Saturday, September 27, 2014

UTA Football Game Four; Humbleness

Back to the 1980 season as we begin the fourth installment of this year's This Day in UTA Football history. If you recall from game one, UT-Arlington had opened the year with high expectations and a brand new home. After dropping the home opener to North Texas State, the Mavericks went on the road and lost a close affair to Northwestern State, losing a one-point lead after a 97-yard drive that began near the two-minute warning that put the Demons over the top. UTA then had a bye week to prepare for the Southern Methodist University Mustangs.

A history lesson on the Mustangs, the early 1980's squad was one of the best eras in SMU football history. After a dormant period in the late 1970's, five straight losing seasons, the Mustangs would post their first winning season in 1980, eventually going to a bowl game, a much harder feat then than it is today. You'll see some familiar names in a moment. Most of the core of the 1980 team would return in subsequent years, including the 1982 squad that was a national championship caliber team.

I choose this game to illustrate two real issues with how UTA ran their program. These two things, in my humble opinion, were big contributors to the eventual demise of the program.

The first and the more obvious, UTA always played a tough non-conference schedule. There was always a team like SMU, a clearly overpowering opponent. However, there were the smaller teams, the '70's UNT gang, New Mexico State, West Texas State just to name a few, that were generally better, played in a tougher conference and, most importantly, gave UTA losing records to start seasons. The counter argument is that it did make them better prepared for conference play, generally winning more than they lost once Southland Conference play began. But the main problem is by the time conference play started, UTA had a losing record and never really had the support. That compounded with...

The majority of games to start the season were on the road. Maverick Stadium was supposed to change all that. Conflicts with the Rangers prevented UTA from playing many home games in September, but even when the team moved to Cravens, they didn't play many homes games in the first month, so the combo of tougher teams and road games meant that by the time UTA came home, the fan base wasn't there as the team was on the path to another losing season with no postseason opportunity.

That reappeared in 1980. UTA opened with a home loss to North Texas State, then went on the road for a loss to Northwestern State, who would finish 1980 at 8-3, and then a "road" game at SMU in Texas Stadium. It doesn't get much harder than that. The following week, UTA would play its second home game in the new stadium, in front of a paltry crowd of 6,300, a decline of almost 12,000, or 2/3's of what the first game saw.

There's also a lesson to be had that applies to the time UTA eventually resurrects its football team. In today's climate, they will certainly have to have one guarantee game a year against a team of similar caliber to the 1980's SMU teams. For the program to be successful, they have to have the balance today that didn't exist then.

Without further ado, I give you the tail-whipping that was UTA at SMU on September 27, 1980.

Ponies trample Mavs

Southern Methodist plastered Texas-Arlington, 52-16, Saturday night.

The score, and the ease with which the Mustangs obtained it, showed how far the schools have come since 1964. When the Ponies beat the Arlington gang that year, it was SMU's only win of the season, and the score was a modest 14-0. (BLOGGERS NOTE: The Arlington State College Rebels were only 3-6-1 that year as a DII-level school)

This Mustang team is much stronger, faster and more talented than that '64 bunch. Sophomore tailback Eric Dickerson was only one example, as he ran 14 times for 56 yards and scored three touchdowns on dives of three, four and three yards.

SENIOR WINGBACK Anthony Smith grabbed seven passes for 94 yards, including a 7-yarder from Mike Ford in which his post-corner route fooled the secondary so much that he was 10 yards from the nearest Maverick when he caught the ball.

Safety Blane Smith intercepted two UTA passes and safety Wes Hopkins another, with the first two returned to the Mav 27 and 21, setting up touchdowns on the way to a 35-3 halftime lead.

Ford passed for only 133 yards, hitting eight of 19, but after he bruised a shoulder and the score mounted, subs Mike Fisher and Lance McIlhenny spelled him well enough for SMU to roll up 303 yards passing. Fisher was 9-of-11 for 132.

So the Ponies hiked their record to 3-0, for the second straight year, and injury-racked UTA fell to 0-3.

The Mavs moved over midfield just once in the first half, four times punting after the minimum three plays.

SMU ZIPPED 66 yards for its first score, including a 24-yard pass to Smith, and Dickerson's prodigious leap from the three got the score.

After Blane Smith picked off an overthrow and returned it 20 yards, Anthony Smith caught a 10-yarder, and Dickerson dragged linebacker Bud McCluskey into the end zone from the four for a 14-0 lead.

Ford missed one series, but returned to lead a 60-yard TD drive, spiced by a 28-yard gain on a swing pass to Craig James and ended by the scoring throw to Anthony Smith. It was 21-0.

Hopkins steal of a flat pass, which he lugged back 41 yards to the UTA 21, set up a scoring drive by SMU's second unit. Fisher snuck in from the one.

Dick Blaylock blocked a Mavs punt in the last 70 seconds of the half, and McIlhenny passed 14 yards to Eddie O'Brien at 0:03 to make it 35-3.

UTA'S SENIOR tailback Tony Felder claimed touchdowns of 11 and two yards in the second half, the first one on a pass from quarterback Scott Logan. SMU countered with an 89-yard drive finished off by Dickerson, an 80-yard push that Michael Charles capped with a 14-yard burst up the middle and a 45-yard field goal by Eddie Garcia.

It was the Ponies biggest scoring burst since the 58-0 win over Rice in 1978. It included 30 first downs, equaling the largest total ever amassed against a UTA team. The Mustangs fumbled the ball away three times to prevent the scoring from ballooning any further.

Knowing they would have trouble against SMU's bigger defensive front, the Mavs tried valiantly to pass their way into the game. But the Mustang linebackers and secondary allowed Guy Lissak only six completions in 18 tries for 124 yards. The Mavs were never really in it.

Texas-Arlington         0    3    13    0 - 16
Southern Methodist  14   21   7    10 - 52
SMU-Dickerson 3 run (Garcia kick)
SMU-Dickerson 3 run (Garcia kick)
SMU-A. Smith 12 pass from Ford (Garcia kick)
SMU-Fisher 1 run (Garcia kick)
UTA-FG Happel 26
SMU-O'Brien 14 pass from McIlhenny (Garcia kick)
UTA - Felder 11 pass from Logan (Happel kick)
SMU-Dickerson 3 run (Garcia kick)
UTA-Felder 2 run (run failed)
SMU-Charles 14 run (Garcia kick)
SMU-FG Gracia 45

                                         UTA                SMU
First downs                          13                     30
Rushes-yards                42-153             59-222
Passing yards                      124                  303
Return yards                         17                    69
Passes                           18-6-3           38-20-0
Punts                                 8-32                3-41
Fumbles-lost                        2-0                  3-3
Penalties-yards                  4-30                 3-25

RUSHING-SMU, Dickerson 14-56, Charles 6-48. UTA-Felder 7-51, R. Johnson 12-48.
PASSING-SMU, FORD 8-19-0-133, Fisher 9-11-0-132. UTA, Logan5-12-2-98, Lissak 1-5-1-26.
RECEIVING-SMU, A. Smith 7-94, G. Smith 3-41. UTA, G. Lewis 2-69, Jessie 2-43.

Taken from the Dallas Morning News, 9-28-1980.

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