After 118 Meetings, UT-TX A&M Rivalry to End

by Dan M | Posted on Thursday, November 17th, 2011

by Bo Carter

This may be the last one for quite a while, folks.
The State Farm Lone Star Rivalry may continue in other sports as Texas A&M heads off to the Southeastern Conference for the 2012-13 competitive year, but this appears as if it may be the last football meeting between the storied programs until at least the 2017 or ’18 season as Texas remains committed to the Big 12 Conference.
Thursday’s (Nov. 24) Thanksgiving Night contest at 7:00 (CST) from College Station’s Kyle Field marks the 118th meeting between the schools in a series dating back to 1894 with the Longhorns holding a sizeable 75-37-5 advantage.
Recent seasons, including the return to Thanksgiving contests in 2008, have produced a much more even ledger.
The Aggies actually are 3-4 in the last seven meetings after going Texas won five of six contests from the start of the head coach Mack Brown era from 1998-2003. Brown’s nine victories against A&M are second to National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame head coach Darrell Royal’s 16-4 mark against the Aggies during his 1957-76 reign in Austin.

Interestingly, Wishbone offense inventor and former Longhorns’ assistant coach the late Emory Bellard pinned the final two defeats on Royal and the Horns by a 20-10 margin in 1975 (when the Aggies had their highest rating in the series at No. 2 nationally; Texas was No. 5 that week) and in 1976 with a 27-3 thumping in Austin.
Bellard had limited success in his 1977 and ’78 meetings against new Longhorns’ mentor Fred Akers, but then AT&T Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame coach Jackie Sherrill turned around the trends again from 1982-88. The ’82 Longhorns under Akers thumped the Ags 53-16 and 45-13 in ’83, but Sherrill’s crew reeled off a 37-12 triumph over No. 12 nationally Texas at Austin in 1984, a 42-10 win over No. 18 Texas in 1985, a 16-3 defensive struggle in cold conditions in ’86, a 20-13 win in 1987, and a 28-24 verdict in 1988. The 1985-87 wins catapulted the Aggies to AT&T Cotton Bowl berths.
Many also mistakenly think the ’88 win over the Longhorns at then-Memorial Stadium in Austin was Sherrill’s final game as coach at A&M. A week later, the Aggies fell to Alabama in the postponed Hurricane Game when Alabama asked not to play in September because of a hurricane looming near the Texas coast.
R.C. Slocum tangled with 1987-91 Texas coach David McWilliams in three games from ’89-91, John Mackovic from 1992-97 and Brown from 1998-2002 while splitting 14 meetings at 7-7. Two of his most notable victories came during his first season 21-10 in ’98 and 20-16 in 1999 during an emotional week after Texas A&M’s traditional bonfire collapsed. Brown’s first UT squad edged the eventual Dr Pepper Big 12 football champion Ags 26-24 to advance to the 1999 AT&T Cotton Bowl.
The Longhorns later catapulted to their Bowl Championship Series national title in 2005 after a 40-29 barn burner at College Station while the 2009 BCS runnerup Longhorns outscored the Ags 49-39 in what has become a recent trend of ample offense in the game.
While the teams move to different conferences for the 2012 season, this will not be the first stoppage in the storied series.
From 1912-14 the teams did not play because of disputes in rules, eligibility and alleged “dirty” play in the piles, and many blamed Aggies’ coach and later noted Major League Baseball umpire Charley Moran for the three-year hiatus.
The first year of Southwest Conference competition (1915-95 area on the gridiron, 81 seasons) brought the schools back together in College Station with the Aggies prevailing 13-0 in the inaugural season of SWC football.
It also led to the higher status of football at both schools as they had contested clashes in Houston three times between 1908-11 and then moved the next 97 games to campus sites.
Hall of Fame head coach D.X. Bible took over A&M fortunes from 1917, 1919-28 and helped the Aggies gain four wins and a tie in 10 outings against the Longhorns. Later, after a 1929-36 stop at Nebraska, Bible guided Texas’ 1937-46 squads to 8-2 marks against the Aggies, including the 1939 national championship team paced by Jarrin’ John Kimbrough in Aggieland. Bible’s 20 games as head coach in the now State Farm Showdown has been tied only by Royal from 1957-76 as head coach as either entry.
For all the pomp and circumstance, icy cold Thanksgiving day or night weather, or driving rainstorms, amazingly only 14 of Texas’ 25 Southwest Conference titles from 1915-95 were determined by the games played on Thanksgiving. From 1994-2007 (mainly because of Big 12 Conference scheduling in the 1996-07 era) their traditional tussles were played in alternating years on the Friday mornings or afternoons after Thanksgiving, and just three of those tests – 1996, 1998 and 2005 – involved eventual conference titlists. Those were the days of the Dr Pepper Big 12 Football Championships between the North and South Division winners a week after the A&M-UT fracas.
Thursday’s tussle ends the regular season for both teams this year, though, as the Big 12 is back to 10 football teams and playing a full, round-robin of nine league contests. It adds even more importance to the final UT-Aggies tilt in the foreseeable future.
The key elements in both teams’ attacks are quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M with 259 pass completions in his first 10 games for an Aggies’ team plagued by late-game defensive collapses. Longhorns young QBs David Ash and Case McCoy have turned into two of the top option threats in the Big 12, but Texas must overcome the loss of as many as four of its running backs before and during its loss at Missouri on Nov. 12.
Brown and his charges also are smarting from a 24-17 loss to No. 17 nationally Texas A&M last November as Texas failed to advance to postseason play for the first time since 1997. Coach Mack’s current team has become the 13th in the last 14 seasons to go bowling under his leadership and needs to gain some valuable momentum with the fourth consecutive Thanksgiving night national telecast.
Notably, one or both of these schools have been ranked among the Top 25 every year since 1997, and Texas made a big jump in the ratings in ’96 after stunning No. 3 Nebraska 37-27 the next week in St. Louis at the Dr Pepper Big 12 Football Championship.
Though there may not be a nationally ranked school (Texas is hanging in well in BCS standings and several polls at 6-3 through nine games), there is no less intrigue when the Longhorns and Aggies break out the gear at Kyle Field on Nov. 24.

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