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University of Texas head coach Darrell Royal, left, holds back any feeling about his Longhorns scoring a touchdown with 39 seconds to go against the University of Oklahoma in Dallas, Oct. 12, 1968. Appearing equally grim is Texas assistant coach RM Patterson, right. (AP Photo)

Football

Daily Longhorn football history: The 1968 season

Posted July 16th, 2017

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. 

Texas is back!

After three straight four-loss seasons and one bowl appearance, Texas’ mini rebuild following the terrific 1963 and 1964 seasons was complete. The 1968 season saw Texas start the season ranked No. 5 and end it ranked No. 3.

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But the start wasn’t great. Texas tied No. 11-ranked Houston 20-20 is one of the more famous games ever played against the Cougars. Texas then traveled to Texas Tech and lost 31-22, dropping them from the rankings altogether.

The next loss wouldn’t come until Jan. 1, 1970.

Texas started its longest winning streak in program history the next week with a 31-3 walloping of Oklahoma State. The streak included two national championships and two Cotton Bowl wins.

Oklahoma was the only close game Texas would have the rest of the 1968 season, beating the Sooners 26-20. Texas’ 10-point win over Arkansas would be the only other game Texas didn’t win by at least 20 points.

Texas beat Tennessee 36-13 in the Cotton Bowl.

Chris Gilbert rushed for 1,132 yards, leading the way for coordinator Emory Bellard’s offense.

Bellard arrived on the 40 acres in 1967 after coaching Texas high school football at Ingleside, Breckenridge and San Angelo Central. He coached linebackers for Royal and defensive coordinator Mike Campbell that first year, but was moved to offensive coordinator for the 1968 season, teaming with co-offensive coordinator Fred Akers.

Moving Bellard to offensive coordinator could be the greatest coaching decision Darrell Royal ever had.

While it can be debated among football historians, and Barry Switzer, Bellard is credited with creating the wishbone formation. This is where four players, a quarterback, fullback and two halfbacks, are in the backfield with two wideouts on the outside.

Once Texas went to this formation, college football couldn’t stop the Longhorns. With James Street at quarterback along with running backs Gilbert, Ted Koy and Steve Worster as well as Charles “Cotton” Speyrer at wideout, Texas rushed for 3,315 yards and 37 touchdowns that season. Texas threw the ball just 154 times, but when the team is averaging 5.2 yards per carry, why pass?

And as Royal used to remind people, three things can happen when you pass, and two of them are bad. He wasn’t kidding, Texas threw 17 interceptions in 154 attempts.

In fact, the streak may have started when Royal went all in on the wishbone. Bill Bradley struggled running the wishbone and Texas started the season 0-1-1. Royal pulled the plug on Bradley and inserted Street as the quarterback. Street never lost a game at quarterback after this move.

Obviously, 1968 is just the start. Texas went 9-1-1 and won the first of six consecutive Southwest Conference titles. The next season was even better, maybe the best?

 

 

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