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Memories of The Catch: Texas vs UCLA 1970

Scipio has already brilliantly re-lived the ugly Yang of UCLA's last trip to Austin.

I on the other hand would prefer to re-live the thrilling Ying of the Bruins first trip here.

It was 1970, and Austin was a still a small college town.

This is what the Austin skyline looked like in 1970 as you approached downtown from South IH-35 and Riverside Drive.

I was a sophomore at UT, working at KHFI-TV (now KXAN) as the floor manager for the nightly newscasts. Back then there were only two TV stations in town and it was easy to get hands-on experience in the business. I spent most of my time trying to talk the sports director, Mel Pennington, into letting me go to games as a photographer, but that job went to more senior members of the news room, so I was able to take part in the student draw.

I was working on a great string of draws for student tickets -- until the UCLA game. I got tickets on the south goal line 5 rows up.

Still it was the best of times for UT football. Texas was defending National Champion. Work had begun on stadium expansion that would add an upper Westside deck while connecting Bellmont Hall to the stadium as well.

When work began on the west side expansion of Memorial Stadium in 1970, capacity was at 65,500.

The press box was torn down and a temporary wooden structure was used for 1970. Some upgrades were already installed, such as new aluminum benches and seats througout the stadium.

Texas would enter the game #2 in both the AP and UPI polls, behind Ohio State, while UCLA would come into town ranked #13. Tommy Prothro was the Bruins coach, and he was considered to be among the best on the business. Before moving to UCLA he had taken periennial loser Oregon State to two Rose Bowls, and he was 35-13-3 at UCLA.

That didn't matter to Longhorn fans -- or the oddmakers, who had installed Texas as a 22-point favorite for the October 3, game. Afterall, Texas had a 22-game win streak built around the new offensive attack that no one had figured out how to slow down, much less stop.

When UCLA came to town, Darrell Royal's Longhorns had won 22 games in a row by an average score of 39-13.

But it didn't take long for the players and fans to realize this Saturday was going to be different. On the second play of the game, Texas halfback Billy Dale was blasted by a UCLA linebacker just as QB Eddie Phillips pitched him the ball on the option. UCLA recovered the fumble and the fight was on.

Prothro was the first coach to attack the Wishbone with a "mirror" defense, essentially playing man-to-man on every member of the offensive backfield. He would disguise where the man was coming from and Royal admitted after the game that he and his staff were caught completely offguard by the manuever. It caused the creation of a classic Royalism.

Of UCLA and Prothro, DKR said, "UCLA brought some good people into town and they came in a bad humor. Tommy Prothro didn't come in on a load of wood either."

Texas survived the initial turnover, giving up only a field goal, and the 'Bone worked well enought to produce a 13-3 halftime lead for Texas.

That lead didn't last long after halftime, since among the people Prothro brought with him to Austin was Dennis Dummit, a QB with a cannon for a right arm. He completed 19-30 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns. The Bruins owned the 3rd quarter with two drives of 90 and 95 yards for those scores. UCLA led 17-13 going into the 4th quarter.

UCLA contained the Wishbone for most of the day, especially QB Eddie Phillips. They harassed him on the option, and sacked him on passing downs enough so he ended the day with 17 yards on 20 carries. The one part of the triple option that still worked was the fullback option.

Despite UCLA's new defensive front, Steve Worster rushed for 106 yards on 19 carries.

Neither team managed much offense early in the 4th quarter, but Texas finally started a long march towards the south goal. But on 4th and 4 right in front of where I was seated, Jim Bertlesen slipped trying to get to the outside and UCLA took over on downs with a little over 2 minutes to go.

The air went out of the stadium, and there was only 52 second left when Texas got the ball back, with no timeouts. There was a break in the action after the UCLA punt, and the PA announcer, sensing that the game was slipping away, made an announcement about the Longhorns 22-game winning streak. He in essence was asking for applause for what the team had accomplished.

Then a wondrous thing happened. The entire student section on the east side stood on the new aluminum benches and began to stomp and cheer.

It quickly spread throughout the stadium -- even to the west side. Over 65,00 people were standing and stomping making more noise than I had ever hear in Memorial Stadium. A friend who was in the press box working for the Daily Texas said that suddenly the wooden structure began to wobble as if there was an earthquake. The noise continued as Texas broke the huddle.

After making one first down, Eddie Phillips was chased out of the pocket, and as he was going down for a 9-yard loss he fumbled the ball out of bounds. Good thing, since it stopped the clock.

Facing 3rd and 19, Royal called "86 pass, Ted crossing, Sam post."

Jim Bertlesen broke the 'bone and ran a short hook to help clear the middle. Tight End Tommy Woodard (Ted) ran a deep middle route, while Cotton Speyrer (Sam) ran the post. The ball barely went over Woodard's head (he was double covered) and as it reached Speyrer the UCLA defender in the prevent tried for the interception while another UCLA defender nearbye was caught leaning the wrong way.

With just 12 seconds to go in the game I suddenly had the best seat in the house.

The noise factor doubled and those still in the press box began to fear for their lives as that structure began to shake like a bowl of jello. I don't remember a whole helluva lot of what I did that night, but I do remember that I was in no shape for class on Monday and it took all the energy I had just to drag my ass to work that afternoon.

The win gave Texas the new SWC record for most victories in a row at 23. But the post-game atmosphere was strikingly reminiscent of that in Lubbock last week. Royal was bombarded with questions about the offensive troubles until he finally said,

"There are some people around here who think all we have to do is put on an orange uniform, crawl out there in the Wishbone and say, 'Bang, you're dead'."

The More Things Change - The More They Stay the Same.