Saturday, September 14, 2013

UTA Football Game Two

The second game of my This Day in UTA Football Series is the season opener of the 1968 season. UTA was fresh of their first, and currently only, bowl appearance and win, a 13-0 win over North Dakota State. Expectations were high for 1968, where many of the notable names of a high-powered offense were returning. The quarterback position saw Senior Mike Baylor return. He threw for 1,384 yards in 1967, which is still currently 5th in one season for the Mavericks. Baylor is considered UTA's most successful all-time quarterback. I put an asterisk here because I am certain that David Bates senior year in 1986 would have passed him. As it was, 1985 was still a record setting year for Bates in his own right, but sadly it was only a one-hit wonder. Baylor was the reigning Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year and also an Honorable Mention All-American.

Wide receiver Jimmy Thomas and end Dick Hill returned and they were the two biggest recipients of Baylor's passing. Both caught 35 passes in '67, currently ranked fourth on the single-season charts. Thomas had big play capabilities, as his 35 catches resulted in 721 yards. Like Baylor, he was an HM All-American in '67.

Fullback Danny Griffin could run or catch. He would retire as UTA's all-time leading rusher, and is still third all-time. He was also a first-team all-SLC selection.

The offensive line lost an All-American, but overall was solid. They didn't lose an All-American, but otherwise, the same could be said of the defensive line.

On the defensive side, UTA was experience-laden. At linebacker, Ken Riley was a returning All-American. Fred Gough joined him and the two would be eventual draft picks.

In the secondary, Mike Stamps returned, while newcomer Jim Marcum was expected to make an immediate impact. Their names are still listed on UTA record books.

And at the kicker and punter was Skipper Butler, the best kicker for a career at UTA. He holds carrer records for field goals made and attempted, extra points attempted and punts and is second on extra points made. He had a long career in the NFL.

Also adding to the excitement was the team's 11-game home winning streak. Their last loss at home was in 1965. While my records are missing attendance figures for one to two games a season, attendance rose from the low-7,000's in '65 to over 9,000 during the winning streak.

In short, the Southland Conference championship was UTA's to lose this year.

It was during this stretch that the newly-renamed University of Texas-Arlington was beginning consideration of a move up to the University level. The quality of the opponents UTA's opposition would begin to get tougher, starting straight out of the gate with a road-trip to play San Diego State.

San Diego Trips UTA

By Randy Galloway
News Staff Writer

San Diego - The king still lives... but just barely.

There was mutiny in the national small college football kingdom here Saturday night, but the rebellion led by the University of Texas at Arlington fell just seconds short and San Diego State still reigns supreme with a shaky, 23-18 win.

A brilliant defensive battle that had raged for over three quarters suddenly turned into offensive fireworks late in the fourth quarter and thrilled a crowd of 35,227 at San Diego Stadium.

UTA saw victory snatched from its grasp twice in the final five minutes of the contest as the Aztecs marched 63 yards for the winning touchdown with 1:22 to play and then snuffed out a final Rebel threat in the last seconds.

When quarterback Dennis Shaw faked into the middle of the line and stepped around left end on a keeper for five yards and a touchdown, it sealed the Rebel doom, but they didn't go down easily.

Down by five points, Jerry Massey returned the kickoff to the SDS 48-yard line, almost breaking for a touchdown. Using flanker Jimmy Thomas, who had hauled in two long scoring passes, quarterback Mike Baylor marched the Rebs to the 15-yard line before the San Diego State defense buckled down and halted the threat.

Defensive halfback Steve Brinley made an interception at the 2-yard line on a fourth down Baylor pass with 26 seconds to play that ended all hope.

The Aztecs made a 17-10 halftime lead stand up through most of the second half, but Baylor finally got his offense on the right track midway in the fourth quarter.

Taking over at his own 48 after a punt, the Reb field general guided his club to the SDS 33 where he delivered the payoff. Baylor hit Thomas, who outmaneuvered defensive back Marty Steiger, at the goal line, making the score 17-16.

Then coach Burley Bearden called for a 2-point attempt and Baylor pitched to Jerry Massey in the end zone for an 18-17 lead with 4:57 to play.

But San Diego State promptly marched down the Rebels' throat after the kickoff.

Fullback Lloyd Edwards did most of the damage and with the ball resting at the 5-yard line, the UTA defense was waiting on him. Instead Shaw faked to Edwards in the middle and easily got the touchdown around left end. A 2-point conversion try failed.

The UTA defense, paced by corner back Jim Marcum, linebacker Jimmy Stewart and rover Mike Stamps, was simply magnificent, but the offense had a let down in the first half, handing 17 points to the hosts.

On the Rebels first possession of the game, Thomas, who caught five passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns, took a flat pass from Baylor, shook off SDS corner back Clarence Oliver and roared down the sideline untouched for the score. That touchdown held up until early in the second quarter and then the Aztecs , taking advantage of offensive miscues on the part of UTA, tacked up 17 quick points.

Kicking specialist Skipper Butler put the Rebels three points closer in the final two seconds of the first half when he booted a tremendous 51-yard field goal.

The Rebel offense had its bright moments in the first half, particularly om the Baylor-Thomas bomb and Butler's long range missile, but without a doubt it was the UTA defense that held things together.

Despite the 17-10 halftime deficit, the Texans defensive crew could not be held responsible for any of these points.

Through the first quarter and three minutes of the second stanza, the Rebel defense had smashed all San Diego State offensive efforts and the 7-0 lead, provided by Thomas, even appeared comfortable.

But then Oliver, the Aztecs cornerback who has the pros highly interested, made amends for his first mistake. On a thrid down passing attempt from his 23 Baylor tried to hit Thomas again on a sideline pattern. But this time Oliver had set a trap and he made an easy interception at the 28 and rambled into the end zone untouched.

Dick Wood's PAT kick at 12:59 tied the score at 7-7-but only for a moment.

On the first play after the kickoff, fullback Danny Griffin lost a fumble to Aztec middle guard Tim Burnett at the UTA 23, one of eight fumbles by the Rebs in the first half, four of which were recovered by SDS.

The UTA defense easily held for three downs from that point, but then Wood gave the hosts the lead with a 35-yard field goal at 11:19 of the second quarter.

San Diego State had a chance on its next two possessions, but the UTA defense held twice from within its own 10-yard line.

Once Fred Bolton, sophomore on the specialty teams, broke through to block a 17-yard field goal attempt, but officials ruled that after the block, UTA had gained possession but then lost it again on a fumble at the 10-yard line.

Taken from the Dallas Morning News, 9-15-68.

1 comment:

  1. I am remiss to mention that I forgot what I think are two very important pieces of information regarding this game.

    San Diego State ended the regular season as the number one ranked small college team. Back then, they awarded the national championship before the bowl games. They ended up convincingly winning their bowl game in California.

    Meanwhile UTA finished the regular season ranked sixth. Their opponent in the Pecan Bowl was ranked second. So the likelihood is that these two teams were the 1&2 teams in the land the previous year, if they took a final poll after the postseason.