Texas Still in the Cotton-Picking Picture : Longhorns Send Baylor Bouncing to Liberty, 17-10
When he’s well, Edwin Simmons combines the moves of tumbleweed in a gale with the bulk and power of Bevo the longhorn, the beefy, burnt orange symbol of Texas football.
Simmons stands 6-feet, 4-inches, weighs 233 pounds and is one of the most dangerous runners in America.
The junior tailback, whose career has been largely a series of “what-ifs” prompted mostly by knee injuries, helped Texas pound Baylor, 17-10, here Saturday in front of 78,912 on a gloomy afternoon in the hill country.
Texas thus knocked Baylor out of the running for the Cotton Bowl, and can win itself a trip with a victory over Texas A&M; on Thanksgiving night. Baylor, meanwhile, goes to the Liberty Bowl, probably to play Louisiana State, if the Tigers aren’t in the Sugar Bowl.
Not since 1943 have the Longhorns and Aggies gone head-to-head for the Cotton Bowl invitation. Texas won that showdown, 27-13.
It has been nearly as long since Baylor won a game at Austin. You have to go back to 1951, when Grant Teaff, who’s now the Baylor coach, was a senior in high school.
Teaff, who once ate a worm to fire up his players before a game with Texas, probably would have given his class ring for a win, judging from his postgame conduct. Teaff sequestered himself with his team for more than a half-hour before emerging to describe his hurt.
“I’m not feeling very good right now,” Teaff said. “When you set your goal on the Cotton Bowl and you don’t reach it, it hurts.
“Man, does it hurt. But we’re still looking forward to the Liberty Bowl. We won eight games this year when nobody expected us to win more than three or four.”
In truth, neither was Texas. Most preseason prognosticators consigned the Longhorns to fifth or sixth place in the Southwest Conference, right down there with Baylor.
“I guess that shows a bunch of you guys were wrong,” Simmons said to a group of sportswriters clustered around his locker.
Simmons gained 90 yards in 22 carries and scored a touchdown on a play sure to make the highlight film as he pulverized Baylor’s Jack Hurd. The eight-yard run gave Texas a 7-3 halftime lead.
Simmons also fumbled a couple of times, joining teammate Charles Hunter in helping to keep the game close. Hunter fumbled into the end zone as he was about to score in the first half, prompting Coach Fred Akers to observe: “We were too gratuitous.”
That’s one word that surely never escaped the mouth of Darrell Royal, Bear Bryant or Woody Hayes.
There were other words being whispered about Akers, to the effect that Texas had to win its last two games of the season if his nine-year tenure was to continue.
“You saw the two surprise teams of the conference out there today,” he said. “We handled everything that we had to handle to win.”
The Longhorns had to handle their own sloppiness--four turnovers--and laziness. They were able to do so thanks to a reckless set of blitzing linebackers, who talked as if they were willing to donate their bodies to science.
Texas took a 10-3 lead on a 34-yard field goal by Jeff Ward, giving him a school record of 18 this season. The Longhorns made it 17-3 in the fourth quarter on a 12-yard run by Darron Norris.
Then the team’s loose ways caused trouble.
“I thought we had ‘em,” Simmons said. “Maybe we relaxed too much.”
Baylor then made Simmons, Akers and Bevo nervous with an 82-yard drive that required only three plays. Preceding a 14-yard score by Randy Rutledge was Derrick McAdoo’s 59-yard dash up the middle.
The tension got almost as thick as the mist and fog when Texas quarterback Bret Stafford had a pass intercepted at the Longhorn 10 late in the game.
“It was a good call, but I didn’t throw a good pass,” Stafford said. “I threw it on a line when I should have laid it up more.”
“We blitzed a lot more than normal today,” said linebacker Ty Allert, who was one of a gang of tacklers who reached Baylor quarterback Tom Muecke on fourth down. Two runs and a scramble had moved Baylor only to the Texas six, bringing up fourth down.
“No one had tried to pressure them much all season,” Allert said. “We did it, with our tackles closing down and our ends going after ‘em.
“On the goal line stand, I was blitzing up the middle like a kamikaze, just flying inside.”
Nearby, fellow linebacker Britt Hager talked with the same passion of a dive bomber. “All we were doing was just throwing our bodies around all over the place,” he said, repeating the phrase for emphasis.
“I was sort of looking for a pick route on fourth down, because they’d used it a lot. They went with a quick slant, but it didn’t matter because we sacked the quarterback.”
Watching his dream crumble, Teaff could still accurately characterize this game as “some kind of head-knocker.”
It was legs, not heads, that worried Akers as he thought about the battle with Texas A&M.; “Today was a big drain physically,” he said. “I want our players to stay off their legs for a couple of days so they’ll be ready.”