the north face windstopper A look at Snyder’s first meeting with Texas
His first meeting against Texas as a full time coach came a dozen years earlier, as Snyder was in his first season as North Texas State’s quarterbacks and receivers coach.
And that day Sept.
“If I’m not mistaken, Texas had gone like 10 2 the year before and most of our memories were, if you grew up in Texas in the 1960s and played football, you were a big Texas fan, more than likely,” said Tim Loftin, then a North Texas wide receiver. “You wanted to go play for the University of Texas. So around 1974, they had the scholarship limit reduced, so teams started evening out more. But I think they were ranked real high to enter the season, and Coach Snyder had come in and if you know Coach Snyder, he’s probably still the same way and was a no nonsense guy, real detailed.”
Though the Mean Green led the Longhorns 7 3 at the half, it would not be enough. The Longhorns rallied, scoring 14 points in the third quarter before eventually holding on for a 17 14 victory.
But according to those who suited up for the Mean Green that night in Austin, the score might as well have read 1 0.
Simply put: Texas had Earl Campbell.
North Texas didn’t.
“He just had some unbelievable thighs on him and was a violent runner,” Loftin said of Campbell. “I never saw anybody else run like that. Terry Miller at Oklahoma State, he was fast, but I’ve never seen anybody with legs like (Campbell’s) that would just run over people. He was always fighting people for an extra 1 or 2 or 3 yards.”
The Mean Green forced Campbell, who was dealing with a lingering hamstring injury that he tweaked the prior week in a loss to Boston College, to work even harder than usual to break into triple digits for rushing yardage. In the first half, North Texas then known as North Texas State kept Campbell in check, as he had just 28 yards on eight carries.
But the Longhorns kept feeding him after halftime.
“They just went to Earl Campbell almost every play,” Loftin said. “He had like 175 yards in the second half and he could just not be stopped.”
Campbell picked up a large chunk of that yardage on just one play: an 83 yard jaunt in the third quarter, which was the longest run of his college career to that point.
It was an especially memorable play for North Texas defensive back Kelly Fry, the son of the team’s head coach, Hayden Fry.
Kelly remembered it in painstaking detail.
“Earl Campbell breaks the line he goes through a big opening and my oldest brother was also in the secondary. He’s a safety, I’m a cornerback,” Kelly said. “He comes up to Earl and tries to hit him low and Earl Campbell hurdles him and keeps going. He slowed him down enough to where I thought I was going to be able to tackle him from behind, but out of the corner of my eye I see this orange flash and the next thing I know I’m wiped out on the ground,
looking up and watching Earl run down the field and of course the UT fans are going crazy.”
Texas quarterback Mike Cordaro scored on a 2 yard touchdown run, upping the Longhorns’ lead to 17 7 at the 1:39 mark of the third period.
Though the Mean Green tacked on a touchdown in the final quarter, it was not enough, as the Longhorns escaped with a 17 14 win.
Ken Washington, North Texas’ quarterback, said he remembers Snyder as “a hell of a coach and a hell of a gentleman.”
“He probably spent more time with the quarterbacks,” Washington said. “He relied on us to communicate a lot to the receivers, because during the game when we talked to him, he was in the press box. We talked to him a lot. He asked us what we saw, how we saw it, what we needed the receivers to do and then we would pull them together. Or he would get Coach (Carl) Jackson (the running backs coach) to pull them together and explain what he wanted. So we all had that responsibility, but for the most part, he was in the quarterbacks’ ears more than the wide receivers.”
Washington resisted Snyder when he first started because of loyalty to the coach who had recruited him.
“I enjoyed Coach Snyder,” he said. “I tell everybody when he first came to North Texas I didn’t like him, and didn’t want to like him. But we developed a great relationship. I say that only because the quarterbacks coach who recruited me, we had a pretty good relationship. So when he left and you don’t know the whys and all that kind of stuff I was a little disappointed, so I wasn’t going to be too cooperative with Coach Snyder. But that soon left.”
The Mean Green entered the game against Texas with only one thought on their minds.
“I got it from my teammates before the game, pregame and in warmups, that we actually felt like we had a chance to win this game,” Washington said, “and we played like it. I think that was one of the greatest things that I took away from it. We started believing in ourselves. We just needed to learn how to finish when you’re in a big game.”
Fry, Loftin and Washington were in agreement: There’s no such thing as a moral victory. To come that close to upsetting the Longhorns only to fall short meant all three still view the game as a missed opportunity. But Loftin said the game was a “springboard” for the future. In the next two seasons, North Texas had a combined record of 19 3.
For one fleeting moment, Loftin thought they had the Longhorns right where they wanted them.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
“They were a little off, I’d say, and it’d be normal for them to overlook us and they probably did,” Loftin said. “We were up 7 3 at halftime when we ran off (the field) and we were thinking, ‘Man, we’re gonna win this game!’ It was a fun experience.”