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.
Let’s shock the nation with the blog!
The 1990s started with one of the most surprising and successful seasons in Longhorn history. The best season, by a mile, during the often rough David McWilliams era, Texas went 10-2 and a perfect 8-0 in the Southwest Conference. Texas had a nine-game winning streak in which the Longhorns beat Oklahoma, Arkansas, No. 3 Houston, Baylor and Texas A&M.
A case could be made that the biggest win of the year came in first game, when Texas traveled to No. 21 Penn State and beat the Nittany Lions 17-13 in Happy Valley.
Trailing 7-6 at halftime, Texas used a Chris Samuels 6-yard run to take a lead they never lost, avenging a 16-12 defeat in Austin from the year before.
This was not the biggest win of the year, and that should explain why this was a special season.
Texas couldn’t get revenge on Colorado, who also beat them in 1989, the following week as Texas lost 29-22 to the eventual national champion Buffaloes.
That was the last loss Texas would suffer during the regular season. Texas beat No. 4 Oklahoma 14-13 as the Cash brothers account for two touchdowns.
Reports say Kieth and Kerry Cash were the greatest intermural basketball players on campus that season, but the brothers were also really good playing football. The senior twin brothers had breakout seasons in their final year. Kieth, a wide receiver, caught 33 passes and six touchdowns with 605 yards. His brother Kerry, a tight end, caught 22 passes and four touchdowns.
Against Oklahoma, Kerry caught the first touchdown, but it was Keith with one of the biggest catches in the game’s history. Trailing in the fourth quarter with about two minutes to play, the Longhorns were facing a fourth down 16 yards away from the endzone. Texas went for it because they had to.
Here’s what happened (go to the 53 minute mark of the video):
The touchdown gave Texas the lead for good.
The next hallmark game came against quarterback David Klinger (Cincinnati Bengals fans spit on the ground) and No. 3 Houston. Texas had been demolished by the Cougars in Houston the year before and now in the midst of their best season in years, the Longhorns and the fan base were craving a win.
It happened, and the freaking goal posts at Texas Memorial Stadium came crashing down when Texas beat Houston 45-24 (the 1:35 mark):
After that win, Texas returned to the top 10 of the AP poll for the first time since 1984, coming in at No. 7.
Continuing to shock the nation, Texas hosted Texas A&M on Dec. 1.
The magic continued.
Statesman reporter Mark Rosner called quarterback Peter Gardere’s performance a “good imitation of James Street” as he led Texas to a 28-27 win. Texas switched to an option attack in the second half. Gardere scored on a 50-yard touchdown run that was one of the highlights of the game.
“We’d never run it before, ” Gardere told the Statesman. “Their corner came up, and I broke through. Maybe I surprised them. I was really surprised just to pop through. I thought someone would catch me.”
Of course, the biggest play in the game, and one of the biggest in the history of the game came with 3:46 left. Texas A&M scored to make it 28-27 Texas in the lead. Aggie coach R.C. Slocum decided to go for two and the win instead of a tie. Considering Texas A&M had one of the greatest running backs in their program’s history, Darren Lewis, why not go for it?
Here’s how the Statesman’s own Rick Cantu broke down the two-point conversion:
Texas A&M had scored with 3:46 left in the fame to make it 28-27 Texas. After consulting with Coach R.C. Slocum on the sideline, the Aggies line up to for two points and the lead.
1. A&M quarterback Bucky Richardson fakes a handoff up the middle and begins a sprint to the right down the line of scrimmage, preparing to pitch the ball to halfback Darren Lewis.
2. Texas middle linebacker Brian Jones slips through the line and forces Richardson to pitch to Lewis before he is ready.
3. After he gets the pitch, Lewis heads to the right. Cornerback Mark Berry slips his block and meets Lewis at the 5-yard line for the tackle.
“It was a great tackle by Mark Berry, ” Lewis said after the game. “I was trying to make him miss, but they were waiting on it.”
Berry made the game-winning tackle and Texas won. Here’s what Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls wrote.
“I was visualizing the play, ” Berry told Statesman reporter Suzanne Halliburton. “I felt for some reason they would be coming toward me. I wanted to be the one to make the play. I wanted them to run to my side.”
Slocum had no regrets on the call: “We didn’t come over here to tie the ballgame. A tie might have been devastating to them, but it wouldn’t have been anything close to a win for us. We never considered it. I’d do it this way 100 out of 100 times.”
This win over the Aggies snapped a six-year drought. Statesman reporter Brenda J. Breaux described the scene on Congress Avenue that night, writing that the “drag belonged to the Longhorns.” Here’s another excerpt from that article:
“This is the greatest victory we ever had ever, ” said Norman Edwards, a 1979 University of Texas graduate who was celebrating his team’s win. “We lost six years in a row, and we didn’t have anything to lose. We were already going to the Cotton Bowl. We won this one because it was Texas A&M. We are No. 1.”
The win put the Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl and capped off their first undefeated Southwest Conference title since 1983.
Entering the Cotton Bowl ranked No. 3 in the nation with a 10-1 record, Texas, with a win over No. 4 Miami, could have entered the national championship discussion with Georgia Tech and Colorado.
Instead the 1991 Cotton Bowl is one of the worst loses in Texas bowl history. The Hurricanes, a Notre Dame loss away from probably being named the national champions in 1990, blasted Texas 46-3. Texas was never in the game. The Longhorns trailed 19-3 at halftime and were overwhelmed.
Despite the horrible ending, the 1990 “shock the nation tour” is one of the best seasons in program history. Butch Hadnot, Phil Brown, Adrian Walker and Chris Samuels led the way on the ground, and Gardere established himself as one of the gutsier quarterbacks in Texas history, passing for 2,131 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Defensively, led by coordinator Leon Fuller, who returned to coach the defense at Texas in 1989 after serving in the same role from 1977 to 1981, coached a talented group full of future NFL players. Brian Jones led the team with 116 tackles. Richard Stanley was a defensive back who recorded 111 tackles and four interceptions.
Shane Dronett set a record for most sacks in a game against Texas Tech when he five sacks against the Red Raiders.
After two losing seasons in 1988 and 1989, McWilliams probably needed a solid 1990 season to keep his job and he got that and more. But a drop off the next year would not be good.