In the stands the fanatics who follow the Texas Longhorns have this husky chant which goes, "Woo...woo...woo," and one is given to understand that it is a call for Steve Worster, the fullback, to get the football and make a Wooburger out of whoever gets in his way. Worster generally does. Meanwhile, at parties before and after the games, the same fanatics have a quieter chant, "Saint...Saint...Saint," which is for Darrell Royal, the coach: St. Darrell, who will always think of something right. This is what life is like around the team with the nation's longest winning streak—24 in a row, as of Oklahoma's annual burial last week—the team which may or may not be as good as the national champions of a year ago.
It has been next to impossible to say exactly how good the Longhorns are, just as it has been with Ohio State and Notre Dame, and the 41-9 victory over Oklahoma did nothing, really, to clear up the matter. The Saturday before, it was tempting to insinuate that Royal's 1970 team, a team minus James Street and a few other heroes, was probably not the equal of the 1969 outfit that went around annihilating people of lesser quality—and thinking up miracles to defeat the tough guys from Arkansas and Notre Dame. The reason was that Texas had to have another of those miracles to get past a UCLA team which performed perfectly for Coach Tommy Prothro. Texas had to hit a 45-yard touchdown pass with only 12 seconds left to play to scramble past the Bruins 20-17. Until that instant, there had been a question as to whether Texas had another wonder worker like James Street.
Royal had been insisting that his new quarterback, junior Eddie Phillips, was, if anything, a better athlete than Street and just as talented at making the Texas offense work. The Texas offense, of course, is that thing called the Wishbone Triple, an attack that requires perfect timing and split-second decisions.
"Phillips," Royal said, "is a kid who just smiles all the time and loves to practice and play football. He's good on the option, almost instinctive with it. But we don't know if he'll have that thing Street had. You know, something good just sort of followed James around and waited to happen."
October 18, 1970
In Phillips' case, that something good did happen against UCLA. Phillips threw the pass that Cotton Speyrer caught to overtake the Bruins and keep the Texas win streak alive. Thus, he had accomplished at least once what Street accomplished more or less regularly.
Still, how good was Texas? "Coming along," Royal said. "Prothro didn't come riding into Austin on a wagonload of wood. UCLA played great and they showed us a defensive scheme we hadn't seen. Considering that, we did all right. There are a lot of people who think that all we have to do to win is put on the orange shirts, line up in the Wishbone and say bang. That isn't true."
And so it was back to the Oklahoma game for what would surely be a better gauge on Texas. Oklahoma had two weeks to get ready, and Chuck Fairbanks used the time to put in the Wishbone Triple. He also decided to go with an eight-man line, hoping to force Texas to pass. Neither plan worked very well, although Oklahoma took a 3-0 lead, and so Texas was pressured into coming from behind for the eighth time in this win streak.
The Sooners got an early break by recovering a fumble on the Texas five-yard line but they could not score. Texas' defense, led by End Bill Atessis and Linebackers Scott Henderson and Randy Braband, stopped four Sooner ground plays shy of the goal. "If you can't guess right playing your own offense, then I guess you never will," said Henderson.
Texas then cranked up its rushing machine in the second quarter as Worster started making Wooburgers and Phillips worked the option expertly on the wide plays. He even threw a touchdown pass to his tight end, Deryl Comer, proving that, though Royal would happily ban the pass, it still lives in Austin and surfaces every now and then. Texas threw but seven passes all day and hit three.
"Seven is about enough," Royal said with a smile.
The 41 points Texas scored turned out to be the Longhorns' alltime high against Oklahoma, and the total grew because Texas got some cheap ones, the way a good team does when it has the other whipped physically. Fumbles and interceptions inside the Oklahoma 25 put the game away in the third quarter.
Along with the cheap points came an expensive injury. Speyrer, a star of far more games than just the UCLA win, was carted off with a broken arm in the third quarter. He had sailed up for a deep pass from Phillips, got hit and broke it coming down—without the ball.
Royal confided before the game that he thought Texas had a chance to be as good as last year, particularly on offense, even without Street. But losing Speyrer gave him second thoughts. If names mean anything, there was hope in his replacement, however. That individual, Dean Campbell, is only 5'5" and 150 pounds. But he is a neighbor of Royal's in Austin—"he lives close to greatness," said a fan—and Campbell's late father used to be "Captain Superior" on Austin television.
"He's just a little monkey who likes to play," Royal said. "He'll have to do some playing now."
If Texas is going to have a superior victory streak, he sure will. No. 24 for the Longhorns moved them into a rather elite category and put them within striking distance of some even more glorified postwar strings. First, the victory over Oklahoma moved Texas ahead of the 23 in a row recently abandoned by Penn State. It tied the Longhorns with the 24 straight Princeton ran up in the Dick Kazmaier days. Should Texas capture a 25th straight in its next game with Rice, after an off week, that would tie the number of games won in succession by the Davis-Blanchard Army teams in the mid-1940s and by Michigan in the late '40s (the Bob Chappuis-Chuck Ortmann years).
Not entirely out of reach for Royal's crew is the 28 straight that Michigan State gobbled up under Biggie Munn in the early 1950s. Those were the Spartan teams of the "pony backfield"—LeRoy Bolden, Billy Wells, et al. But then you begin dreaming. The only remaining modern streaks to assault are those of Bud Wilkinson's Oklahoma. Royal himself quarterbacked, defended and punted on Sooner teams that won 31 in a row from 1948 through 1950. And then there was the streak of streaks—the 47-gamer in the 1950s.
To reach 31 straight, Texas—a Speyrerless Texas now—would have to defeat the rest of its 1970 foes, including Arkansas and a Cotton Bowl team that perhaps would be as rugged as Notre Dame was a year ago. Finally, it is possible that not even Royal has enough luck left to approach 47 straight.
But 24 is still the most that any college team has taken since that big long stretch of Oklahoma's. And the Texas fans are convinced there will be other miracles—that something good is following Eddie Phillips around just as it followed James Street.
More important, Texas has athletes and a head start with that offense the others are copying. The offensive line might be the best Royal has ever had, and in Steve Worster and Jim Bertelsen, a halfback, he has men who are not only brilliant runners but brutal blockers.
Worster, a strong-legged 210-pounder, is surely the best fullback in the nation. Were he fed the ball more his yardage would excite more people, but Worster spends half his time blocking and faking and otherwise helping the Wishbone average about 350 yards on the ground.
"We like scores better than stats," Texas publicist Jones Ramsey said.
With what should be some softies coming up on the Texas schedule now, Longhorn fanatics undoubtedly will have more opportunities to chant and celebrate and shove the win streak onward and upward. But now Speyrer is gone, along with Street, and surely there is a limit to how many wonders even Woo and Saint can work. Or is there?