The football season is approaching fast and Texas fans are getting excited. Counting today, there are 40 days until the start of the football season. To help celebrate, we’re counting down five things every day until the start of the season.
To open the countdown we’re looking at five season-openers to remember. Yeah, we’re skipping that time North Carolina State beat Texas in 1999, or those back-to-back years were Texas scored 60-plus points in a game (2004, Texas 65, North Texas 0).
Here are five to remember:
5. Texas 30, Pittsburgh 28 at Pittsburgh, 1994
There aren’t many big-time season opening matchups, but Texas visiting Pittsburgh in 1994 is one of them. Texas was ranked No. 19 in the country and Pitt was unranked, but still, this game was in the Steel City and up against an underrated fan base. Pitt led 6-0 after the first quarter, but three Texas touchdown, including two touchdown strikes from quarterback Shea Morenz changed the game. Phil Dawson nailed a field goal to give Texas a 30-22 lead with 3:36 left to play, but Pittsburgh scored a touchdown with 36 seconds left but failed to convert the conversion as Texas held on for the win.
4. Texas 20, Auburn 7 at Auburn, 1983
Bo didn’t know how to beat Texas that year. Bo Jackson was the star for Auburn, who was ranked No. 5 in the nation. Texas was no slouch at the time with the No. 3 ranking, but one could image that few thought Texas would win by two scores on the road. The highlight of the day was Kelvin Epps’ 80-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Texas led 20-0 after the first half and Auburn didn’t find the endzone until 1:33 left in the game when Jackson scored a 2-yard touchdown. Jackson won the Heisman in 1985 and in 1983 he rushed for 1,213 yards for the Tigers. Texas moved to No. 2 in the country after this win and wouldn’t lose until Jan. 2 when Georgia won 10-9 in the Cotton Bowl.
3. Texas 23, Arkansas 17, 1980
Texas hosted its hated rival Arkansas to start the season on Sept. 1. Arkansas was coached by Lou Holtz and was ranked No. 6 in the country. Texas was No. 10. After a scoreless first quarter, Texas scored 17 points in the second quarter behind two AJ “Jam” Jones touchdowns. Jones rushed for 165 yards in the game with Donnie Little adding 49 yards and touchdown. Arkansas cut the game to 17-10 in the third quarter, but Little’s 10-yard touchdown gave Texas a 23-10 lead. Arkansas added a score with 3:11 left in the game, but it was too late and Texas hung on for the win. Younger Texas fans probably don’t know this, but there was a time when Arkansas was as big of a rival, and conference foe, as Oklahoma and Texas A&M. Texas would win four more games that season before falling to SMU 20-6 in late October.
2. Texas 17, Penn State 13 at Penn State, 1990
Penn State and Texas weren’t ranked in the top 20 to start the season. Penn State was No. 21 while Texas was No. 23. Still, it was a matchup of two football crazy colleges, two name-brands and, well, it was Texas-Penn State! Penn State led 7-6 at halftime, but 11 points in the third quarter gave Texas a 17-6 lead heading into the final frame. Penn State scored with 34 seconds left, but couldn’t take back the lead. Phil Brown rushed for 95 yards and Chris Samuels caught four passes for 67 yards and scored a rushing touchdown for Texas. Quarterback Peter Gardere threw for 210 yards. Texas overcame a halftime deficit in front of 85,973 fans to make Happy Valley less happy. Texas only lost two games that season, the next week against Colorado at home and the Cotton Bowl, where Miami famously won 46-3.
1. Texas 20, Houston 20, 1968
No. 4 ranked Texas and No. 11 Houston tied in the season opener in 1968. They were eventually Southwest Conference foes in 1976 and, as Elizabeth Warren called it, the little commuter college from Houston wound up playing Texas even. Why is this important? Because Texas went 9-1-1 in 1968 and finished No. 2 in the nation. Houston led 20-14 in the fourth quarter before Ted Koy scored a 4-yard touchdown. Texas then missed the extra point that would have won the game for the Longhorns. Texas lost the next game against Texas Tech, 31-22, but wouldn’t lose again until 1970, when they played Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl, installing a revolutionary offense (wishbone) and winning national championship along the way. Maybe a win over Houston lifts Texas’ spirits the next game and the Longhorns win in Lubbock? Who knows?