Saturday, October 15, 2016

UTA FB Vol. 4 Gm. 7 - The Truest of True Rivals

In this week's entry into the UTA football history series, I may not give as much backstory as I usually do. Simply, I just don't need to with this one.

When I introduce East Texas State, or Texas A&M-Commerce as they are known now, the average fan, the younger fan, and even people my age or older may not know why or even that there was a rivalry. The schools are in different NCAA divisions, don't play anymore and just don't really have anything in common now like they did then.

All that's needed for today's entry is to fill in small gaps and set the stage because today's opponent is just as much a rival then as now; the University of North Texas, or North Texas State University as they were known in 1977.

It's the same North Texas team today that fills the stands when the basketball teams play, or when the volleyball teams play, or when the softball teams get the point. One of the first things true Mavericks do when a schedule is released is look for North Texas and the date, if they didn't already know. It was just as similar then as now.

For much of the 1970's, the teams would play in Texas Stadium, further giving the rivalry some extra flavoring. I don't know how the financials worked, who got the gate in what years, if there was a split, who covered the use of the stadium etc. I just know it worked for UTA because in the 1970's, their home stadium situation was awful.

Of the five times the teams met in the 1970's, the game was played in September four times. UTA's football team played in a baseball stadium with a baseball team and they had very little September home game opportunities. Going to Texas Stadium and playing the Eagles in September was one of the few ways for UTA fans to see their team in DFW early in the season.

And respond the fans did. In 1973, 19,131 saw UTA/UNT at Texas Stadium. The highest home crowd that year was 7,300 at Arlington Stadium. In 1975, the Texas Stadium crowd was 14,978 against 6,300 at home. In 1976, they played in Denton, but in 1977, they returned to Texas Stadium. 17,300 were on hand while 6,500 was the largest home game that year. In 1978, it was 16,821 vs. 7,805. And in 1979, it was 14,297 to 9,303.

It is no coincidence that UTA choose to open Maverick Stadium against North Texas State (they subsequently dropped the State in 1988). The 18,033 on hand was the second highest attended UTA-UNT game in its history and was the most ever in Maverick Stadium for a UTA game. UNT played in Maverick Stadium three times and two of the games are the highest ever at the Mav. The 1984 game would have probably had more were it not for the heavy rains and a 2-8 North Texas record going into the game. Even nature had it out for the UTA football fortunes.

After upsetting the Eagles in 1973, 31-7, NTSU had taken the next two in the series, 14-27 in 1975 and 7-24 in 1976, UTA was looking to even up the series in 1977. The going wouldn't be easy. North Texas entered the game with a 6-0 record and a national ranking. UNT was coached by Hayden Fry and he brought the program success, though it did come with a price.

UNT was one regent vote away from joining UTA as a sans-football University, due mainly to debt incurred during the Fry era. Fry left for Iowa, and UNT has not enjoyed the same type of success since. Their intermintent success has been surrounded by poor performances. The first season in the post-Fry era was a 5-6 record. There have been 11 winning years and 26 losing ones since.

What has endured, however, is a DFW Division I public University rivalry. The seeds were developed in the 1970's with games like today.

On this day in UTA football history, the 1977 Mavericks and Mean Green square off for their annual rivalry at Texas Stadium.

North Texas trips UTA 15-6, in defensive battle


Some 17,300 people gathered in Texas Stadium Saturday night to see another Metroplex brawl.

They saw one, all right. But, in a three-hour staging by North State and UT-Arlington, the partisans didn't know whether to yawn or yell.

Those who enjoy toe-to-toe, all-out warfare in the trenches had themselves a yelling ball. Those who disdain domination by the men upfront ... well, they found it difficult to remain awake.

Out of the hectic defensive struggle, the Mean Green somehow escaped with a 15-6 victory.

This is not exactly what NTSU fandom had expected from the beginning. They arrived on the scene believing their beloveds would carry their national ranking to a romping verdict. They departed, rather thankful, hoping they didn't fall off their No. 18 perch in the UPI poll.

THERE"S NO escaping the fact that Hayden Fry's forces tacked up their sixth consecutive victory, just as there's no denying that Bud Elliott's underdog Mavericks were a mighty inspired bunch.

How do you explain a game which offered so much in offensive expectations and you're treated to little else but defensive?

How do you explain UTA's great fullback, Derrick Jensen, averaging 120 yards per game, was limited to 36?

How do you explain how NTSU's speedy tailback , Mike Jones, with a 107 per-game norm, gained only 18?

There can be only one answer, folks: Magnificent work by the defensive forces up front.

The Who's Who of UTA reads like this: Ends Dwight Carey and Tom Slaughter, tackles Danny Belcher and David Flake, and linebackers Rob Nichelsen, Willie Thomas and Dennis Tripcaux.

NTSU's honor roll lists: Nose guard Walter Chapman, ends Jimmy Odoms and Mark Beaty, tackles Reginald Lewis and Julius Mitchell and linebacker Burks Washington.

Neither the losing nor the winning coaches could have asked more from these men up front. It was their night.

"Our defense looked super," declared Fry.

"Our defense is every bit as good as theirs," said Elliott.

Both men were right.

Example 1: In the 4th quarter, with NTSU encamped at the UTA 25 and nursing a 2-point lead. 1st Down - Carey traps Jones for a 12-yard loss; 2nd Down - Slaughter and Belcher knock quarterback Ken Washington down for 7-yard loss; 3rd Down - Slaughter stops Washington for no game.

Result: NTSU, facing 4th & 29, forced to punt.

Example 2: Trailing by five points, UTA recovered a fumble of the second-half kickoff at the NTSU 5. 1st Down - QB Roy Dewalt goes 4 to the 1. 2nd Down - New QB Craig Carney branded by Odoms for 2-yard loss; 3rd Down - Odoms slams Carney down at the 3.

Result: UTA forced to kick a field goal.

This is the way it went, from the beginning to the end, even though there were six scoring maneuvers, which reads rather shyly at 3-0 UTA, 3-2 UTA, 5-3 NTSU, 8-3 NTSU 8-6 NTSU and finally 15-6 NTSU.

FRY, IF NOT embarrassed, tried to pass it off as a case of the flats.

"Everybody is going to be a little flat sometime in the season. We were obviously flat offensively. We did not go flat on purpose," said the NTSU coach. "It's nothing to brag about, it wasn't picturesque, but I don't want to take anything away from UTA's defense."

Elliott admitted the NTSU defense whipped the middle of his wishbone attack, but vowed: "Not many people thought we had a chance to win, but we honestly felt we could win."

It was an honest feeling that definitely proved true.

UTA leaped off to a 3-0 lead just 6:00 deep in action. The Mavs climaxed their first series with a 25-yard field goal by Tom Skoruppa.

WITH 4:09 LEFT in the initial period, NTSU gained the scoreboard when UTA punter Richard Wilkinson received a low snap, couldn't handle it and was dropped by David Morris for a safety.

That was all the scoring in the first 15 minutes.

It didn't improve much in stanza No. 2. Issed Khoury pumped two field goals for the Mean Green. The first, a 52-yarder, came with 2:46 deep. The second, a 35-yarder, came with 2:00 left.

That 8-3 NTSU advantage at halftime was trimmed by three on Skoruppa's 20-yarder just 2:10 into the third.

That's the way it remained until a little trickery on a reverse, 17-yard halfback pass from Mike Jones paid off to wide receiver Tim Loftin for the game's lone TD with only 5:23 showing on the scoreboard.

All in all, it left a lot to h'all about ... unless, that is, you were one of those at Texas Stadium who loves a brawl up front.

                                      UTA        NTSU
First downs........................10             14
Rushes-yds...................52-73        47-42
Passing yds........................73            168
Return yds.........................63              10
Passes........................6-12-1     14-19-0
Punts..........................8-27.0        7-35.2
Fumbles-lost....................3-1             4-3
Penalties-yds..................6-52           5-41

UTA................3  0  3  0 - 6
North Texas.....2  6  0  7 - 15
UTA-FG Skoruppa 25.
NTSU-Safety Wilkinson tackled in end zone.
NTSU-FG Khoury 52.
NTSU-FG Khoury 35.
UTA-FG Skoruppa 20.
NTSU-Loftin 17 pass from Jones (Khoury kick).

Taken from the Dallas Morning News 10-16-1977.

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