It was a whirlwind week for the UTA football program leading up to this one. After starting the year 1-3, coach Elliott said his team may not lose another game. The Movin' Mavs beat Wichita State, then Lamar 21-0, New Mexico State, 28-7 and Arkansas State, 28-19 to move their record to 5-3.
After that, the squad dropped a 20-16 road game to McNeese State and a 24-17 home contest to Louisiana Tech, moving their record to 5-5, and maybe more importantly, dropping their conference record to 2-3. With that, a season that started with so much hype and promise, would turn out to be one of the worst conference records and finishes in a long time. Coupled with 1982's 1-4 tie for fourth, Coach Elliott had gone 3-7 in SLC play in two years to this point after winning the conference title in 1981.
With the perceived talent at his disposal and more resources given with the opening of Maverick Stadium and re-classification to Division I-AA, the Athletic Council thought this was unacceptable. On the Thursday prior to this week's game, UTA elected not to renew the contract of dean of the Southland Conference, effectively firing the ten-year coach.
It is really difficult to judge the man's resume while at UTA. The school had fewer scholarships, recruiting money, poor stadium and an overall lack of abilities compared to other institutions within the SLC for varying points in his tenure. His record may be somewhat misleading, 46-63 to this point, as he was 25-25 in conference play entering today's game. Factor in the 2-8 combined SLC record his first two rebuilding years and his SLC record looks pretty good when you consider UTA was on the low end of football and athletic resources. He won with less than his peers.
There's no denying there is a lot of sloppy play during his tenure, as I've detailed before, but there is also no denying that UTA was a poorly run athletic department until this point.
But, he was a winning coach at at four of the six schools he coached. His overall record was 205-179-9. Factor out UTA, and his 159-115-9 record looks much better.
Bottom line, he made UTA competitive at a time when they weren't really. His greatest weakness may have been the inability to get community, both University and Arlington, to buy into the program. Ultimately, that may have been his death knell.
The team had the talent, no question. In the backfield was a hefty 1-2 punch. Junior Scotty Caldwell, who finished as UTA's career leader in TD's and second in total rushing. With him was Randy Johnson, who was a first-team all-SLC pick in 1981. His name appears in various forms over the single-season record books and he may have been in the ranks of Caldwell or Derrick Jensen if he didn't battle injuries through his career. Future NFL lineman Bruce Collie and Mark Cannon anchored the offensive line and both would end up on the SLC first team. Andre Gray, top five all-time receiving yards, was one of the better split ends to play in UTA's rushing first offense.
Quarterback Danny Jackson, who never was really favored by Coach Elliot, was the first QB to have a completion percentage over .500 for a season and is second all-time in that category. He made plays when he had to and much of the team was 4-1 when he started a game in 1983 and was 1-4 when he didn't. I look back and see very poor managerial skills by Coach Elliott here. He liked Kraig Hopkins more, but he was often injured. In the four game win streak, Jackson was the starter for all but one. The losing streak started when Jackson was yanked out in favor of Hopkins. In many of the losses, Jackson was alternated with Hopkins and Ned Frederick. The offense was inconsistent and poorly. I'm never a fan of alternating QB's in a game because it ruins their rhythm. In this case, all Jackson did was win, and Coach Elliott still went with someone else. That may have ended up costing him.
On the defensive side, UTA had competent linebackers in seniors David Patterson, George Holmes and Noel Spraggins, who were first, third and fifth in tackles respectively. Junior defensive end Dennis Golsch led the team with six sacks. The secondary was by far the better part of the secondary as senior safety Stacy Rayfield would tie Patterson for the team lead in tackles and future NFL star Tim McKyer was already making a name for himself. The 1981 SLC freshman of the year, Willie Wiggins manned the other safety position.
In all UTA returned six starters on offense, five on defense and solid kicker Scott Tennison. There were 35 returning letterman and lots of redshirt and transfer talent. The Southland Conference's coaches picked UTA third out of seven while the media folks picked the Mavs second.
In a fitting way, today's opponent was a team that had handled Coach Elliott quite easily, at least in the end result. While easily a rival, North Texas State was hardly a competitive series during the Elliott era. Coming into today, he was 1-7 against the Mean Green, with the sole victory coming on a 7-6 win in 1981. For the most part the scores were decent, with three of the losses coming within ten points, but the end result was the same.
It may not be a fair comparison to make, but UTA is 2-1 against the Mean Green in non-Elliott-coached games. UNT's apex as a football team came during the Hayden Fry era, which coincided with the Elliott era at UTA. UNT would be ranked a few times in the late 1970's. Ironically, those games were some of the closest in the lose column.
Coach Elliott has been on record as saying some of his team focused too much on NTSU, and the loss led to a let down where they lost to teams they shouldn't have because of that. Since the Denton-rivals joined the SLC, that would no longer be the issue. That would be the final game of the regular season, and they certainly wouldn't have to worry about that today.
In the final entry of the year, on this day in UTA football history, head coach Harold "Bud" Elliott closes out his ten-year UTA career versus the North Texas State Eagles.
North Texas SLC co-champs, 52-15
By Steve Tracy
Staff Writer of The News
DENTON - North Texas State won the Southland Conference co-championship and a spot in the national NCAA playoffs Saturday with a Nebraska-style 52-15 victory over the University of Texas-Arlington at Fouts Field.
The NTSU scoring spree - thanks mainly to an offensive line and a long list of backs that dismantled UTA's rush defense - was aimed directly at he NCAA selection committee. The committee will determine pairings and give byes to the top four seeded teams Sunday.
"That's what we're hoping for and that's why we wanted to put the points on the board," NTSU coach Corky Nelson said. "I think we're one of the top four Division I-AA teams in the nation and deserve a bye. The kids worked for it and this success has been a long time coming."
The victory, before 11,400 completed a near miracle season in which the Eagles, with Nelson in his second season and coming off a 2-9 year, finished their regular season at 8-3and tied Northeast Louisiana for the SLC title at 5-1. North Texas will advance to the national playoffs through the SLCs automatic bid on the basis of a 27-7 victory of NEL last week.
The UTA loss also marked the end of coach Bud Elliott's 10-year tenure as head coach. Elliott was fired Thursday, effective following the NTSU game, and ends his UTA career with a 46-64 record.
"I was worried that we would look past this game," NTSU quarterback Greg Carter said. "With all the talk about the playoffs and everything, it would have been easy, but everybody played to their peak. The offensive line and the backs had a tremendous game."
NTSU gained 372 yards rushing against the Southland's last-place rush defense. Junior fullback Nathan Williams totaled 142 yards on 26 carries for one touchdown and junior tailback Richard Buckingham rushed for 72 yards and two touchdowns.
Carter, the leading candidate for All-Southand quarterback honors, rushed for 62 yards and one touchdown, completing 8-of-17 passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
"I wanted to beat North Texas. It would have been ironic," Elliott said. "North Texas is a good football team. They are playing very well. Our kids played with a lot of heart, but our execution wasn't the best we've ever had."
UTA lost five fumbles and was intercepted once. NTSU converted three of the turnovers into touchdowns, including two in a crucial 21-point second quarter.
Holding a 10-7 lead after UTA scored on a 15-yard run by Scotty Caldwell with 8:13 let in the third quarter, NTSU put its rushing game to work against a strong wind that gusted to 40 mph.
Williams capped a long 13-play, 74-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown dive with 5:26 left in the half. The Eagles then took in two consecutive UTA fumbles for touchdowns.
The first came on a fumble by Mavericks quarterback Danny Jackson, which NTSU's Mike Sizelove recovered on UTA's nine. Three plays later, Carter handed to Buckingham for a 1-yard TD run.
On the following kickoff, Eagle Alfred Anderson hit UTA kickoff receiver Stacy Rayfield, causing a fumble that was recovered by NTSU's Lance White on UTA's 19. Five plays later, Carter hit Tim Kerschen - his first reception of the season - with a 16-yard scoring pass.
NTSU blew open a 10-7 game, entering halftime with a 31-7 lead.
"The second quarter was crucial," Nelson said. "We were going against the wind and didn't want them to get the ball (with the wind). We relied on our rushing game, and it produced."
UTA managed to stay within distance with a 27-yard fumble return by David Phillips with 8:41 left in the third quarter that made it 31-15. But then the Mavericks fumbled on two straight scoring opportunities.
NTSU scored three more touchdowns, the final on a flashy 20-yard pass from backup quarterback Scott Toman to Brady Davis with 1:12 left to play. Davis tipped the ball and then picked it up between two defenders.
"This game was for the seniors," Nelson said. "They have come through this season with leadership and talent over anyone's hopes. They have worked in this program a long time and deserve the success."
Texas Arlington........0 7 8 0-15
N. Texas St............10 21 7 14-52
NTS-Buckingham 16 run (Bresnahan kick)
NTS-FG Bresnaham 38
UTA-Caldwell 15 run (Tennison kick)
NTS-Williams 1 run (Bresnahan kick)
NTS-Buckingham 1 run (Bresnahan kick)
NTS-Kerschen 8 pass from Carter (Bresnahan kick)
UTA-Phillips 27 fumble return (Gray pass from Blue)
NTS-Carter 26 run (Bresnahan kick)
NTS-Moore 18 pass from Carter (Bresnahan kick)
NTS-Davis 20 pass Toman (Bresnahan kick
First downs......................12 25
Passing yards..................118 143
Return yards.....................42 46
Time of Possession......23:49 36:11
RUSHING - UTA: Randy Johnson 13-64, Phil Blue 5-41, Scotty Caldwell 10-28, Willie Meredith 3-15, Danny Jackson 4-14, Roger Williams 3-6, Andre Gray 1-5, Robert Brodner 1-2; NTSU: Nathan Williams 26-142, Richard Buckingham 15-71, Greg Carter 13-62, Sid Moore 7-28, Greg Lee 3-25, Floyd Williams 4-23, Scott Toman 2-4.
PASSING - UTA: Jackson 3-5-0-41, Blue 4-10-1-77; NTSU: Carter 8-17-0-104, Toman 2-2-0-39.
RECEIVING - UTA: Gray 4-70, Jon Dyer 2-37, Reggie Brooks 1-11; NTSU: Brady Davis 2-39, Tim Wasson 2-34, Williams 1-19, Tony Merriwether 2-13, Moore 1-18, Tim Kerschen 1-8, Mike Faggett 1-12.
An emotional ending for Elliott
By Tim Price
Special to the News
DENTON - At the close of Saturday's North Texas State-UTA game at Fouts Field, both coaches started down different roads.
North Texas State coach Corky Nelson, whose Mean Green defeated UTA, 52-15, will prepare his team for the national NCAA Division I-AA playoffs. UTA coach Bud Elliott will begin looking for a new job.
Elliott was fired Thursday, effective following the NTSU game, after a season that began with high hopes then quickly went downhill. The Mavericks were picked to finish second in the Southland Conference, but finished the season at 5-6 overall and 2-4 in the league - tied for fifth place.
"I think we've enough class that there wasn't anything that anybody could have said or done that would have changed our preparation for this game," Elliott said concerning the question of the team being distracted by Thursday's firing.
"We were pretty determined," junior tight end Jon Dyer said. "We wanted to beat North Texas. Maybe we tried too hard."
Another losing season record, along with only two season above .500 in his 10-year tenure, were given as reasons for Elliott's firing. He stands at 46-64 at UTA and 110-91-6 after 20 years in coaching.
Speculation around the UTA campus has Elliott looking for another collegiate job or an assistant's post in the pros. Elliott, emotional in his responses following the game, did not want to comment on his future.
"I don't even want to talk about that right now," he said.
Said NTSU's Nelson, "He's done a good job at UTA and I think a lot of Bud Elliott. I hate to see him go out...it's a loss to the conference."
Mavericks assistant coaches and players met and shook hands with Elliott following the game in an emotional ending to his career at UTA,
"He's a good man and has been a good coach," Dyer said. "but it (his leaving) will probably work out better for everyone."