There is a special kind of pain that comes from having your dreams ripped apart at the age of 11. I know, because that is exactly what the 1961 TCU Horned Frogs did to me.
November 18th. Texas was a near unanimous #1 as the Horns had ripped off 8 straight wins by an average score of 33-7. Trust me, back then 33 points a game by a college team would be 45-50 in today’s game.
Sports Illustrated was in town. James Saxton was the cover boy for the next week’s edition. Through 8 games Saxton has 706 yards rushing – on 78 carries as well as 9 touchdowns.
TCU? They came into the game 2-4-1. Abe Martin’s Frogs had lost 4 out of 5. What many people overlooked was that they had opened the season with a 17-16 win over #8 Kansas and QB Jon Hadl and then had gone to Columbus and played then #1 Ohio State to a 7-7 tie.
But that morning none of that mattered. What mattered was that Texas was a 24- point favorite. What mattered was that I was going to the game with my parents, and afterwards I was going into the Texas locker room.
My brother, a sophomore at UT, was a fraternity brother of QB Mike Cotton. He had arranged to get me into the locker room.
He also cautioned, “Now if Texas loses we won’t go in.”
Texas lose? Really? No Way!
In the first quarter, Saxton ran 45 yards to the TCU 10-yard line. His signature move was to pop up quickly from the tackle — but that put him into the path of TCU’s defensive lineman Bobby Plummer, who was chasing the play. Plummer slammed into Saxton, knocking him unconscious. He later tried to come back but it was useless.
Later, TCU QB Sonny Gibb 6-6 with a rifle arm, handed off to his tailback, who then pitched it back to him and he found Buddy Isles for the only points of the game. It was a play Texas had used several times during the season, but that didn’t stop it from working against them.
It was after that contest that Coach Royal said TCU was like “a bunch of cockroaches. It’s not what they eat and tote off, it’ what they fall into and mess up that hurts.”
I couldn’t have agreed more.
Mom told me she was so proud of me for not breaking down and crying until we got to the car.
The loss provided one other story. As I said Rusty was taking me to the locker room after the game. He decided to go down to get me in case I did show up. He had played HS ball, and as was the style back then, had the close-cropped hair.
So he is waiting outside the locker room when this gentleman comes up and says,
“Tough game Duke,” (thinking Rusty was soph. DB Duke Carlisle).
Before Rusty could say anything, he adds, “My son was supposed to come with me, but he got tonsillitis. Would you sign this program for me?”
BTW I still hate TCU