For today’s installment of This Day in UTA Football History, we make a trek back and revisit the 1975 team. The second year of Coach Harold “Bud” Elliott’s tenure at UTA began with promise. A win over TCU was the marquee moment for UTA playing at the top level college football. But the team was fading in the results column afterwards, coming in to the Lamar game with a 2-6 record.
However, there was hope in the UT Arlington Athletic Department. After a combined 12 wins in the previous five years, where the wins were close and the losses weren’t, the 1975 squad was competitive. With an extra score against McNeese State and Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana-Lafayette), the Mavs would have come into the game with a .500 record, something not seen since 1969.
And rightfully so. The mid-to-late 1970’s Maverick teams were not short on talent. The UTA football program had put over 30 players into the pro’s, a good portion from this era. Leading the way was fullback Derrick Jensen, a Maverick Hall of Honor member and long time Oakland/Los Angeles Raider and two-time Super Bowl winner. Really can’t write enough about what this guy did at UTA, but I’ll keep it as brief as I can: third Team All-American in 1976 and ’77, Offensive Player of the Year in the Southland Conference in 1976 and ’77, first team All-SLC in those same years, second team SLC in 1975, retired as UTA’s and the SLC’s all-time leading rusher (still first at UTA), retired as UTA’s second all-time total yards guy (still fourth and this is a stat quarterbacks usually occupy), is first in UTA’s leaders books in total carries and at the time was the highest Maverick taken in the NFL draft, 57th overall in 1978. The short version is this guy was a beast. But he wasn’t alone.
Ronnie Barnett, a big play wide receiver playing in Coach Elliott’s wishbone offense was also drafted from this team. He was a two-time first team All-SLC selection. The ’75 squad had talent at tight end, with second team SLC Brent Albright. A solid offensive line, anchored by first-team SLC selection Bob Beckner, allowed running back Jimmy Bailey to amass two 130+ rushing games in ’75. Elmo Simmons became a 1,000 yard career runner this season as well (those two certainly would have been bigger contributors at UTA had Jensen not been on the roster). Doug Dobbins was a capable QB. He doesn’t have a lot of eye-popping stats, but he did lead the team in total offense in 1975. He wasn’t big play, but he didn’t make as many mistakes as some other UTA QB’s before and after.
It was this hope that allowed Coach Elliott to hang around so long. He had the longest tenure of any coach in UTA history at ten years. He has the most wins too. Sounds good, right? Well, he has the second worst winning percentage among the five candidates and averaged 4.6 wins per year. But it was this hope that kept his contract renewed.
Coach Elliott had four 5-6 years and one 6-5. In my opinion, those seasons should have been seven wins minimum. His teams had a hallmark of committing costly mistakes like turnovers, penalties, special teams errors and just about anything else at the worst possible times. The only team that really avoided that was the 9-2 1979 squad, and they had a blocked kick in a game that led to an opponent touchdown and a one-point loss (even more killing is had they won that game, they would have played in the Independence Bowl).
But there was always the hope. The 1975 squad would win four games, second-most since 1970. The 76,77 and 78 would get five each, and were always competing in the SLC. That’s why he stuck around. Despite what I consider to be an underperforming tenure, he stuck around ten years. Yea, there’s all the stuff I mentioned in previous posts about playing overmatched teams early and not playing on campus (ironically, some of his worst years came after Maverick Stadium opened). And even concede that sometimes, the other team forces mistakes on your guys, but there was just too many of those mistakes every year. The common denominator was him.
Today’s opponent was the Lamar Cardinals, a team UTA would face more than any other, tied with Arkansas State. All-time, UTA is 16-6 against Lamar, but going into this one, they trailed the series 5-6. Yes, that’s right, this game started an 11-game win streak against the Cardinals, a very hard feat to do against any team. The odd thing is, despite UTA’s lack of success during much of those 11 years, the Mavericks could count on a whipping of Lamar; only 1977, ’82 and ’84 were by a touchdown margin or less. Maybe that’s why Lamar was the homecoming opponent four times during that stretch. They could beat McNeese, Louisiana Tech and Baylor, but never UTA. To corrupt a baseball manager’s quote, that’s just the way football go.
On This Day in UTA Football History, the Mavericks square off against the Lamar Cardinals in a homecoming contest at Arlington Stadium.
Mavericks outscore Lamar by 37-24
By BOB CLANTON
ARLINGTON-It was homecoming at UT-Arlington Saturday and the dance of the day was that great new step known as the Washington D.C. shuffle – you know, you take three steps forward and they pull you back two.
Despite a long fumble return by Lamar to open the contest and yellow flags that flew all over the Arlington Stadium outfield like buzzards circling a carcass, UTA held on to post a 37-24 Southland Conference victory over the hapless Cardinals.
It was a crowd pleaser for the 6,300 onlookers – lots of offense, big plays and hard hitting. But not unlike UTA efforts of the past few weeks, the Mavericks got off to a start that was a bit suspect.
Maverick quarterback Doug Dobbins hit Ron Barnett for 10 yards on the game’s opening play, but out of the pileup came Lamar’s Roy Hudson, who had stolen the ball right out of Barnett’s hands. Hudson sailed 48 yards straight down the sidelines to a touchdown and Jabo Leonard booted the point-after and it was a quick 7-0 Cardinal lead.
Then it was Lamar’s turn to go on the offensive and to step in a gopher hole.
On their first offensive play, Charlie Dews sacked Lamar quarterback David Silvas, who coughed up the ball on the Card 43.
It took 11 plays, but the great escape finally began – the escape from the Southland Conference cellar. Before the afternoon was over, UTA had amassed 406 yards total offense in running up its second highest point total of the year.
Dobbins threw for two touchdowns, one an 81-yard shot to Barnett which tied the UTA school record of a Mike Baylor-to-Jimmy Thomas play in the 1966 Arkansas State game.
The Mavericks were also assessed 155 yards in penalties, which runs their season total to 744, a one-season Southland Conference record.
Dobbins put UTA on the scoreboard with six minutes gone on a one-yard dive on fourth down, but Chris Walker’s point-after try sailed wide and Lamar clung to a 7-6 lead.
THE CARDINALS STRETCHED it to 10-6 after the ensuing kickoff before recurring fumbles and interceptions and lack of success on fourth down tries ran the offense aground.
Lamar’s field goal was a 39-yard effort by Leonard after UTA’s David Flake sacked Silvas on a third-and-six play.
But the Mavericks got that field goal back immediately, driving from their 34 on the strength of a 24-yard Dobbins-to-Barnett pass and a 13-yard shot to Albert Benson. A penalty stalled the movement, but Walker hit a 25-yard three-pointer to trim the deficit to 10-9 early in the second quarter.
On its next possession, UTA went ahead to stay. The Mavs drove 50 yards, ignited by a Mark Ross fumble recovery.
It was mostly Dobbins doing some fancy stepping, but he called on fullback Derrick Jensen from the one for the six points and Walker tacked on the extra point to finally give UTA the lead at 16-10.
AND THAT’S WHERE IT stood until UTA took over with 12 minutes to play in the third period and again it was a UTA recovery – Eugene Ayers falling on an errant pitchout – that breathed life into the Mavs.
Dobbins got the 46-yard march going with a seven-yard, first down shot to Barnett. Then, facing fourth and one at the Lamar 26, Dobbins dialed Elmo Simmons around the left end.
The junior halfback shook one tackler behind the line of scrimmage and took it all the way into the end zone to make it 22-10. Walker tacked on No. 23.
Lamar took the next kickoff and went nowhere so UTA then ran the count to 30-10.
The big play was a fumbled punt by Lamar’s Clarence Wallace. The Mavericks’ Jim Cagle found the handle and Dobbins drove his team 21 yards in seven plays. A swing pass to Jimmy Bailey covered the final five yards and Walker’s boot gave UTA a 20-point advantage.
Maverick coach Bud Elliot emptied his bench in the fourth quarter and Lamar pieced together its offense for a scoring drive with 5:25 to play.
A MIXTURE OF Bobby Flores passes and Rickey Overton ground scampers moved the Cardinals 63 yards with Darrell McDonald getting the touchdown from the five.
With the PAT it was 30-17 and UTA’s No. 1 offensive unit came back for its last hurrah.
Barnett, who caught five passes for 138 yards, took the ensuing kickoff and was hauled down at his own 19.
On first down, he took a Dobbins toss on a post pattern and raced into the UTA record book with the 81-yard scoring play. Walker’s boot stretched the margin to 37-17, but the pesky Cardinals wouldn’t call it quits.
Flores drove them 80 yards and got the TD from the two with 1:56 to play, shaving the margin to its final 37-24.
The Maverick homecoming was just warming up, but for Lamar the party was over.
UTA is now 3-6 on the season and 1-3 in SLC play while Lamar is winless at 0-9 and 0-4.
Lamar………………..10 0 0 14 – 24
UTA………..................6 10 14 7 – 37
Lamar-Hudson 48 fumble recovery (Leonard kick)
UTA-Dobbins 1 run (kick failed)
Lamar-Leonard 39 FG
UTA-Walker 25 FG
UTA-Jensen 1 run (Walker kick)
UTA-Simmons 26 run (Walker kick)
UTA-Bailey 5 pass from Dobbins (Wlaker kick)
Lamar-McDonald 5 run (Leonard kick)
UTA-Barnett 81 pass from Dobbins (Walker kick)
Lamar – Flores 2 run (Leonard kick)
First Downs 21 17
Rushes-Yards 48-106 59-214
Passing yards 189 192
Return yards 43 33
Passes 14-27-2 11-20-1
Punts 4-43 5-37
Fumbles-lost 8-5 2-2
Penalties-yards 4-11 17-155