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.
Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer called Earl Campbell the greatest high school football recruit ever, he added that Campbell could have skipped college altogether and gone straight to the NFL.
Campbell was a standout recruit from Tyler, Texas. He was named Mr. Football USA and there is little doubt that if recruiting services existed then as they do now, he’s probably be the No. 1 recruit and, who knows, the highest-rated recruit in college football history.
He chose Texas over Oklahoma, Houston, Arkansas and Baylor (can anyone image Earl Campbell wearing any of those jerseys?)
Texas had a 1,400-yard rusher on the roster in senior Roosevelt Leaks when Campbell arrived in 1974, but luckily for the both of them, Texas still ran the wishbone.
Campbell rushed for 931 yards and six touchdowns as a true freshman– the most in school history at the time and record that would stand until 2001 when Cedric Benson broke it. Campbell had four 100-yard rushing games, also a freshman record until 2001.
Unfortunately for Leaks, a preseason Heisman favorite, an injury during spring football hobbled him all season. He could have redshirted, but instead chose to play. He wasn’t the same player he was in 1973, and Campbell took most his carries. Still, Leak finished with 409 yards with four touchdowns and is in the Longhorn Hall of Honor.
Marty Akins continued his standout career at quarterback. The junior led the Longhorns in rushing touchdowns with 10 and finished with 659 yards. He passed for just 250 yards and split time at quarterback with Mike Presley, who threw for 225 yards.
Starting the season ranked No. 10, Texas climbed as high as No. 6, but a 26-3 loss to a bad Texas Tech team dropped the Horns to No. 19. Texas lost again to No. 2 Oklahoma, 16-13, but beat Arkansas and No. 8-ranked Texas A&M.
However, the four losses were the most since 1967, when Texas suffered three-straight four-loss seasons.
The highlight of that season? Maybe the 81-16 win over TCU. The 81 points Texas scored was the most since Texas dropped 92 on Daniel Baker (an actual school) in 1915. The 81 points was the most scored on a Southwest Conference foe.
Texas’ six year reign at the top of the SWC ended thanks to a 34-24 loss to Baylor and that loss to Texas Tech. Baylor won the SWC title with a 6-1 record. Had Texas beaten the Bears, they would have tied for a seventh conference title, but, well, they didn’t.
Instead of the Cotton Bowl, Texas was invited to the Gator Bowl. At this point, Texas had only been invited to three types of bowls: The Cotton, the Sugar and the Bluebonnet. The Gator Bowl would not be a great experience for Texas.
For the second year in a row, Texas failed to score a touchdown in a bowl game, losing 27-3 to Auburn. Campbell rushed for 91 yards in the game, while Presley and Akins combined to throw three interceptions.
Oklahoma was the preseason No. 1 team in the country and didn’t lose or tie. They traded the top spot with a similarly regular-season perfect Alabama squad. However, Oklahoma was barred from postseason play in 1974 (that was quick Barry Switzer), and didn’t win the title. Alabama, however, lost to No. 9 Notre Dame, opening the door to Rose Bowl champion No. 4 USC, who beat No.3 Ohio State 18-17, to claim the national champion.
Also, the 1974 season is the first year that Texas played an 11-game regular season schedule.
Following the season Fred Akers would make a decision that would one day help him become the head coach of the Texas Longhorns.
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