Sunday, September 7, 2014

UTA Football Game One: A New Home

We begin this seasons edition of This Day in UTA Football History with one of the biggest milestone in program history. On September 6, 1980, UT Arlington football reached something that campus leaders and the Athletic Department had worked towards for a long time, returning football to the campus. UTA left Memorial Stadium, the long-time campus home where the Maverick Activities Center is now, following the 1969 season. The Athletic Department was worried the small size and age was a detriment to the program and started looking for something bigger.

Turnpike Stadium, a primarily baseball facility, was the first destination. The Rangers had strict control over events surrounding their games, forcing few home games in September. Texas Stadium served as a neutral site for games against North Texas, when in reality they were alternating home and home, since UTA couldn't play at their home. The Rangers control over scheduling forced one home game at the Cotton Bowl. When the place was remodeled, it became a baseball-only stadium and UTA relocated to Cravens Field, an Arlington ISD stadium. While not a terrible stadium, it still was a high school facility and not up to the standards of what should have been a Division 1-A college stadium.

All that finally hanged and the University had a home stadium they craved when they opened a new on-campus stadium 39 years ago.

The 1979 team was the most successful UTA season at the highest level, finishing 9-2, with only a 14-13 loss to McNeese State preventing an Independence Bowl berth. I'd contend this team was more talented than the 1967 Pecan Bowl-winning squad, since this was against higher level competition.

Even though they lost a lot of key players from that squad, there was a lot of optimism. Coupled with a new stadium, the sky seemed the limit for the Mavericks as the entered the new decade.

Maverick Stadium itself was a nice, base-line structure. Unlike College Park Center of today, Maverick Stadium didn't rocket UTA past anyone in the conference or region, save for Fouts Field at North Texas. It was a nice facility with everything on one site, that was competitive for the Southland Conference, housed many teams as well as the athletic department and provided a nice backdrop to watch a football game.

Maverick Stadium's debut featured a contest against a very familiar foe. The North Texas State Eagles were the Mavericks main rival, and still is today. One of the two losses in the 1979 season was a 19-14 upset at Texas Stadium to North Texas. Gone was Hayden Frye after 1978, who experienced a lot of success while in Denton, but saddled the program with a lot of debt. In was Jerry Moore, who would later achieve Hall of Fame status at Appalachian State. He led the upset of Michigan in 2007, along with three 1-AA national championships. His resume at NTSU was nothing remarkable, however.

Sadly this season was a typical Harold "Bud" Elliot-coached squad, high preseason expectations, sub-par results. On this day in UTA football history, North Texas visits Maverick Stadium to play a college football game for the first time.

(Remember, the article is typed as is and all grammatical, punctuational and other errors are as the appeared originally)

North Texas slaps 31-14 loss on UTA

Star-Telegram Writer

ARLINGTON-At least, North Texas State was a good enough neighbor to let UT-Arlington anoint its new stadium by scoring the first points Saturday night. But, the Mean Green didn't want to let this Good Neighbor Policy get out of hand.

After watching the pre-game ribbon cutting by UTA President Wendell Nedderman and Arlington Mayor S.J. Stovall, then presenting the Mavericks with an early fumble to set up a quick UTA touchdown, the Mean Green got downright surly the rest of the evening.

It was a good thing the celebrating was early for UTA and their fans in the crowd of 18,033, because North Texas left them with a 31-14 hangover and put a damper on the football team's return to campus after a 10-year hiatus to such ports as Arlington Stadium and Craven's Field.

The defeat was also a bitter sting for UTA in this season opener for both teams since the Mavericks were coming off a 9-2 season and itching to avenge its 19-14 loss to the Mean Green last year.

And, during the early minutes of the game, the Mavericks seemed not to miss All-Southland Conference quarterback Roy DeWalt at all as junior college transfer Scott Logan was mystifying the Mean Green defenders while operating the wishbone offense to perfection.

When North Texas quarterback Joe Stevenson, a backup to Jordan Case last year, served a bad pitch to Malcolm Jones on the first series and UTA's John Wilson pounced on it at the Mean Green 46, Logan quickly pushed the Mavs into the end zone to light up the new scoreboard.

And, Logan proved he's as much a threat as the other Mav backs as he lopped off the biggest run of 25 yards to NT's 13. Tony Felder erased another eight and Phillip Jessie handled the final five. Brian Happel kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 12:15 left in the opening quarter.

So much for the Mavs.

North Texas' defenders suddenly figured out how to break the wishbone and shut off all the options. Stevenson wired the offense together and before the period ended, North Texas was ahead 14-7 on Lee English' six-yard touchdown run and Jones' 10-yarder.

Bobby Daniels boosted the count to 21-7 in the third from one yard and freshman walkon Carlen Charleston broke it open for NT when he returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.

Whit Smith capped NT's scoring with a 31-yard field goal while the Mavericks finally scratched again with 3:11 remaining in the game on Darwin George's 13-yard run after Guy Lissak had subbed for Logan.

For UTA Coach Bud Elliott, the loss was disappointing since he expected more of his Mavs. But, he explained his team was "physically whipped up front. You win games on the field and lose in the heart and tonight we lost in the heart."

North Texas' second year Coach Jerry Moore said the lopsided victory didn't surprise him, but admitted he didn't really know what to expect from his young team after suffering through a 5-6 debut last year. "They didn't let that early turnover bother them when they could have," he said. "Then we came back with a good drive to tie the game and that seemed to give us confidence."

But, Moore wasn't ready to put on his bragging pants just yet, not with SMU coming up next week. "We haven't arrived yet," he said. "You have to keep everything in perspective."

There was little arguing that Stevenson can handle quarterback duties as he netted 180 yards passing, connecting with 17 in 18 attempts. However, Moore thought he had a shaky start,  however. "He looked a little tentative on some of the options and on early passes. He looked like he was afraid he would make a mistake."

Jones, who alternated time with Daniels, led the talented Eagle backfield with 72 yards in 13 carries while English, drawing heavy praise from Moore for his blocking as well as running, netted 63 in 12 totes. Bernard Jackson, who gained 1,453 yards two years ago and 749 last year when he split duty with Jones, didn't see action until the fourth quarter but was impressive in gaining 54 yards in eight attempts. He currently is third team since he missed spring training because of grades.

Logan was good on six of seven passes, but only for 64 yards. Lissak managed eight of 13 for 138 yards, his big gainers to tight end Gary Lewis who caught 4 for 83 yards.

After English capped North Texas' first TD drive of 67 yards in seven plays, Stevenson revved up the offense again on the very next series when he threw to tight end Mark Witte for a 27-yard gainer to the UTA 14. Two plays later, Jones scored from 10 yards and Smith's PAT put NT ahead for good.

North Texas State........14   0   7   10-31
Texas-Arlington.............7    0   0    7-14
UTA-Jessie 5 run (Happel kick)
NTSU-English 6 run (Smith kick)
NTSU-Jones 10 run (Smith kick)
NTSU-Daniel 1 run (Smith kick)
NTSU-Charleston 65 punt return (Smith kick)
NTSU-FG Smith 35
UTA-George 13 run (Happel kick)

                            NTSU          UTA
First downs................28              18
Rushes-yards......51-239      43-122
Passing yards...........180            202
Passes..............17-28-1      14-20-0
Punts.....................4-41            7-39
Fumbles-lost............2-1              2-1
Penalties-yards.......8-62            3-15

NORTH TEXAS - English 12-63, Jones 13-72, Stevenson 6-(-10), Daniels 10-44, Jackson 8-54, Elifff 2-16. UTA - Price 3-16, Logan 10-10, Felder 7-7, Jessie 5-18, Smith 8-17, Johnson 8-11, Lissak 3-5, Sanders 1-3, Balley 2-22, George 1-13.
NORTH TEXAS - Stevenson 17-18-180-1. UTA - Logan 6-7-64, Lissak 8-13-138.
NORTH TEXAS - Howey 1-6, Merriwether 2-28, English 2-33, Harvey 2-19, Witte 3-49, Jones 4-24, Battle 3-21. UTA - Felder 1-14, Jessie 4-30, Lewis 4-83, DeLeo 2-48, George 1-8, Williams 1-18, Bailey1-1.

Taken from the Fort Worth Star Telegram, 9-7-1980

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