National Championship moments: 1969 Football
After waiting 70 years to win their first national title in 1963, the Longhorns needed just six more years to capture their second crown in 1969.
Texas opened the season ranked fourth in the Associated Press poll. The Horns blanked Cal, 17-0, in Berkeley and beat Texas Tech (49-7) and Navy (56-17) in Austin to move into the No. 2 spot. The Longhorns toppled No. 8 Oklahoma 27-17 in the annual Red River Shootout in the Cotton Bowl. In their next four wins, UT beat in-state rivals Rice, SMU, Baylor and TCU by a combined score of 201-35.
The 1969 season marked the 100th year of college football and ABC television executive Beano Cook arranged for Texas and Arkansas to play the final game of the regular season, moving their usual October date to the first weekend in December.
For a long while, it looked as though the game would be a meeting of also-rans. Ohio State was dominating the Big Ten and the chances of the game being anything other than just the last game of the season were pretty remote.
However, as the Longhorns took a Saturday off to prepare for their upcoming game on Thanksgiving Day with Texas A&M, Michigan and its upstart coach Bo Schembechler upset the Buckeyes. Texas vaulted to No. 1 in the polls and Arkansas claimed the No. 2 spot. The Longhorns throttled Texas A&M 49-12 in College Station and the Razorbacks blanked Texas Tech, 33-0 to ensure the two squads would meet as No. 1 and No. 2.
The day of the game took an on an eerie feeling. The night before, a steady, cold rain fell in Fayetteville and an icy fog hovered over the stadium as the crowd awaited the arrival of President Richard Nixon, who would award a plaque symbolic of the National Championship to the winner.
In the 100th year of college football, it truly was the "Game of the Century." The Longhorns overcame turnovers and a 14-0 Arkansas lead to post a 15-14 victory. James Street scrambled for one touchdown, got a two-point conversion and then hit Randy Perschel on a dramatic 4th-and-3 play late in the game. Donnie Wigginoton, the third-string quarterback who was the holder, made a big save on a high snap and Happy Feller booted the extra point for the winning score with 3:58 remaining. Tom Campbell's interception on UT's 21-yard line halted Arkansas' final drive.
The Cotton Bowl prompted a great deal of interest with No. 1 Texas hosting No. 9 Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish were making their first bowl appearance since the "Four Horsemen" beat Stanford 27-10 in the 1925 Rose Bowl. Ara Parseghian's 8-1-1 squad was ending its 44-year self-imposed departure from bowls.
Again, it took some dramatics for a Texas win. UT trailed 17-14 midway through the final period before Street directed the Horns on a 76-yard drive for the winning score. Billy Dale's 1-yard run capped the drive and gave UT a 21-17 lead and the 500th win in school history.
In the locker room after the 21-17 victory, Royal gave Fred Steinmark the game ball. A couple weeks earlier, Steinmark underwent surgery for the removal of his leg because of bone cancer. The little safety would become a national symbol of courage as he battled cancer for a year-and-a-half before dying in June 1971.
An ABC-TV poll of sportswriters tabbed Royal Coach of the Decade after wrapping up the 1960s with a pair of national titles. Tackle Bob McKay earned consensus All-America and All-Southwest Conference honors, while linebacker Glen Halsell, wide receiver Cotton Speyrer, running back Steve Worster and offensive tackle Bob Wuensch earned All-America and All-SWC recognition. Street, tackle Leo Brooks and defensive end Bill Atessis each earned consensus All-SWC honors. Halsell, Ted Koy and Street served as captains for the 11-0 (7-0 SWC Champions) Longhorns.