Oklahoma 16 – Texas 13
October 12, 1974 ▪ at Dallas ▪ Attendance 72,032
In the Red River Rivalry, second-ranked Oklahoma (3-0) would face off against their first ranked opponent, #17 Texas (3-1) in Dallas. It would also be youth vs. experience, as Sooners' second-year coach Barry Switzer carried a 13-0-1 record up against Longhorns' 18-year coach Darrell Royal and his 146-37-3 mark.
Himself a native Oklahoman and one-time Sooners All-American quarterback in '49, Royal took over a Texas program in '57 and put it on the map. In his second year, he beat legendary former coach Bud Wilkinson for the first of six straight times, including the famed '63 contest between the #1 Sooners and the #2 Longhorns, 28-7, en route to Texas' first national championship. Later in the decade, it was Royal who introduced the powerful wishbone triple option offense and used it to reel off a 30-game winning streak and claim two more national titles in '69 and '70.
However, despite owning a 12-5 record in the series, Royal had not beaten the Sooners since then, including three straight history-making losses. First came the '71 game when Oklahoma's wishbone, copied from the Longhorns a year earlier, rolled to a 48-27 victory, Royal's worst loss in the Red River series, and next was a 27-0 spanking in '72, the first shutout of Royal's team in ten years, and then a 52-13 shellacking to the Sooners in '73, his worst head coaching loss ever, also marking only the second time that any opponent had beaten Royal three times in a row. The Longhorns went on to finish the '73 season with their sixth straight Southwest Conference title, and after a 19-3 loss to Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl, posted an 8-3 record. But a bright spot for Texas had been fullback Roosevelt Leaks, a special player in more ways than one.
At a school that had been extremely slow to integrate black players onto their team, the first one dressed in '70 and lettered, coming out of Brenham (TX) High, Leaks was forced to be tolerant in dealing with racism at the school. But the social difficulties included his own teammates having trouble accepting a black player, and combined with his irritation at being listed third string on the depth chart, he considered transferring to Stanford the summer before his sophomore year, '72. Royal was glad he didn't, and Leaks went on to lead the team with 1,099 rushing yards, seven 100-yard rushing games, including a 23-carry 105-yard performance against the Sooners, and scored eight touchdowns. More importantly, he became the first black All-Conference player at Texas. The sportswriters raved about Leaks' quickness, upper-body strength and running style, and his future looked bright.
As a junior in '73, Leaks gained a modest 82 yards on 20 carries against the Sooners, but then came an almost unbelievable span in which he followed with a career-best 209-yard effort at Arkansas and then 193 yards against Rice, before shattering the school's single game record with an amazing 342 yards against SMU. He was thrust into the national spotlight as a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender at a school that had yet to have one, en route to again leading the Longhorns in rushing with 1,455 yards and 14 touchdowns. Leaks became the first black All-American at Texas, but unfortunately, he finished third in the voting for the Heisman behind Penn State halfback John Cappelletti and Ohio State offensive tackle John Hicks, and it tied for the highest finish by a Longhorn. But on an even larger scale, it was Leaks' success that helped ease the path for black players and made it acceptable to gravitate to Texas.
One of those players was Earl Campbell. As a high school senior in '73 at John Tyler in Texas, he had moved over from linebacker to running back and rushed for 2,030 yards, including 164 and two touchdowns in their Class 4A state championship win over Austin Reagan at the Houston Astrodome to complete an undefeated season. It touched off one of the more intense recruiting battles of the time between Texas and Oklahoma, a school that had a longer and more successful track record with black players on the team, dating back 17 years, and with numerous already named to multiple post-season honors. First came a trip to Austin, and he verbally committed to the Longhorns, but keeping his word to Switzer, he visited Norman, and they were also looking good. It was such a fight that Texas even had assistant Ken Dabbs stay in a local Tyler hotel for over two straight weeks, and Campbell had still not decided which school as late as the eve of national letter of intent signing day, but the next morning, he finally committed to the orange.
However, a promising Texas backfield was dealt a crushing blow during spring football practice when Leaks' right kneecap was crushed against a teammate's facemask. After major reconstructive surgery, he defied medical convention that suggested at least nine months of rehabilitation, and returned in time for the Longhorns' '74 season opener at Boston College. But the injury understandably stripped him of a lot of his speed, so Leaks was reduced to second string fullback. With the bulk of the work spread among the backfield, junior halfback Gralyn Wyatt could show a 127-yard performance in a win over Wyoming, while the 180-pound Campbell had carried the ball 55 times for 316 yards over the first four games, a healthy 5.8 yards-per-carry average, and was coming off a 125-yard effort in their most recent win over Washington.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma came in undefeated, but only after surviving a 28-11 scare against Baylor in their opener. The Sooners quickly rebounded and destroyed Utah State, 72-3, including a school-record 42-point first quarter, and Wake Forest, 63-0, and were ranked second in the nation, trailing #1 Ohio State by a mere 20 points overall (1,144-1,124). The Longhorns would easily represent Oklahoma's toughest challenge yet, despite the Sooners being 21-point favorites.
In front of over 72,000 fans at the Cotton Bowl, Texas received the kickoff first. On the fifth play of the game, Oklahoma junior defensive end Jimbo Elrod tackled sophomore end Raymond Clayborn and shook the ball loose, and junior right cornerback Eric Van Camp recovered at the Texas 35. As expected, junior quarterback Steve Davis directed the Sooners' vaunted wishbone, which came in leading the nation in rushing by averaging 488 yards per game and 6.4 yards per carry, down to the six. From there, spectacular junior halfback Joe Washington, whose hand-painted silver shoes in the first three games had carried him for 362 yards on just 34 carries, an unbelievable average of 10.6 yards per carry, and four touchdowns, had the ball jarred loose by freshman cornerback Alfred Jackson, and junior back Fred Sarchet recovered to end the threat.
The game took on an aura of give away, when Oklahoma senior safety Randy Hughes jumped on another Longhorn fumble at the 27 seconds later. This time, the Sooners moved even closer, using five plays to put the ball at the Texas three. But on the next play, Davis fumbled as he was going into the end zone, and Sam Mason recovered for a touchback. Two golden opportunities for Oklahoma had slipped through their hands, and instead of being on their way to a possible rout, the first period went on to end scoreless.
Again in the second period, it was the two defenses that continued to play well and limit the offenses. Midway through the stanza, starting from its 26, Oklahoma mounted a 52-yard drive that stalled at the Texas 22. Switzer sent in junior Tony DiRienzo, a soccer-style kicker and Brazilian exchange student by way of Ardmore (TX), but his 37-yard field goal attempt missed, so the game remained 0-0.
Later in the period, the Sooners got a break when Texas senior Mike Dean's punt sailed towards Washington, but Clayborn interfered with him while trying to catch the ball, and the penalty set Oklahoma up at the Longhorn 43. First Davis ran for four yards, and then he passed to senior tight end Wayne Hoffman for 13, before Washington picked up another four. Faced with a second down-and-six at the 22, Davis kept the ball himself, followed crisp blocks by junior fullback Jim Littrell and senior halfback Grant Burget, and dashed off left tackle all the way to pay dirt for the game's first score. Senior straightaway kicker John Carroll added the extra point, and Oklahoma led 7-0 with 3:01 left in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Texas ran a gadget play. Jackson received the ball at the seven, but he slipped it to stationary senior split end Pat Padgett on his way past, and with his back to all the oncoming traffic, he handed the ball off to the speedy Clayton, who took off down the sideline. Only a saving tackle by sophomore defensive back Scott Hill kept the play from going all the way, bringing him down at the Oklahoma 38 after a 55-yard return. Five Longhorn plays moved the ball to the 25, but then Elrod made two key stops, and on fourth down senior kicker Billy Schott's 41-yard field goal with 16 seconds showing on the clock made it a 7-3 game at halftime.
Oklahoma had Texas in check in the first half with good kicking and a tough defense, led by senior All-American linebacker Rod Shoate and a pair of junior tackles, Selmon brothers Dewey and Lee Roy. But it was the kicking that backfired early in the second half, as Carroll shanked a punt only 13 yards, and Texas had the ball on the Sooner 33. Five plays later, four of them featuring the fullback, the Longhorns were at the 12. From there, Campbell followed sophomore tackle Joe Samford's block and burst through the hole and navigated the dozen yards necessary to cross the goal line putting the Longhorns up, 9-7, and Oklahoma was behind for the first time in seven games. Schott's extra point made it 10-7 with 10:15 showing on the clock in the third.
On the Sooners' next possession, the Texas defense again controlled the wishbone, and forced a punt from the 19. This time, Littrell's kick sailed only 26 yards before going out of bounds at the 45. Fortunately, a Longhorn threat never materialized far enough, and Schott's 55-yard field goal attempt was wide.
Late in the period, once again Texas held, and their offense took over at its 20. Junior quarterback Marty Akins guided the team on a sustained drive and into Oklahoma territory, including his 29-yard completion to Padgett. At the 43, they were faced with a key third down-and-two. This time it was Leaks who lunged between Dewey Selmon and Shoate for a gain of three, moving the chains. Four plays later, bridging into the fourth quarter, sophomore cornerback Sidney Brown, whose jaw had recently been broken, and senior linebacker Gary Gibbs collaborated to throw Clayborn for a two-yard loss. On the next play, Lee Roy and Elrod dumped Campbell, and that forced the Horns to settle for Schott's 38-yard field goal to cap the nine-play 58-yard drive and put Texas ahead, 13-7, with 14:09 left in the game.
It seemed like more than ample time for Davis and the suddenly erratic Oklahoma wishbone to get revved up, and they took possession at its 34. Seven plays later, the offense had moved 26 yards and into Texas territory at the 40, but were faced with a third-and-seven. Davis worked to the left down the line and pitched to junior split end Billy Brooks, who came back against the flow and circled to the right facing minimum resistance and with a three-man convoy, and after senior center Kyle Davis' block wiped out the only Longhorn in the way, Brooks sailed along the clear path for a 40-yard touchdown scamper amid cheers from their crimson fans, and it tied the game, 13-13. Carroll came on to kick the extra point, and he insisted his narrow boot was good, but the referees thought otherwise, and called it wide, leaving the game tied with 11:20 left to play.
Texas obviously got a reprieve, and on their next possession, they were pounding the ball away at the Sooners, and driving, all the way from the 20 to midfield, where they were faced with a critical fourth-and-one. Going up the middle, Akins handed off to Campbell, and bobbling the ball while lunging forward, he made the first down, but the pigskin did not, blasted out of his hands by Lee Roy's hit. It seemed fitting that Shoate, who had been a menace all over the field, recovered at the 50 with 8:59 left.
Presented with a great opportunity, Davis went to work. He needed seven plays, one being freshman halfback Elvis Peacock's 14-yard run, but the Sooners could get no closer than the 20. Switzer sent in DiRienzo. His 37-yard field goal sailed through the uprights to give Oklahoma the lead, 16-13, with 5:25 left in the game.
Texas was not about to give up, and the heroics were not over for the Sooners' defense. Akins drove the offense into enemy territory and most of the way down the field for a tying field goal attempt or a possible winning touchdown, but when Leaks fumbled the ball at the Oklahoma 18 and Lee Roy Selmon recovered with 57 seconds left, the Longhorns' last hopes had withered away. And as the clock ran down, the Sooners had moved down to the four-yard line, elated to escape with a 16-13 victory.
DiRienzo's kick proved to be the difference, but it was the Oklahoma defense that was to be commended. They limited Texas to 209 total yards, with 162 coming via the ground on 56 attempts. Easily the player of the game had to be Shoate, who finished with 21 tackles, broke up two passes, forced a fumble and recovered the last one, even though he had injured his arm in the first half.
Meanwhile, Texas' defense "held" the wishbone to 353 yards, 135 below their average. Washington continued to show why he should be a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate by ripping for 122 yards on 26 carries, while Davis had picked up 71 yards among his 27 attempts. And as a testament to how hard it was fought in the trenches, 270-pound sophomore offensive tackle Mike Vaughan reportedly passed out after the game from exhaustion.
What was supposed to be a test for the Sooners very nearly turned out to be a final exam. Said Switzer afterwards, "As coach Royal says, this is a game of inches. This was as close as a game can be."
Source: Jeff Linkowski