Saturday, November 14, 2015

UTA Football Vol. 3, Game 11: That's a Wrap

When it comes to the 1959 season, I admit I don't know everything. UTA, or rather Arlington State College, had just began their transition to a four-year school and played seven games. I know Coach Claude "Chena" Gilstrap wanted to schedule eight games, but only seven were played. I'm not sure if there was a limit to the number of games or if that's just how hard it was in the race to schedule competition. Now, the NCAA has transitional periods stretching years in advance, but I don't know the rules from over 50 years ago. Coach Gilstrap was quick to the joke about being three-year national champions, so maybe there were some rules in place regarding moving up. Again, I just don't know.

After the season opening win against Southeastern Oklahoma State, the Rebels had hit a wall, losing three in a row to some more established schools, with two names that would become familiar to the University down the line, Sam Houston and Northeast Louisiana (ULM), along with Texas A&I (A&M-Kingsville).

But then the Rebels patched together a two-game winning streak heading into the final game of the season, beating Texas Lutheran and the University that would later become Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (funny to think that the Southland Conference once had three schools that once had the sport, but didn't compete at that time).

There's nothing spectacular about today, other than being the last game of the first University season in Arlington. The Rebels opened the season against Southeastern Oklahoma State at home, they would end it against Southwestern Oklahoma State at home.

In many ways, this is why UTA had the desire to move up that exists even today. At this juncture, these were the peer schools. Take nothing away from these institutions, but UTA now, and ASC then, has/had designs of being more than what they are/were.

They began granting post-graduate degrees within ten years of becoming a four-year University and had eyes on becoming a top flight, dynamic institution. The schools they played in the first decade of competition just didn't fit that mold.

That was a good part of the impetus to move up from the College Division to the University Division in 1971, a move that was planned for a few years before it was implemented. While the team certainly had success on the field in the 1960's, the move was made with a far larger picture in mind than just athletics. Of course, looking back on it, we can easily see the blunders on the sports side of things, but that is another matter.

While I have nothing to prove it, I believe the University devalued it's entire athletic program after the disbandment of the football program. From 1985 (though it may have began with the demotion to I-AA) until President James Spaniolo took over, there wasn't much interest from the higher ups regarding the program. There were very few facility improvements (and those that happened were almost entirely donor driven, rather than from the administration).

However, Spaniolo, coming from the Big 10 where they pride themselves on their academic grouping, saw an opportunity as well as placed a higher value on athletics as a way to elevate academics. That precipitated the move from the Southland, where only three of the members were national research Universities according to U.S. News and World report to the Western Athletic Conference and then the Sun Belt where half or more were. It also led to out beautiful new arena, College Park Center.

That kind of thinking actually began long before 1959. Then ASC had designs on being a much more comprehensive school in the early 1950's while they were still a junior college, where several attempts to move to four-year status failed until finally getting approval at the end of the decade.

But the football coaching staff, players and University as a whole weren't focused on any of that on this day 56 years ago. They were just looking for a victory to end the year with a winning record. On this day in UTA football history, the Rebels finish their inaugural season at home against Southwestern Oklahoma State.

North Star in Rebels' Brightest Victory, 28-7

News Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas - The old man and the sea of passing halfbacks at Arlington State led the Rebels to a 28-7 victory over Southwestern Oklahoma State Saturday night.

Amos North, oldest living Rebel this side of Walter Williams, perked up a puny Rebel attack with a 2-play 50-yard touchdown drive that beat the half-time clock by 53 seconds and erased a 7-0 Bulldog advantage.

After the 29-year old Dallas Adamson product used the wisdom of his age to show his sidekicks the way to victory, Arlington State tallied the first three times it had the ball in the last half and put a solid finish on its claim to the national 3-year college championship.

"Sure, we're the national 3-year champs," Coach Chena Gilstrap has explained on numerous occasions. "After all, we're the only 3-year school in the country."

Being a 3-year school this season had one advantage as the Rebels finished with a 4-3 record: They won't graduate any of these football players.

And from their showing Saturday night, the Rebels left the home folks with a lot of pleasant memories and great expectations.

After fiddling around as the speedy Bulldogs burned for most of the first half, ASC's defense began wearing the visitors down and ASC's offense began wearing the turf out.

The Bulldogs' hard-working fullback, Don Hart, was the battering ram in a 40-yard drive in the first period as the Oklahomans moved into a 7-0 lead.

But North's 35-yard pass to Maurice Peterson, on which the 155-pound halfback made a twisting, diving catch at the flag in the right corner, gave the Rebels their first touchdown and pepped them up like a shot of adrenalin.

The combination worked so well that North faked holding a placement and passed to Peterson for the 2-pointer.

Then the Rebels zeroed in like the latest Sputnik. They moved 85 yards with a second-half kickoff, scoring on Freddie Arnold's 11-pass to Johnny Niederauer.

For a repeat performance, Peterson pitched 11 yards on the identical play to Larry Williamson later in the period to end a 61-yard drive.

But the Rebels weren't standing still on the ground-as witnessed by their 328 yards rushing-and their next 61-yard scoring drive came on quick stabs around the ends and hard rushes inside. North capped it with a sneaky slice off right tackle from seven yards out after sending the defense on a snipe hunt by faking the pitchout.

Bruce Couch and Wayne Crowley did a lot of work in collaring the speedy Bulldogs' wide plays. And while they were turning the trafficStuart Helvey, Tom Beasley, Kenneth Chambers, Heinie Pate and Vernon Beilss were busy stopping it.

                               ASC,            SW Okla.
First downs.................19                          9
Rushing yardage........328                        97
Passing yardage.........132                        58
Passes......................9-22    (unreadable)-10
Passes intercepted by.....2                           2
Punts.....................4-41.0                  6-43.0
Fumbles lost...................3                          2
Penalties................11-165                     2-20

SW Oklahoma..........7  0  0  0 - 7
Arlington State..........0  8 14 6 - 28

SW Oklahoma-Wion 8, pass from Perkins (Barnes kick).
Arlington State-Peteron 35, pass from North (Peterson, pass from North).
Arlington State-Niederauer 11, pass from Arnold (kick failed).
Arlington State-Williamson 11, pass from Peterson (Jones pass from Key).
Arlington State-North 7, run (pass failed).

Taken from the Dallas Morning News, 11-15-59.

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