We end this volume of This Day in UTA Football History with the 1972 season. This really was the tale of two seasons. UT-Arlington started the year 0-6. The first five games were not close. The Mavericks opened the year with a 38-17 loss to Southern Mississippi, followed by a 21-3 loss to Oklahoma State, a 38-24 setback to Toledo, a 38-14 drubbing to TCU and 35-14 conference-opening defeat to Louisiana Tech. UTA lost by an average margin of almost 20 points in these games. It felt like the same ole, same ole of the past two seasons to UTA fans.
Then they started to get it. The following game against New Mexico State, only a 17-12 road loss, the offense started to click. In no coincidence, this was the game where star running back Dexter Bussey figured out how to be the star. The Oklahoma transfer ran for 146 on 21 carries for his first 100 yard game of the season. Sid Sims ran for 106 yards in that game as well.
It wouldn't the last 100-yard game for either. Bussey ran for a program record 225 yards against Abilene Christian (the record still stands today) in a 36-22 win, 130 yards against West Texas State in a 20-7 victory, 114 yards versus Lamar in a 10-3 triumph. The only win where he didn't get over 100 was a 7-0 squeaker of Southwestern Louisiana, but the lone touchdown came at his doing.
So here was UTA, one win away from securing a second-place finish in the Southland Conference. All that stood in the way was Arkansas State. It was a pretty decent rivalry that stemmed from runs at championships where either team was the winner in the mid 1960's to the early 1970's. From 1966 to 1970, UTA or Arkansas State claimed the conference crown. Three of those seasons, the other team finished one game back or in second place. One of my favorite games of all time came between these two.
The addition of Louisiana Tech would end the dominance of the two teams. They won the SLC their first four years in the league, seven times in the 1970's and finished second once, ironically enough, to Arkansas State.
After several years of finishing at the top, Arkansas State fell to a .500 record in 1971 and came into this game with a 3-7 record. They were rebuilding. Their schedule was nowhere near as hard as UTA's, since they were still technically College Division at the time. But this would be a good gauge of where UTA was this year. Could the Mavs get the win and finish 1972 strong?
On this day in UTA football history, the Mavericks attempt to finish second in the SLC when they host the Arkansas State Indians.
Taken from the Fort Worth Star Telegram, 11-26-72.