The first Texas touchdown came on a dusted-off quarterback draw that wasn't even in the game plan. It's a wonder the Longhorns remembered how it was supposed to go; the last time they used it was against Oklahoma—in 1980. The second Texas touchdown, an unsophisticated thrust that put away favored Alabama 14-12 in the Cotton Bowl, wasn't scored by one of those flashy Texas tailbacks but by a fullback—a Longhorn synonym for blocker—who couldn't believe his number had been called.
Until those golden moments, the first of which came with less than 11 minutes remaining in the game, the Texas attack had come up empty against an Alabama defense that had been thinned by injury and exile. Mostly the Longhorns had shown a fruitless routine of tailback right, tailback left, followed by the sacking of Quarterback Robert Brewer (seven times) and a punt. After three quarters, the closest the Longhorns had come to putting points up was a missed 50-yard field goal by Raul Allegre.
Bear Bryant's third-ranked Tide, at that point on New Year's Day still within range of a national championship, was delighted. It had gotten a touchdown on a six-yard pass from scrambling-for-his-life Quarterback Walter Lewis to Split End Jesse Bendross in the second quarter. And Peter Kim, a 5'8" Korean who discovered football in Hawaii, had increased Alabama's advantage to 10-0 with a 24-yard field goal a few minutes into the fourth quarter.
But 'Bama, historically strong in the last quarter, was starting to flag badly. All week Bryant had been saying that he had never had a bowl team so crippled, crippled not just by injury—to which Texas wasn't immune, All-America Defensive Tackle Kenneth Sims being out with torn ligaments and a broken bone in his right leg—but by less than exemplary behavior. Bryant's linebacking corps was in a shambles. Thomas Boyd, the team's second-leading tackier, had been suspended after being arrested on a marijuana possession charge. In Coventry with him were starting Offensive Tackle Bob Cayavec, who was arrested for driving under the influence, top Running Back Linnie Patrick, who was with Boyd when he was arrested, and reserve Guard Gary Bramblett, who was with Cayavec. And then Eddie Lowe, Boyd's replacement and the season's third-leading tackier, sprained a knee in practice for the Cotton Bowl and was lost. He was replaced by Steve Booker.
"We're starting a No. 5 linebacker," growled Bryant, who was nevertheless looking for Alabama's first victory ever over Texas in eight tries dating all the way back to 1902.
Don't leave now, folks. Late in the first half last Friday the right hand of strong-side Linebacker Robbie Jones, Alabama's leading tackier, became entangled in a Texas face mask. When Jones pulled his hand free, there was intense pain. The trainers iced it down at halftime. Todd Roper, a freshman not even listed on the Alabama roster, replaced Jones for much of the second half. He wasn't credited with a single tackle.
This is to take nothing away from Texas, which, as did Alabama, finished the regular season with a 9-1-1 record, and was ranked fifth by SI and the UPI and sixth in the AP poll. And, like Alabama, it is a remarkably strong fourth-quarter team.
At halftime, down by only 7-0, Texas Coach Fred Akers told his team hot to worry. "You hold them in the third quarter," he told his defense. Then, turning to his offense, he said, "And you get them in the fourth."
The Longhorn defense did as ordered. It had had its moments of confusion against Alabama's creative wishbone-plus offense in the first half, and Texas' secondary, which basically plays a man-to-man, had been burned by five passes for 113 yards and the touchdown. "On every play they give you a different formation, a different look," said William Graham, the safety who led Texas in interceptions (7) and was second in tackles. "We weren't reacting quickly enough. Then we realized that they weren't beating us physically but we were being out-coached. We were out of position."
"They really weren't moving the ball on us that well in the first half," Akers said later. "But they were making the big play. In the second half we just didn't give them the big play."
Following Kim's field goal with 12:27 to play in the fourth quarter, Brewer finally got the Texas offense untracked. The 6-foot, 186-pound junior from Richardson, Texas was on his way to a second-generation win over a Bryant-coached team. His father Charley, now a Dallas banker, had quarterbacked Texas to a 21-6 defeat of Bryant's Texas A&M team in 1955.
"I don't know what it is about Robert," Akers had said earlier in the week. "All he can do is beat you."
After Kim's three-pointer the Long-horns' Jitter Fields returned the kickoff 22 yards to the Texas 40. A keeper went for three, and then Brewer passed for eight yards to Donnie Little, last year's quarterback, who, at his request, had been shifted to split end. A sack cost Texas seven, but Brewer got that back, plus 19 more, on a pass to Wide Receiver Herkie Walls. With the Longhorns at the Alabama 30, Brewer threw two incomplete passes. Faced with a third-and-10, he called for another pass play that would send Walls deep, with both Little and 6'6" Tight End Lawrence Sample-ton on square-ins.
But as Brewer stepped to the line of scrimmage he saw Alabama Strong Safety Tommy Wilcox cheating up. "Oh, oh, another blitz," he thought. He signaled for a time-out. Later, grinning, he said, "I didn't want to get sacked again. I figured I'd call time out and put the pressure on the coaches."
On the sidelines Akers thanked Brewer for his alertness. Then, after a brief conference with his aides, he told his quarterback: "Run Play 1."
"One," Brewer thought, surprised. "Golly, that's a great call. That just might work."
One—Texas gives simple numbers to all of its plays—is the quarterback draw.
"We were hoping they'd stay in the blitz," Akers said. "I was just hoping for a first down." Not only did Texas catch Alabama in a blitz, but also in man-to-man. With a path as wide as an Interstate, Brewer took off. "I never even saw him until he hit the 10," said 'Bama Cornerback Benny Perrin.
Allegre's kick made it 10-7 with 10:22 to play. A few minutes later, after an Alabama punt, Brewer was back in business, this time from his own 20.
Ten plays took Texas to the Tide eight, the big ones being passes to Sampleton: one for 37 yards, the other for 19. Now in the huddle Brewer called Play 24. This time it was Fullback Terry Orr whose eyes widened. "I was surprised. I was just waiting to hear who I was supposed to block," he said. The play is a quick fullback dive over right guard. Orr went the wrong way. On purpose. "Our blocking is man-on-man and our runners just cut to daylight," he explained. "I saw that [Left Guard] Joe Shearin had flattened his man, so I went that way. A linebacker slapped at me, but that was all."
There was still 2:05 left when Allegre's kick made it 14-10.
Down at the other end of the field, as Allegre got set to kick off, Alabama's Joey Jones said a quick prayer. "I don't know if you are supposed to pray for something like that," Jones said, "but I did it anyway."
All of Alabama must have been praying. Gathering in Allegre's kick at the one, Jones burst through a cluster of Longhorns and flew down the right side. At the Texas 45, with two blockers still in front of him, he slowed slightly. "I was trying to direct them when somebody slammed me from the back." He fell at the Texas 38. Alabama had two timeouts, and 1:54 left.
The Tide was in no hurry. With Split End Tim Clark deep as a decoy, Lewis intended to pass short to Halfback Joe Carter. Carter turned to look for the ball at the 15, but under heavy pressure, Lewis never found him. And so he fired deep to where Clark was nearing the end zone. And there Graham was waiting. "We had gone into a zone," said the 5'11" senior. "They think we're still in a man-to-man and when we move over to help out it surprises them." The most surprised was Clark. He never saw Graham coming. "The ball was right to me," he said. "Then he took it right off my face. He stole the glory from me."
When Graham came down with the ball he was at the one. On the sidelines Akers was already giving instructions to Brewer. "Don't take any chances. I want three Zeroes, kill all the time you can, then give them a safety." Play Zero is a quarterback sneak. Three of those netted three yards, and then the safety made it 14-12. After the punt, Alabama had 48 seconds in which to go 59 yards. It wasn't nearly enough.