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Breakfast with Bevo: Twenty years later, a look back at Texas’ decision to Roll Left

Posted December 7th, 2016

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Good morning. Breakfast is served.

It’s December 7th — Happy National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, folks. We’re at 342 down, 24 to go for 2016.

And 3 till we find out this year’s Heisman Trophy winner.

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YESTERDAY: The Texas men led in the final minute, but fell 53-50 at Michigan, dropping to 4-4. Next up is Long Beach State at home, on Saturday afternoon. Baylor hired a football coach; Matt Rhule has gone 28-23 the last four years at Temple, but 20-7 over the past two, including a 14-2 mark in the American Athletic Conference. And Rashaan Salaam, the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner from Colorado, was found dead in a Boulder park on Monday night, but we all found out about it on Tuesday. He was 42.

TODAY: Rhule will be introduced at a Baylor press conference Wednesday afternoon. One of the best games of the day? No. 1 UConn at No. 2 Notre Dame in women’s hoops (6 p.m., ESPN2). And Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden will hold their last live weekly chat before Bohls takes a couple of weeks off for the holidays. The chat’s here on Bevo Beat, at 11 a.m.

TOMORROW: It’s the annual college football awards show, this year from Atlanta, and two Longhorns are in contention to win — D’Onta Foreman (Doak Walker Award) as the nation’s top running back and Michael Dickson (Ray Guy Award) as the country’s best punter (6 p.m., ESPN). The Thursday Night Football game is Raiders at Chiefs (7:30, NBC).

Dec. 7 has a sports history. On this date,  veteran NFL assistant coach Bud Carson, credited as the architect of Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain” defense of the 1970s, died (2005); the very first Big 12 championship game was played — Texas 37, No. 3 Nebraska 27 (1996); the Texas Rangers signed free agent pitcher Nolan Ryan to a one-year contract (1988); Auburn’s Bo Jackson won the Heisman Trophy (1985); the instant replay is used for the first time during the TV broadcast of the Army-Navy game (1963); Lou Gehrig was elected into baseball’s Hall of Fame (1939); and the Red Sox bought the contract of 19-year-old Ted Williams (1937). Good move, Boston.

Today’s sports birthdays: Yasiel Puig (26), Terrell Owens (43), Larry Bird (60) and Johnny Bench (69). Other notables: “Westworld”’s Jeffrey Wright (51), Tom Waits (67).

Trivia question: In any order, who are the top five all-time leaders in NFL receiving touchdowns? (Answer’s at the end of Breakfast.)

Top of the menu: Texas football.

Today is the 20th anniversary of Texas’ 1996 Big 12 title game win over third-ranked Nebraska, the new league’s inaugural conference championship game played at the Trans World Dome in St. Louis on Dec. 7, 1986. It’ll be forever remembered as the “Roll Left” game, when James Brown secured his place in UT lore with one of the most important plays in Longhorns history. With Texas leading 30-27, the Horns faced fourth-and-inches from their own 28 with 2:40 left in the game. And they went for it. Brown, rolling left, found tight end Derek Lewis, who rumbled all the way down to the Huskers’ 10. Priest Holmes sealed the game with an 11-yard touchdown run.

Quarterback James Brown of the Texas Longhorns avoid defensive pressure during a playoff game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at the TWA Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. Texas won the game 37-27. (Jamie Squire /Allsport)
Quarterback James Brown of the Texas Longhorns avoid defensive pressure during a playoff game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at the TWA Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. Texas won the game 37-27. (Jamie Squire /Allsport)

Here’s former staffer Mark Wangrin’s game story from Dec. 8, 1996. AA-S staffers Kirk Bohls and Suzanne Halliburton were part of the Statesman’s coverage crew; Kirk was in St. Louis, writing a column out of the game, and Suzanne was in Austin, handling an A1 story.

We asked both to share their thoughts from that day.

BOHLS: I’VE NEVER SEEN A PLAY QUITE LIKE ‘ROLL LEFT’ EVER SINCE.

“I remember that week like it was yesterday — the buildup between two-time defending national champion Nebraska and 7-4 Texas, the animosity between two schools that disagreed on pretty much every major conference issue, the hype for the first Big 12 championship game ever, the huge point spread. And a quarterback’s cockiness. “Roll Left” embodied it all, representing a smorgasbord of emotions, all rolled into one 20 years ago.

“The week that began with quarterback James Brown’s surmising that the three-touchdown underdog Longhorns were capable of springing the upset concluded with the best trick play in school history and a magical moment in what became Texas’ dominance of the Cornhuskers. Brown is oft credited with predicting — nay, even guaranteeing — victory, but he didn’t. Those who were there will recollect that Brown’s soft-spoken tone was more hopeful than defiant when he said, “Maybe we’ll win by three touchdowns.” I remember the arrogance of Cornhusker fans who filled the TWA Dome and the tiny slice of Longhorn faithful with low expectations. I remember Ricky Williams, the future all-time NCAA rushing champion, run for a career-low 7 yards because he was blocking as a fullback for Priest Holmes and Brown.

“Mostly, though, I remember the gamble on fourth-and-inches from Texas’ own 28 with less than three minutes remaining as the Longhorns held a slim, if improbable, lead. And I couldn’t believe my eyes when John Mackovic chose not to punt and Brown went under center to take a snap for a play that was so stupid, yet so spectacular, that it completely stunned Tom Osborne and a sea of red.

“Mackovic, who would last one more season at Texas, didn’t gloat one second. But then he was equally cavalier after losses like the 66-3 one to UCLA the following year. To quote the placid, haughty Mackovic, Texas fans would have to live with both. They liked “Roll Left” over Nebraska better than they did Roll Over to UCLA. That call was equal part desperation and gamesmanship, and it was positively thrilling to watch. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and I’ve never seen a play quite like it since.”

HALLIBURTON: EVERYONE WAS IN AWE OF NEBRASKA (EXCEPT TEXAS)

“I was watching the game with a bunch of Longhorn fans back home in Austin. Big-bad Nebraska, the two-time national champions, was so intimidating and no one gave Texas much of a chance. But John Mackovic’s offense, led by quarterback James Brown, certainly wasn’t in awe of the Black Shirt defense. The Longhorns amassed 503 total yards. That’s a normal outing in today’s Big 12. But it was huge two decades ago in the plodding days of play-action and the I-formation.

“The best offensive call in a game in which Texas scored on seven of 10 possessions was a rollout pass on fourth and an inch. Texas sold it well, bringing in a jumbo package with three backs. Nebraska bought the run. Brown quickly rolled left and completed the pass to tight end Derek Lewis who rumbled for 66 yards. It’s the second most famous pass in school history after James Street-to-Randy Peschel to help beat Arkansas in 1969.”

What’s being written out there about the Longhorns?

Michigan 53, Texas 50. A frustrating road loss because the Horns missed 10 of their last 12 shots. Here’s Brian Davis’ game coverage from Ann Arbor. The Associated Press’ All-Big 12 team was released, with three Horns on it.

FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2015, file photo, Temple head coach Matt Rhule reacts during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Connecticut, in Philadelphia. Rhule is the new coach at Baylor, where he takes over a beleaguered Big 12 Conference program after winning 20 games over the past two seasons at Temple. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola, File)
FILE – In this Nov. 28, 2015, file photo, Temple head coach Matt Rhule reacts during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Connecticut, in Philadelphia. Rhule is the new coach at Baylor, where he takes over a beleaguered Big 12 Conference program after winning 20 games over the past two seasons at Temple. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola, File)

AROUND THE BIG 12: The big news around the conference Tuesday was Baylor’s hiring of Matt Rhule from Temple. Rhule’s a guy who’s all about building — and repairing — relationships, wrote the Dallas Morning News. Sounds like just what Waco needs. That’s an opinion seconded by Mike Jensen of the Philadelphia Inquirer, which covers Temple. The Bears, needing a makeover, did their homework, Jensen wrote. The Waco Tribune-Herald acknowledges that the fact that Rhule isn’t Art Briles, Chad Morris, Sonny Cumbie or any other offensive guru could be a good thing, but wonders how he’ll fare in recruiting the state of Texas. Up in Oklahoma, the news should be about Baker Mayfield’s possible Heisman or Dede Wesbrook’s possible Biletnikoff or the release of the All-Big 12 team, but instead Tuesday seemed like nothing but bad news for the Sooners: Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley is rumored to have hit a home run during his interview with Houston, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled by an 8-1 decision that the 2014 surveillance tape showing OU running back Joe Mixon punching a female student must be released. That might come out as soon as Dec 27. The Daily Oklahoman wrote about OU basketball player Khadeem Lattin, who certainly has dreams, including one where he someday returns home to Houston and runs for mayor. The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel thinks Oklahoma State fans are going to get frustrated with Cowboys coach Mike Gundy, whose name has surfaced in a couple of places. The Tulsa World took a look at OU’s rich Heisman history, and columnist Guerin Emig righted his own wrong from Sunday and wrote about OU running back Samaje Perine’s last-second show of Bedlam sportsmanship. Kansas men’s coach Bill Self won his 600th game Tuesday night, a 102-65 win over Missouri-Kansas City. Here’s what the Kansas City Star had to say about it. KU hit 15 three-pointers, and the Star also looked at how Frank Mason’s long-range shot has evolved for the third-ranked Jayhawks. Not to be outdone, meanwhile, Kansas State’s Bruce Weber picked up his 400th win Tuesday night.

Charlie Strong on the field before the last game of the season at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Friday November 25, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Charlie Strong on the field before the last game of the season at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Friday November 25, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

AROUND THE FORTY ACRES:

Football: If you’re Charlie Strong, do you take 2017 off, cash your UT buyout checks and lay low till just the right job pops up? Or do you jump right back onto the horse and prove that you’re really Louisville Charlie, not Texas Charlie? Strong continues to generate some buzz as someone who Cincinnati’s looking at; the school reportedly is down to two or three finalists.

Volleyball: Four Longhorns were named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s all-region team on Tuesday — senior setter Chloe Collins, senior outside hitters Ebony Nwanebu and Paulina Prieta Cerame, and freshman outside hitter Micaya White.

Swimming and diving: Senior Madisyn Cox was named CollegeSwimming.com’s national women’s swimmer of the week on Tuesday for the second time in the last month. She won all three of her events and broke a school record in last week’s Texas Invitational.

Softball: Texas released its 2017 schedule on Tuesday. It includes two teams from last year’s Women’s College World Series (Oklahoma and UCLA) as well as five schools that were in super regionals (Oklahoma, UCLA, Arizona, Washington and Missouri). The season starts Feb. 10-12 with the annual Texas Classic.

On Dec. 7, 2011: Veteran actor Harry Morgan — Col. Sherman T. Potter from “M*A*S*H” — died.

On Dec. 7, 1999: Napster, the music file-sharing service, was sued by the Recording Industry Association of America for copyright infringement.

On Dec. 7, 1941: Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor dealt a big blow to the U.S. naval fleet — damaging eight battleships, sinking four, along with sinking or damaging three cruisers, three destroyers, nearly 200 airplanes and killing more than 2,400 Americans — but also drew the U.S. into World War II. War was declared the following day.

Trivia answer: The NFL’s all-time leaders in touchdown catches — Jerry Rice (197), Randy Moss (156), birthday boy Terrell Owens (153), Cris Carter (130) and Marvin Harrison (128).

OK, Breakfast is over. Thanks for stopping by.

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