Teams to Remember – 1969 Texas Longhorns

And it’s goodbye to A&M.

Texas Fight, Texas Fight,

And we’ll put over one more win.

Texas Fight, Texas Fight,

For it’s Texas that we love best.

Hail, Hail, The gang’s all here,

And it’s good-bye to all the rest! 

                        – “Texas Fight” the University of Texas Fight Song

 

Overview

In 1969, Texas marched to its second national championship of the decade under legendary head coach Darrell Royal. Royal and the Longhorns had captured a national championship in 1963, but after three mediocre seasons in the mid-1960s, Royal needed to something shake up his stagnant offense. Inspired by assistant coach Emory Bellard, Royal installed an option attack that would later be dubbed the “Wishbone-T” by Houston Chronicle writer Mickey Herskowitz. But the offense didn’t click until the emergence of QB James Street, who had been buried in the depth chart. Across two seasons Street went undefeated as the Texas quarterback and became a legend in Austin. “In the annals of University of Texas football there is no equal to Street’s brinkmanship,” wrote Denne Freeman. “He was the fourth-down phantom, the gutsy little gambler with the confidence of a Las Vegas high roller.”

The wishbone became a difficult offense to defend | Photo courtesy University of Texas Athletics

The 1969 season began in Berkeley, Calif., against the University of California at California Memorial Stadium. After a 17-0 opening win at Cal, Texas reeled off eight straight victories, including a 27-17 victory over No.8 Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout at the Cotton Bowl. That led to a December 6 showdown with Frank Broyles’s Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Ark., a game dubbed the “Game of the Century.”

For the first three quarters, the Longhorn offense puttered, committing six turnovers as Arkansas ran out to a 14-0 lead. But then the phantom took command, leading the Longhorns to their first score on the opening play of the fourth quarter. Royal elected to go for two, and the score was 14-8. Texas stymied a Razorback drive on an interception by Danny Lester, and a long 44-yard pass put the Longhorns in business at the Arkansas 13. The play was called “53 Veer Pass” and took Street by so much surprise that he went back to the sidelines to make sure it was correct. Street’s heave found Randy Peschel, who stepped out of bounds after the catch. Running back Jim Bertelsen scampered in for the winning score, cementing a 15-14 Longhorns victory.

President Richard Nixon presents the Longhorns a commemorative plaque after the Arkansas win | Photo courtesy University of Texas Athletics

In attendance for the game was President Richard Nixon, who presented Royal a commemorative national championship plaque after the game. “This was one of the greatest games of all time,” said Nixon. “The wire services will name Texas the No. 1 team, and this is a great honor in the one-hundredth year of football. The fact that you won a tough game and the fact that you didn’t lose your cool and didn’t quit makes you deserving of No.1.”

After the game, Royal said, “I don’t think we’ll ever have a buildup for a game like that again.”

The story of Freddie Steinmark added a poignant narrative to the championship season. Steinmark, an undersized safety for the Longhorns, courageously played on an ailing left leg, which was eventually amputated when doctors discovered bone cancer in his thighbone. Steinmark’s story was memorialized on the big screen in 2015 with the release of My All-American, a feature film starring Aaron Eckhart.

After the Arkansas game, Texas disposed of Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl to cap off an undefeated season. 

Notre Dame head coach Ara Parseghian congratulates Darrell Royal on a 21-17 victory in the Cotton Bowl. Photo courtesy University of Texas Athletics.

Honors

ABC Sportswriters “Coach of the Decade”  –  Darrell Royal

All-America –  Bob McKay, Glen Halsell, Cotton Speyrer, Steve Worster, Bob Wuencsch

All-SWC – Bob McKay, James Street, Glen Halsell, Cotton Speyrer, Steve Worster, Leo Brooks, Bill Atessis

Team photo | Image courtesy University of Texas Athletics

Cover photo courtesy University of Texas Athletics. 

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