that time) $483,000 contract with the New York Jets the next day and would up playing pro ball with Hudson, Lammons, Sauer and tackle John Elliott, certainly won the respect of the Texas squad. So quick was Namath in getting off his passes that the Texas rush never reached him and he often drilled the ball past defenders when it was necessary. “He’s the best I’ve ever seen. I’d hate to see him on two good legs,” said Willie Zapalac, the veteran UT assistant who coached the much-tested Texas secondary.
Alabama finished the game with a slight edge in the statistics, all due to the passing of Namath, which led to a revision of Texas’ defensive thinking on playing receivers mainly to prevent the long touchdown. Namath hit his short receivers with deadly accuracy while Alabama was compiling an edge in first downs (18-15) and passing yardage (298-101). Texas ruled in ground yardage (212-49) and Koy finished his UT career with 24 carries for 133 yards. The only Texas casualty was Elliott, who broke a leg.
Royal was impressed with his senior quarterback, Hudson. “I’d hate to know what that boy could have done this season if he hadn’t been hurt.” Alabama paid a high compliment to two unheralded Longhorns, Bedrick and Mauldin, whom the Tide quarterbacks were told to avoid in critical situations or so one Alabama assistant told his UT counterparts, informing that the scouting report said: “Don’t run at No. 80 (Mauldin) and don’t try to double team No. 64 (Bedrick).”
Nobis, a near consensus all-American selection as a junior and the only player to make both the offensive and defensive platoons on the official all-SWC team, was easily Texas’ top honors winner. Fullback Harold Philipp and center Olen Underwood were selected on the all-SWC offensive team and end Knox Nunnally and defensive back Joe Dixon on the defensive platoon.
The Longhorns carried home $208,943.26 from the Orange Bowl, the first major bowl played at night, but after turning over part of its share to the SWC for an eight-way split at the end of the year, Texas went in the red. Expenses for the big UT entourage ran higher than the $60,000 it took off the top. Nevertheless, the season was a good one financially for Texas. The 72,500-sellout crowd for the Orange Bowl raised the season attendance total to 657,004. Five consecutive sellouts (Texas Tech, Army, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Rice) helped make it a UT record that even the successful 1968 and 1969 seasons did not top.
Arkansas, which edged Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl, 10-7, also profited from the Texas upset of Alabama.
The Razorbacks were voted the national championship by the selectors that waited until after the bowl games – among them the Football Writers Association and the Helms Foundation.
The Longhorns' 10-1 season closed the most successful four-year run in Texas history. Beginning with the 1961 season, Texas achieved a No. 1 ranking at some point during each of the four years. The overall record was 40-3-1, and the ‘Horns finished in the top five each year, with a National
Championship in 1963.
Next: The 1973 Cotton Bowl. Royal and Bryant meet for the final time.