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