History Lesson: Texas and TCU

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By Ross Lucksinger
Posted Nov 21, 2012
Copyright © 2018 InsideTexas.com

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TCU Heisman winner Davey O'Brien

With the Longhorns and Horned Frogs finally meeting again on the football field, it's time for a refresher on the fifth-most played series in UT history. Of course, this will require going back a bit, since there is little recent history between the two teams.

And by “little recent history,” I mean the last 40 years.

The Longhorns may have a comfortable margin in overall record of 61-20-1, but the recent gap is stunning. Since 1970, the Longhorns have a 26-1 record against the Horned Frogs

It gets much more competitive pre-1970, but the only decade in which the Horned Frogs have a winning record over Texas is the 1930s (6-4). This comes as no surprise, given that in the '30s under coach Dutch Meyer TCU obtained its one national championship in school history (two if you, ala Texas A&M, retroactively count the 1935 “Williamson System” national championship) and had its only Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Davey O'Brien – who, as you probably can guess, is the namesake for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award.

With that in mind, let's take a look at some key games in the series.

1897: Texas 18, AddRan Male & Female College 10

Those who just look at the record book would assume the first game in the series was 1904, when Ralph Hutchison's boys beat TCU 40-0 in Austin. But before 1904 Texas Christian University was known as AddRan Male & Female College, named for the school's founding brothers, Addison and Randolph Clark. Games at AddRan weren't played in Fort Worth, however, as in 1895 the school relocated to Waco before returning to Fort Worth in 1910.

It was slow going for the Horned Frogs in the early days of their football program. Following the initial 18-10 loss to Texas, AddRan/TCU would fail to score a single point against the Longhorns until 1908 and the Frogs did not beat Texas until 1929...though in 1927 they did manage to play Texas to a 0-0 tie.

1938: No. 1 TCU 28, Texas 6

The three-touchdown win over the Longhorns capped off a three-game winning streak against Texas for the Frogs (TCU's only three-game win streak in series history) and lead to a national championship for the Horned Frogs and a Heisman for O'Brien.

It was not a great year for the Horns, who were 1-8 and were held to seven or fewer points in all but one game (Texas opened the season with a 19-18 loss to Kansas). Still that one win was a 7-6 win over Texas A&M.

There was a lot of grumbling on the 40 acres in Dana X. Bible's second season at UT, primarily because of the amount of money he was being paid. In 1937, he was hired away from Nebraska and paid $15,000 a year (inflation adjusted: $225,000), an extreamely high salary at the time for a coach. This was also controversial because it was the Depression and University of Texas president H.Y. Benedict only made $8,000. (This is back when a coach making more than the school president was a big deal.) But Bible quickly turned things around, going 5-4 the next season, 8-2 the next and then finishing No. 4 in the country with only one loss in 1941. However, that only loss...

1941: TCU 14, No. 2 Texas 7

The Longhorns were ranked No. 2, but hopes for the school's first national title were ended on Nov. 15.

The game was tied 7-7 in the fourth quarter. But on a very risky call (I can only image what it would have looked like if there were Internet message boards in 1941), UT failed to convert a fourth and one on its own 27-yard-line. The Horned Frogs then threw a touchdown pass with 19 seconds on the clock to win, 14-7.

The loss was especially disappointing for Texas, considering that just over a week later the Longhorns were able to spoil then-No. 2 Texas A&M's national championship hopes with a 23-0 crushing in College Station. By the way, if you'd like to see some video from the '41 Texas-TCU game it can be found here, as someone was kind enough to upload their father's 8mm film.

(Side note: Despite the loss, the Williamson System still awarded the 1941 national championship to the 8-1-1 Longhorns.)

(Double side note: Since I've mentioned it twice, let me explain that the Williamson System was one of the various “math selectors” created during the championship rush of the 1920s and 1930s. Much like the advent of the BCS computer system, these formulas were invented to combat the large number of teams claiming national titles each season. However, due to the creation of multiple competing formulas, this only exacerbated the issue. For example, in 1935 TCU was one of five teams to claim a national championship and still counts its No. 1 WS rating among its two claimed titles. The Longhorns do not claim their 1941 title. According to various mathematical, retroactive and computer voting polls, there are nine possible national titles for the Longhorns to claim. Texas only claims the four national titles decided by the AP, Coaches/UPI or the BCS.)

(Triple side note: Claim nine national titles? Come on. Who do you think they are? Alabama?)

1942: TCU 13, No. 8 Texas 7

Thanks to Dutch Meyer, the Horned Frogs proved to be D.X. Bilbe's bane. The Longhorns were 7-1 when they were upset in Fort Worth by the unranked Horned Frogs. A similar scenario would play out again in 1946 – Bible's last season at Texas – when TCU beat the No. 6 Longhorns 14-0.

1951: No. 15 Texas 32, No. 13 TCU 21

It was the first game with both teams ranked. In the early goings it proved to be the tight match-up most expected, with the game tied 14-14 at halftime. But a 61-yard touchdown pass from Texas quarterback Dan Page to running back Gib Dawson broke the game open in the third. Page finished with 6-of-7 passing for 175 yards, two touchdowns and no INTs, giving Coach Ed Price his third win over a ranked opponent during his first season at Texas.

1956: TCU 46, Texas 0

There was no game more influential in the hiring of Darrell K Royal than this one. Price was likely to step down anyway after a rough '56 season that saw the Horns finish last in the SWC, but the Horns were at least competitive in most of their games, including a 7-6 loss to West Virginia, a 10-7 loss at Baylor and a 34-21 loss to No. 4 Texas A&M. But the blowout loss to unranked TCU in the second to last game of the season caused Price to tender his resignation as UT's football coach. (Price stayed on at UT for many years as a physical education professor and eventually became assistant dean of students.)

1961: TCU 6, No. 1 Texas 0

Again, the Horned Frogs were national championship spoilers for Texas.

I'll let Roy Terrell of Sports Illustrated tell it (from the November 27, 1961 issue of SI):

The ball was on the 50 and the big scoreboard at the south end of Memorial Stadium in Austin showed a little more than nine minutes remaining in the second quarter when Texas Christian went into its huddle. The quarterback, a young man named Sonny Gibbs who looks a bit like the state capitol dressed in shoulder pads, called a pass.

“Go out like you were going to block,” Gibbs told Buddy Iles, the right end. “Then blow down that field. I'll try to get the ball to you.”

Gibbs faked his halfback into the line, then faded back as Iles fled. The orange jerseys of the University of Texas poured in. Gibbs drew back his arm and threw. He is 6 feet 7 inches tall and it has been said that he does not really pass the football, he hands it down field to his receivers. He didn't hand this one. The ball went 50 yards through the air and when it came down, Iles met it on the eight, behind Texas Halfback Jerry Cook, behind every Texas defender. He was tackled on the goal line but bounced across, and the official threw up his hands. TCU 6,Texas 0. That was the only touchdown of the day.

And Texas would have to wait two more years for a national championship.

This was the most important game in the series. The most was on the line and it was the biggest upset (TCU only won three games that season). It also may have prevented Texas running back James Saxton from being the Longhorns' first Heisman Trophy winner. The previously terrible Horned Frog defense held Saxton the fewer than 100 yards rushing and no touchdowns. He finished third in one of the closest Heisman votes in the history of the trophy. (Probably just as well Saxton didn't win, since Ernie Davis was the one who did. Davis was getting left off too many ballots for a reasons other than football, anyway.)

(Insert huge gap of Texas beating TCU a bunch.)

2007: No. 7 Texas 34, No. 19 TCU 13

Colt McCoy threw a pair of first-half interceptions – one of which was returned for a touchdown – and the Horns trailed 10-0 at halftime. But thanks to a 134-yard game from Jamaal Charles, a 20-yard fumble return TD from Brandon Foster and a defense that gave up no touchdowns, Texas pulled away in the second half.

I only mention this game because it was the two teams' only meeting since breakup of Southwest Conference. That is, until Thursday. And with Gary Patterson's recent success the series could return to Meyer-level competitive. Remember, it was just two years ago that the Horned Frogs were undefeated Rose Bowl champs.

This year they're an average team, just above .500 overall (6-4) and just below .500 in conference play (3-4) and their starting quarterback left the school. But this team also took Tech to overtime and beat West Virginia in overtime. Thursday night we could see a competitive game.

Regardless, it's a new beginning for an old SWC rivalry that has lain dormant for a very long time.

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