Saturday, October 3, 2015

UTA Football Vol. 3 Game 5: Road away from Home

Last week, I mentioned the 1959 opener was one of the games I was looking forward to the most in this years version of This Day in UTA Football History. Now let me introduce you to one of the games I am looking forward to least.

It is hard to get excited about a winless season, but that's what the 1970 season was. It was Coach Burly Bearden's last at the UT-Arlington, as well as the last UTA would play at the College level of the NCAA. It would be the first of nine consecutive losing seasons. I picked this game for two reasons, both of which are representative of UTA's flawed approach to moving up to the highest level.

Today was the first home game at Turnpike Stadium. Since moving up from the Junior College ranks, UTA played the games at Memorial Stadium, an on-campus venue located where the current Maverick Activities Center is now. What a great location for a stadium. I can only imagine what the football fortunes at UTA would have been had they never left. Think of Maverick Stadium, accessible AND visible to the core of the University, not relegated to the periphery. Today, the Mav is much more connected to the U with the construction of hundreds of apartments, but between 1980 and 1986, there wasn't much between Nedderman Drive and the Stadium.

The last four years at Memorial Stadium, UTA averaged around 9,000 in attendance, near capacity for the venue. They would never get even close to that again. They would get in the mid 7,000's three times at Maverick Stadium, but that wasn't even close to capacity like at Memorial. I will grant the late 60's produced winning teams, while the 80's only produced two winning teams in 6 tries, but I just can't believe location didn't play a factor in the average, to some degree or another.

Moving off campus was one mistake, but the other this game illustrates was just as deadly in my opinion. In order to move up, UTA had to play tougher competition. Many times, it was on the road, as the likes of TCU, SMU or Oklahoma State would never play a school like UTA at home. The Athletic Department's insistence on playing tougher schools meant tough road games early.

Another factor to come in play for early road games was the relocation of the Washington Senators to Arlington and becoming the Texas Rangers. Despite being a city-owned stadium, the Rangers organization controlled the events immediately around their own games. UTA played only two September home games in the seven seasons the called Turnpike/Arlington Stadium home. So, they played a hard, road-laden non-conference schedule and came home with no or one win. Five times, they would come home to Turnpike winless. Only once did they have more than one win. Tell me the fan base that will come out in droves to support that.

UTA's first game at Turnpike was similar. UTA had road losses to TCU, New Mexico State and Southern Mississippi. At that point in time, those three schools were University squads and light years ahead of UTA. Today's opponent wasn't. At best, they should have been equals. In reality, UTA should have been the better team. But, like the entire era at Turnpike Stadium, the product on the field was ... sub-par.

Part of the reason may have been the stadium itself. It was built primarily for baseball, but like many stadiums of that era, was a dual-purpose facility. The third base grandstands could swivel into the outfield and create a quasi-football field, though it created some terrible sight-lines. In short, it was a terrible place to watch and play a football game. UTA had attempted to raise their profile by moving to this location, but the reality is Turnpike was a poor football stadium and did far more harm.

So with that awesome introduction, on this day in UTA football history, the UT-Arlington Rebels, play their first game in a new home (and remember, I type what is written, errors and all).

Rebels Can't Get Home

Lutherans Keep UTA Down, 17-6

News Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas - Turnpike Stadium's designation as a baseball facility remained intact here Saturday night despite UT Arlington's attempt to christen it otherwise.

From the Rebel viewpoint a football game has yet to be played there after the listless Rebs fell 17-6 to lowly Texas Lutheran in UTA's home opener in the enlarged and refurbished stadium.

Things were looking shaky as early as Saturday morning when last-minute preparations saw a construction crew moving a row of stands out of the end zone to the sidelines. The football scoreboard was still somewhere in Des Moines, Iowa, so a temporary one was brought in from Orange, Texas, the afternoon of the game. Goal posts were erected just an hour before kickoff.

Still Turnpike appeared infinitely better prepared for the game than did the Rebels, who stumbled through their most embarrassing loss in an 0-4 season.

PRIOR TO Saturday, Texas Lutheran was 0-3, losing most recently to Eastern New Mexico.

It was more than the Rebs' ample turnovers that gave the Bulldogs the the surprise victory. Specifically, it was the damage TLC quarterback Larry West inflicted by hitting split end Rickey Smith seven times for 142 yards and one touchdown.

UTA played like Rebels without a cause throughout the first half, fumbling, stumbling and looking like they were ready to give Turnpike back to the Spurs.

On their first possession, the Rebels fumbled with a pitchout to Bryan Lancaster at their own 39 and that set the tone for execution in the first half.

The Lutherans were erratic too losing three fumbles. But the Bulldogs had a pretty fair passing game working and that's how they got to the boards with 5:14 left in the half. TLC quarterback lofted passes to Smith and David Doerfler for 31 yards worth of a 43-yard scoring drive. Doerfler got the touch from five yards out through a huge hole over right tackle.

THE REBS passing attack was spectacularly inept, as Taylor completed but one of 14 passes in the first half. The Lutherans picked off one and nearly had three others. When Taylor was able to elude a heavy rush to find receivers, they invaribly dropped the ball.

The Rebs' deepest penetration of the half occurred late in the first half when Calvin Whitmire was short on a 42-yard field goal attempt.

UTA's lone score came on a penalty-aided 76-yard drive late Rebs didn't look particularly in thef ourth quarter and the good even then. Third-string freshman quarterback Steve Cox took the Rebs to the TLC 8 where on a third-down pass attempt, the Bulldogs interfered. The penalty gave UTA first and 1 and tailback Robert Hill, who earned most of the drive's yardage, plunged into the end zone but fumbled. Officials ruled that the fumble ocurred after he had scored.

A fumbled snap on the ensuing PAT effort only added more frustration to a Reb team that had fought poor field position, fumbles (five) intercpetions (three) and lapses in the defensive secondary all night.

There were occasional reminders of last week's fine effort in a 26-20 loss to Southern Mississippi such as lusty tackling by linebacker Fred Bolton and some tricky play in the secondary by Ernest Baptist, who broke up three passes, intercepted one and got a fumble recovery. But offensively, the Rebs went nowhere and collected only 187 yards.

                                        UTA               TLC
First Downs........................20                   16
Passing yardage..................98                 205
Passes.............................8-34             12-24
Passes Intercepted................2                     3
Punts..........................10-40.5            6-35.4
Fumbles Lost........................3                    5
Penalties..........................6-39               7-69

UTA.......................0  0  0  6 - 6
TLC.......................0  7 10 0 - 17

TLC-Doerfler 5-run (Broz kick).
TLC-Smith 36 pass from West (Broz kick).
TLC-Broz 28 FG.
UTA-Hill 1 run (run failed).

Taken from the Dallas Morning News, 10-4-70.

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