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1969 A Big One for the Game's Little Guys
Dan Jenkins
January 07, 2006
Fourth down, a title on the line, time running out--bring on the urchins
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January 07, 2006

1969 A Big One For The Game's Little Guys

Fourth down, a title on the line, time running out--bring on the urchins

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SO THERE LIES A YOUNG MAN NAMED COTTON SPEYRER, all 5' 11" and 169 pounds of him, holding on to something called No. 1 and clinging, for whatever sentimental value it may be worth around Austin, to the overwrought lives of Darrell Royal and his hordes of Texas Longhorns followers. Speyrer has just wheeled back, knelt, lurched and scooped up a pass thrown by another obstinate elf, James Street, on a play that will be filed away among the treasures of the sport. For it was this gamble in those fading moments of the Cotton Bowl, this fourth-down pass from one gutty urchin to another, that enabled Texas to defeat Notre Dame 21-17 in as courageous a game as any two schools played.

The way the game was controlled by the inspired play of the urchins--not just Street and Speyrer but Notre Dame's Joe Theismann as well--carried a message about college football. Here they were, surrounded by pro prospects of enticing quality, and the thin-waisted guys competing for honor, coach and campus seized the day.

Theismann, the South River Road Runner who is only 6 feet and 170, gave Notre Dame a 10-point lead early, then had the Irish ahead 17-14 with 6:52 left. After a timeout at the Notre Dame 20, with Texas facing fourth down and two with 4:26 remaining, Street wiggled down the line and pitched to Ted Koy, who got the two yards by an eyelash. Three more running plays found Texas at the 10, facing fourth-and-two again, 2:26 to go and another timeout. On the field Speyrer was signaling the bench, dragging his thumb across his chest, which told Royal that defender Clarence Ellis was playing Speyrer tight and to the inside. Speyrer thought he could get outside for a pass. "Left 89 Out," Royal told Street. "Watch for the keep. You might be able to fall for two yards. If you can't, drill it to Cotton."

Street took the snap, looked at the end coming up fast and threw to Speyrer. Three plays later another urchin, Billy Dale, a 5' 10", 190-pound junior, followed a couple of blocks into the end zone. Urchins do accomplish wonders, even urchins who can't do anything but play college football--and can't do anything but win.

Dan Jenkins
Reprinted from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Jan. 12, 1970

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