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.
If you were a TCU football fan in the 1970s, God bless you; you've done hard time. From 1970 to 1983 the Horned Frogs averaged 2.3 wins a year, went winless once, and one just one in three different seasons. All that after the Frogs were a hair's breadth from being a national power in the 50s. Abe Martin's TCU program finished in the AP Top ten three times from 1951 to 1960.
Then the wheels fell off and caught fire. Abe Martin's last team finished 2-8, and Fred Taylor's lurked just below mediocrity. TCU hired Jim Pittman in 1971, but he tragically died on the sidelines in his only season. TCU limped from 1966 to 1983 without a winning record. And the sad thing is they were trying. TCU was in a prime recruiting territory, and they had a booster contingent that cared, even to the point of cheating - par for the course in the old SWC. F.A. Dry's program went to great lengths to play players, even using a local pizzeria to make cash drops, all to no avail.
The low point came in 1974 when Texas and its burnt orange crush drove up I-35.
"We Don't Have the Personnel to Match Any Team We've Played"
Jim Shofner had seen the Horned Frogs at their best, the Fort Worth native, played for Abe Martin's teams of the mid-50s. The Browns drafted him the first round of the 1958 NFL draft, and after a stint in the league, Shofner came back to Fort Worth to coach on Martin's last staff. He returned to the league as an assistant in '67, but when the Frogs called in January of '74, he came home.
Shofner brought a pro-style system to a Southwest Conference where the wishbone reigned. Shofner admitted that he didn't have enough time to install his complicated offense, but he found his teams confidence reassuring nonetheless. If it's one thing 19-year-olds have in abundance, it's confidence. If there's one thing that TCU lacked, it was the ability to play football.
Their opener against Texas-Arlington was sobering. The Frogs struggled to implement their new system and skimped by against the underdog Mavericks 12-3. If only the Frogs had known the UTA win would be their last for 20 games, they might have celebrated more.
The Frogs played tough, losing by just 17 points at 8th ranked Texas A&M and falling to eventual conference champion Baylor by 14. The Frogs ground came was pitiful, exceeded only in futility by their ability to keep the quarterback upright and in good working order. In their loss to A&M TCU ran for minus 58 yards. The Aggies sacked TCU quarterbacks twelve times.
Frog quarterbacks also showed a tendency to throw the ball to the wrong colored jersey. A week before the Texas bloodletting, TCU quarterbacks combined to complete 5 of 30 attempts at Texas Tech, while completing four strikes to Red Raider defenders.
Shofner's 1-8 Frogs limped home over the Caprock and waited for Darrell Royal's Longhorns to storm the gates.
Campbell, Leaks, English, and Darrell
Texas boasted not one, but two road-grading running backs. Earl Campbell was a freshman in 1974, but that didn't stop Royal from inserting his prized recruit into the fray. Royal needed help at running back especially with star Roosevelt Leaks out with a knee injury. Royal was convinced that Leaks would miss the year, Leaks thought otherwise. A week into the season, Leaks was back.
Texas now had a full complement of game breakers with Campbell at fullback, Leaks at one right halfback and a combination of freshman Gralyn Wyatt speedster Raymond Clayborn. Texas' wishbone had not one but two capable trigger men in Marty Akins and Mike Presley. On defense, Texas deployed Doug English, an All-American at tackle and Sherman Lee at linebacker.
But Texas suffered from a variety of injuries on both sides of the ball, and those injuries caught up with the Horns against Baylor when the Bears ran them ragged in the second half. Neal Jeffrey torched Texas' young secondary and Royal's program was struggling against teams like Texas Tech and Baylor. Still, the Longhorns ranked in the top 15 in the country before the loss to Baylor.
Five Minutes Late, 65 Points Behind
Royal quipped during the week that his 29 point favorite Longhorns were a paper tiger. They'd be lucky to score 29 points total the way TCU was playing defense. The Frogs weren't to be taken lightly. Texas had just blown a seventeen point lead at Baylor the week before an event so unheard of; it shocked the college football universe. Royal contended that it was TCU the Horns needed to concern themselves with rather than the heartbreak at Baylor.
In the week leading up, Royal said if he could sneak out with a one-point win, he'd take it. He wouldn't be sneaking out of Fort Worth; he'd be leaving it in ruins.
The Longhorns took the field in Fort Worth ready to forget about Baylor. They would have to wait. TCU was five minutes late taking the field, delaying kick off. Perhaps they'd be better served just hanging out in the locker room.
Texas scored on eight of its nine first-half possession including, with seven of those being touchdowns. The 52 first-half points were the most ever by a Texas squad. The one possession Texas didn't score on, TCU obliged and fumbled the return right back.
By the second quarter, Royal was playing third stringers. Eighteen minutes in and starting quarterback Marty Akins was sitting on the bench. Akins told Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman that he did cross his legs "four or five different way, I was just hoping it would get over, I was cold."
Texas tackle Bob Simmons spent the second half talking to friends in the stands. All 62 players on Texas' traveling roster played in the game.
TCU wasn't enjoying the leisure afternoon.
The Frogs quarterback duo of Lee Cook and Jimmy Dan Elzner ran for their lives. When they were able to unleash a spiral, Texas defenders picked them off four times. When Texas wasn't intercepting the ball, they were simply picking it up off the ground where the Frogs left it.
Down by 52 at the half, TCU kicked off to start the second half when Alfred Jackson returned it 90 yards. Royal began actively trying to "hold the score down." Texas' leading rusher was its third team fullback, David Bartek. On the afternoon Texas scored on rushing plays, a pass, an interception, and a safety. They also scored on a school-record 56-yard field goal.
The game became so lopsided that Texas' holder attempted and converted an extra point and Texas' kicker caught a five-yard pass. After the game, Raymond Clayborn told the media that he didn't score because "he didn't need to." TCU was up to hijinks; they were trying to gain a yard rushing. They didn't. On the afternoon they mustered minus one yard on the ground.
Afterward, Shofner characterized his team's role in the ass kicking a simply "pitiful." Shofner offered to apologize to Royal for his team's ineptitude. The 30,000 in attendance probably needed an apology as well. Unless they were Texas fans, who enjoyed the afternoon immensely.