I love coming to Austin — It’s a charming city with perhaps the most gracious fans in the country. This was my second time attending a game at the University of Texas, my first was back in 2014 when the Longhorns hosted BYU. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and the first thing you think as you approach Darrell K. Royal Stadium is just how big it is. It’s one of the biggest stadiums in the country, seating over 100,000 fans. The gameday experience is fan-friendly with all kinds of interactive things for fans of all ages, and the tailgating scene is vibrant around the stadium and into Downtown Austin. With No.13 West Virginia in town to face the No.17 Longhorns, I expected a good game. I told a friend I was with that I expected a shootout and that the last team with the ball would win. That’s exactly what we got!
TEXAS FOOTBALL BEGINS
The University of Texas fielded its first permanent football team in 1893 managed by Albert Lefevra, the secretary-treasurer of the UT Athletic Association. The team played four games, two in the fall and two more in the spring, winning all four while shutting out every opponent. The first was played at the Dallas Fair Grounds against the Dallas Football Club that claimed to be the best in the state. The game attracted a then-record 1,200 onlookers.
Texas officially hired its first coach, R.D. Wentworth for a salary of $325 plus expenses. Wentworth’s teams shut out their first six opponents, outscoring them 191–0 before losing their last game of the year to Missouri 28–0. There were a number of firsts in Wentworth’s one season as head coach at Texas. The first ever meeting against Texas A&M, which resulted in a 38–0 shutout victory for Texas and the first ever meeting against Arkansas, which was a 54–0 Texas victory, setting the stage for long rivalries with the Aggies and the Razorbacks.
The Longhorns have had a rich tradition of coaches that have strolled the sidelines. Clyde Littlefield was the first to play for and coach the Longhorns. He was head coach from 1927-36 and led the Longhorns to a 44-18-6 record during his tenure that included two Southwest Conference Championships. During the Great Depression, Dana X. Bible was hired to be the coach and athletics director. Bible previously had tremendous success at Nebraska and Texas A&M. It was a bold move by the university and a decision that would lay the foundation for Texas Football. In 1937, the Bible era debuted with a 25–12 victory over Texas Tech in Austin. Texas would only win one more game in Bible’s first year, a stunning 9-6 defensive battle over 4th-ranked Baylor. The 1938 season would not be any better as the Longhorns only victory of the season was in the final game of the season, a 7-6 win over Texas A&M in Austin. Fans grew anxious, wanting Texas to dominate the college football scene.
Bible proved to be an outstanding recruiter as he brought several outstanding players to campus. After two rough seasons where Texas won a total of three games, Bible successfully transformed Texas into a national powerhouse. It began with the 1939 season, as Texas opened with a shutout win over Florida 12–0, followed by a 17-7 victory at Wisconsin. Then the turning point came in October 1939 when Texas was playing Arkansas in Austin. Down 13–7 with under 30 seconds to play, and fans heading for the exits, Longhorns Fullback R.B. Patrick flipped a short pass to Halfback Jack Crain who ran 67 yards untouched, to tie the game at 13. Those same fans that were leaving the stadium came pouring back in and onto the field. After the field was cleared, Crain booted the extra point and Texas defeated Arkansas 14–13. This game became known as the “Renaissance Game” of the Dana X. Bible era. The 1939 season was pivotal in providing momentum for the following decade as Texas would again become one of the most successful teams throughout the 1940’s. National Championship talks began as Texas compiled their first All-American’s with Malcolm Kutner, Jack Crain, and Noble Doss. Bible finished his coaching career with a 63-31-3 record, with three Southwest Conference titles. He would later hire Darrell Royal to serve as head coach. Darrell K. Royal, a native Oklahoman, coached at Mississippi State and Washington before being hired in 1957. Royal would return the Texas football program to national prominence, winning Southwest Conference titles six years in a row, and making six straight Cotton Bowl appearances. During his 20-years at Texas, the Longhorns never had a losing season. He led the Longhorns to three National Championships, 11 Southwest Conference titles, 16 bowl games, and nine Top-5 poll rankings. They would have streaks that included 30 straight victories, and 42 consecutive home wins, a run that lasted 1968–1976. He retired as the most successful coach at the University of Texas, with a record of 167–47–5. In 1998, Mack Brown was hired away from North Carolina and he quickly became a fan favorite. Brown had a tremendous career in Austin, as he led the team to a 158-48 record. Under his direction, the Longhorns won two Big 12 Conference Championships, a BCS National Championship, and held a 3-1 record in BCS games. He finished his career at Texas second in wins only to Royal.
FUN FACTS ABOUT TEXAS FOOTBALL
- Texas has a lifetime record of 909-370-33 and a .703 winning percentage.
- The Longhorns have won 32 Conference Championships.
- Texas is the only football program that posted at least 10 wins every year from 2001–2009 seasons.
- Texas ranks first in the Big 12 Conference for bowl game appearances and victories.
- Texas holds the Big 12 Conference record for consecutive conference victories with 21 from 2004–2006.
- Texas won the most Southwest Conference Championships with 27. Texas won a record six straight Southwest Conference Championships from 1968–1973.
- Texas ranks sixth among NCAA teams with 32 total conference championships.
- The Longhorns were the first college team to implement the famous Wing-T and Wishbone offenses.
- Texas has had 108 winning seasons out of 119 total seasons of football.
- The Longhorns have had nine undefeated seasons, and 26 seasons they finished with only one loss and/or tie.
- The Longhorns have had two Heisman Trophy winners, Running Backs Earl Campbell in 1977 and Ricky Williams in 1998.
- Seventeen Texas players are in the College Football Hall of Fame, and four are in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Tradition is rich here! I was absolutely blown away with the pre-game and in game fun! Bevo, a Texas longhorn steer, is one of most famous mascots in the country. He first appeared during a 1916 Thanksgiving Day game against Texas A&M. The first Bevo was actually named Bo but came to be called Bevo, after the campus magazine referred to him as Bevo. The school did not have the money to take care of Bevo and he was not tame enough to be allowed to roam the campus. He would be fattened up, and served at the football banquet in 1920. There have been a total of 14 Bevo’s. Bevo XIV has served since the 2004 season. Over the years, there have been several great Bevo stories. Bevo II charged a SMU cheerleader, who defended himself with his megaphone. Bevo III escaped from his enclosure and ran amok on the campus for 2 days. Bevo IV attacked a parked car, and Bevo V broke free and caused the Baylor band to scatter.
THE BAND AND TRADITIONS
- The Longhorn Band has two songs that capture the crowd. “Texas Fight” is the official fight song of the university, and it is sung to a fast tempo version of “Taps.” The schools alma-matter is “The Eyes of Texas,” sung to the tune of “I’ve been Working on the Railroad.”
- Hook ‘Em Horns – the school hand signal, was introduced at a pep rally in 1955. The hand signal is known throughout the entire country and Sports Illustrated featured the Hook ‘Em Horns gesture in front of a Texas pennant on the cover of the September 10, 1973 issue.
- Smokey the Cannon, a replica of a Civil War cannon is fired before kickoff and after Texas scores.
- The Sweetheart of the Longhorn Band is actually a drum that measures more than 10-feet high. Big Bertha is considered to be the world’s largest drum (actually second largest) and it is played at halftime and after Texas touchdowns.
- Lighting the Tower (also known as the Main Building) in orange for various types of sporting victories. After National Championship victories, windows are lighted in the main building to display a large number 1.
OKLAHOMA – The “Red River Rivalry” with Oklahoma is one of the oldest and best known college football rivalries. The rivalry originated in 1900, and the schools play at a neutral site, the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, during the Texas State Fair. The stadium is split, with each team having an equal number of supporters on each side of the 50-yard line. Texas state flags fly around the Longhorn end of the stadium and Oklahoma state flags on the Sooner side. The meeting in 1976 was a heated affair as the Oklahoma staff was accused of spying on Texas’ practices, a move later confirmed by former OU head coach Barry Switzer. Texas leads the all-time series 62–46–5.
ARKANSAS – These two schools are old Southwest Conference combatants first meeting in 1894. The Longhorns blew out the Razorbacks 54-0 that first game. Since then, the two programs have met 77 more times, with Texas holding a decisive 56–22–0 advantage. The seriest have featured many big games, including the meeting in 1969 known as the true Game of the Century commemorating the 100th year of college football, This game still does not sit well with Razorback fans to this day. Arkansas lead the game throughout only to have Texas come from behind and win in the final minutes, 15–14, which led to the Longhorns 1969 National Championship. The game was attended by President Richard Nixon who crowned the Longhorns the National Champion in the locker room.
TEXAS A&M – The Longhorns won the very first game against the Aggies back in 1894, a 38-0 victory, and actually won the first seven games in this series, all by shutout! The Aggies decision to join the Southeastern Conference in 2012 effectively ended the 118-year rivalry, with Texas leading the series 76–37–5.
West Virginia’s Will Grier hit Gary Jennings with a 33-yard scoring pass with 16 seconds left and then ran for a two-point conversion to lead the Mountaineers over the Longhorns 42-41. Grier’s heroics came just two minutes after Sam Ehlinger had connected with Devin DuVernay on a 48-yard pass, breaking a 34-34 tie. There were nine lead changes in a game that featured 1,098 total yards and 56 first downs. It was the best game I have seen this year.