We're dredging up the kind of history no one wants to remember. We owe it you, our valued readers, to give a thorough and complete accounting of such history, the good, the bad, and most certainly the ugly. Welcome to our new series, Bad Beats, the epic beatdowns in the history of Texas College football. Relax, everyone gets a turn.
Jake Bleepin' Mullin. Put it on a billboard on 1604 North, Jake Bleepin' Mullin. Bad beats heads south down 35 to the indoor prairie that is the Alamodome and the newest FBS program in the state, UTSA. The Roadrunners didn't suffer the usual issues a startup deals with; the Roadrunners hit the ground running by welcoming 56,743 to the Dome as they went to work on Northeastern State, much to the delight of the assembled masses.
A week later McMurry bussed into the River City.
But First, A Caveat.
A brief aside, in the 2000's college sports cracked down on Native American mascots. Northeastern State, once known as the Redmen, changed their nickname to the Riverhawks. Around the same time McMurry, know for most of its history as the Indians changed their name to the War Hawks. Louisiana Monroe did the same. Exactly the same. It's as though as penance for any offense caused to Native Americans, you had to use the word Hawk with a random modifier.
McMurry's first President, J.W. Hunt, grew up on a reservation and saw the name as a point of pride. The NCAA rejected McMurry's bid to keep their name even with endorsements from several tribes including the Kiowa and Comanches.
Oddly the NCAA allowed Florida State to retain their Native American mascot, including the white dude riding a horse and literally throwing a spear. Illinois is still the Illini even though only recently the University discontinued the practice of running out a white guy in full Indian garb to perform a "Native American" dance before basketball games. At least the NCAA stuck it to McMurry. Our friends in Indianapolis are always looking out for the little guy.
Back to the bad beat.
History of Hal
Hal Mumme is a polarizing figure. The San Antonio Native came up through the Texas High School coaching ranks, ascending to head coach at Kentucky before the roller coaster took a dive and dropped him off at such scenic vistas as Southeastern Louisiana, New Mexico State, and McMurry.
Mumme borrowed his offensive approach from LaVell Edwards' BYU teams and evolved his attack into a chuck and duck style few had ever seen. He made Valdosta State a power once again, and the SEC came calling. Mumme fit right into the league if only for the way he seemed to ooze lack of institutional control.
His tactics, both legal and illegal were good enough to send Kentucky to its first New Year's Day Bowl in a half century and trick the Cleveland Browns into drafting his protege quarterback Tim Couch as the first overall selection in the 1999 NFL draft as the Browns returned to the league. Cleveland has since doubled down on lousy quarterback selections, but Couch can always claim to be the first nudge in the rolling ball of butcher knives that makes Cleveland just so Cleveland.
Mumme moved his blond pompadour to Abilene and McMurry in 2009 and brought his pass-happy attack to the Big Country. His job was to elevate McMurry beyond Division III, perhaps as high as his aspirations could take them or the Southland, whichever came first. Mumme led McMurry to their first ever Division II playoff appearance in 2011. A year later he was off again, never stay anywhere too long. He took up with June Jones' sinking ship at SMU and now plies his craft for Jackson State in the SWAC.
His coaching tree is impressive and probably a hell of a lot of fun at parties. It includes Mike Leach, Dana Holgorsen, Sonny Dykes, Neal Brown, Art Briles, Kliff Kingsbury, Tony Franklin, Chris Hatcher, and Seth Littrell.
Meanwhile, as Mumme was showing disdain for the run, Larry Coker was brought to UTSA to build a football program from the ground up. And that's precisely what he did. The former Miami head man, gave the Roadrunners instant credibility and a steady hand to navigate the treacherous world of program building.
Coker walked onto a UTSA campus that didn't have a locker room, helmets, or a marching band. What UTSA had in spades was hunger. San Antonio had long been an outpost, a stop for college football. The local community supported the Alamo Bowl every year, supported a thriving high school football scene, and even Division III Trinity, but never a big time team to call its own.
Sure the Cowboys and Oilers staged training camps in San Antonio on occasions, but they always packed up and went home. The Gunslingers tried to make a go of it in the USFL and the Canadian Football League set up shop temporarily, but no one stuck around. The city served as a bargaining chip for NFL franchises to use in stadium negotiations. The Raiders and Saints spring to mind, but they both went back to Oakland and New Orleans respectively with better parking or concession deals from their local municipalities.
When almost 60,000 showed up for the UTSA's first football game, AD Lynn Hickey and the administration knew they'd hit that most precious of all Texas commodities, football fans starved for a team to love them back.
4th and 5
The War Hawks opened the 2011 season with a 76 point loss to Stephen F. Austin. Yes, SFA covered the spread in their 82-6 pasting. The Lumberjacks accumulated 744 yards to McMurry's 128 in the opener. As McMurry limped into San Antonio, the Roadrunners hit on all cylinders against Northeastern. Eric Soza looked like a dynamic quarterback, rushing for over 100 yards and passing for 232 yards. UTSA scored touchdowns on their first three drives and rolled to a 31-3 win.
College football ain't hard.
Until it is.
Against McMurry, the Roadrunners couldn't stop tripping over themselves. Penalties, blown assignments, and turnovers led to a 10-0 War Hawk halftime advantage. A UTSA pick set the Roadrunners up for their first score and seemed to turn the tide. UTSA outgained McMurry 172 to 21 in the 3rd quarter and ran out to a 14-10 lead.
Then the game got hard again.
UTSA's offense stalled and worse; special teams handed the lead back as Markell Rice returned a blocked punt eight yards for a score midway through the fourth. Roadrunner special teams weren't that special, missing two field goals, surrendering a blocked kick touchdown, and drilling two kickoffs out of bounds.
Still, the Roadrunners fought back, causing a fumble on a punt return and driving 46 yards in five plays for a go-ahead score with just over three minutes to play. Hal Mumme, flaming blonde hair at the ready, were waiting on the visiting sideline. So was his record-setting, All-American quarterback, Jake Mullin.
Odd plays happen at odd times and on those odd occasions you get the feeling the fickled fairy of fate is going to thump you square in the privates. A play that seems so out of context that you just think, you know, it might not be our night.
McMurry and Mullin drove to their 37-yard line where they faced a fourth and five. One stop from a win, all the marbles exposed, as UTSA's defense lined up.
If Marcus Davenport had a precursor, it might well have been Marlon Smith. Smith was a lanky basketball player who tried out for UTSA's fledgling ball club. Smith played hoops for St. Mary's, and at 6-6 225, he looked like a stretch three playing defensive end. But he put up numbers, including eight sacks in his first and only season playing for the 'Runners. He went on to a career in the CFL for the Ottawa Redblacks. That name sounds racist by the way, why not the Red Hawks?
On fourth down, Mullin dropped back and Smith, coming from his defensive end position, flushed Mullin to his right and made contact just prior to release. Mullin let fly a wounded duck. No worse than that, a dead duck that landed flaccidly in the arms of Austin Brooks, the only catch Brooks would make that afternoon, and one of only six he'd make all of 2011. Brooks, who looked as surprised as anyone that the ball landed in his lap, broke upfield, weaving and staggering through Roadrunner defenders for 30 yards.
And the building fell silent. The fickled fairy of fate snapped a towel directly onto UTSA's nether region. What's done was done, made official when two plays later Mullins drilled tight end Delfonte Diamond for 32 yards and the go ahead touchdown as a helpless UTSA defender could only waive wildly as the ball passed over his head.
The Roadrunners had one last chance with nineteen seconds left and attempted a last-ditch miracle ending, executing a number of laterals, some of which were of the illegal forward pass variety, only to have the ball fall harmlessly at the 20 yards line as time expired.
The fickled fairy of fate had vacated the building was apparently two drinks into her night at the Esquire Tavern.
McMurry served as a cruel welcome to college football, where one week you're on top of the world, the next week you're watching Jake Bleepin' Mullin tear your heart out.