Texas running back, Eric Metcalf. Photo courtesy of the University of Texas at Austin.

Football

Daily Longhorn football history: The 1988 season

Posted August 5th, 2017

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The Texas football program dates back to 1893. Each day, we look at a little piece of Longhorn history. We’re starting by looking at each Longhorn football season. 

Few years have been as bad as the 1988 season at Texas.

Texas LB Britt Hager corrals OU QB Jamelle Holieway.  (Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman)

In fact, at 4-7, the 1988 season is tied with the dreadful 1997 campaign as the worst season since the hiring of Darrell Royal. Maybe this can land on Fred Akers’ shoulders as his last recruiting classes came through the program and took on bigger roles. Maybe.

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The Longhorns had one of the best do-it-all running backs in program history, Eric Metcalf, and the all-time leading tackler in program history on the roster, Britt Hager, but couldn’t make a bowl game.

Now, this season, not unlike Charlie Strong’s tenure at Texas, comes with a lot of close calls. Texas lost four games by less than a touchdown. The 28-24 loss to Texas A&M was painful. Texas trailed 28-14 entering the fourth quarter, a period that included a 79-yard Texas touchdown from Mark Murdock to Tony Jones, but Texas couldn’t get any closer.

Texas A&M at the time was banned from postseason play thanks to sanctions levied against the program under coach Jackie Sherrill. He went 52-28-1 in College Station with two 10-win seasons, but was exiled following the season, opening the door to one of the Longhorns’ greatest coaching rivals: R.C. Slocum.

There would be no bowl game for Texas in 1988.

Metcalf, however, would be named an All-American and was drafted No. 13 in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He went on to become one the league’s greatest special teams players. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, returning 12 kicks for touchdowns in his career.

He is one of two players in NFL history to return two punts for touchdowns in a single game.

Hager set the all-time single season Texas tackles record in 1988, recording 195. He is still the all-time leader in tackles with 499 total. His son, Breckyn, is a junior standout linebacker at Texas.

Hager was taken in the third round, No. 81 overall, in the same draft as Metcalf by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Metcalf played until 2002, while Hager’s career ended in 1997.

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