Texas Football: 10 Most Memorable Plays in Longhorn History

Zach SheltonFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2013

Texas Football: 10 Most Memorable Plays in Longhorn History

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    To become one of the most prominent football programs in the country, you have to make the impossible a reality with great plays. The Texas Longhorns have had those in droves, courtesy of some of the greatest players and coaches to ever take part in college football.

    As far as athletic feats, great plays occur on what has become a weekly basis. But the greatest ones are those that are made when the pressure is making your ears pop. 

    Those are the moments when the following great plays took place in the storied past of the Texas Longhorns. Some occurred in massive rivalry games, others in bowl games. But all had major implications on that team's season and cemented its place in the program's history.

    Though you get one guess as to which one comes in at the top, please enjoy and share your thoughts on the snubs.

10. McCoy Breaks Loose to Finish off the Aggies...For Good (11/24/11)

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    Just like his brother Colt in 2009, quarterback Case McCoy defined his career with a big run against the Texas A&M Aggies. Only Case sent them packing for good.

    Fans of both teams waited all season for the breakup of the bitter Texas-Texas A&M to officially take place at Kyle Field. Both programs had drastically underachieved all season, with the Aggies squandering championship-level talent in bad fourth quarters. Meanwhile, Texas was mired in a quarterback controversy every day of the season.

    After trailing 16-7 at the half, the Longhorns got the spark they needed when corner Carrington Byndom took a Ryan Tannehill interception to the house. Mack Brown's squad would go on to score the game's next 10 points.

    The Aggies responded with nine consecutive points of their own, capped by a 16-yard Jeff Fuller touchdown to make it 25-24 with 1:48 to play.

    Then McCoy, who played most of the game, got his chance. With his final drive kept alive by a pass-interference penalty, McCoy completed three passes for a first down at the Aggie 48.

    With plenty of ground to cover, McCoy dropped back to pass again. This time, everyone was covered, so he tucked the ball and took off. A broken tackle later, he was all the way to the 23-yard line and well within kicker Justin Tucker's range.

    Tucker's kick was true, and the Longhorns bid the Aggies farewell with a 27-25 victory and a 76-37-5 edge all time in the series. 

9. McCoy to Cosby in the Fiesta Bowl (1/5/09)

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    Colt McCoy had his fair share of great plays in the burnt orange. He was deprived twice of a chance to make some on the biggest of stages, but his closing of the 2009 Fiesta Bowl proved he had what it took.

    Despite finishing 11-1 in the regular season, the No. 3 Longhorns were forced to settle for the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.

    The Buckeyes gave McCoy's squad all it could handle. After taking a 17-6 lead into the fourth quarter, Jim Tressel's team roared back with 15 consecutive points for a 21-17 advantage with just over two minutes to play.

    Staring down his second crushing defeat of the season, McCoy calmly went to work in converting four first downs. On the fourth, he fired one to Quan Cosby over the middle on a slant that Cosby easily delivered to the end zone with under 20 seconds to play.

    The play gave McCoy's Longhorns their fourth win over a top-10 team and the school's second-best record of all time at 12-1. Unfortunately, it will also leave fans wondering what could have been as we approach the age of the college football playoff.

8. Phillips to Speyrer Against UCLA (10/3/70)

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    Making his first appearance on this list is Darrell Royal, whose 1970 team needed a miracle against UCLA to extend their 22-game winning streak. They got it with 12 seconds left.

    Coming in, Tommy Prothro's No. 12 Bruins were 22-point underdogs and played like they had something to prove. They forced a turnover on Texas' opening drive and made life miserable for quarterback Eddie Phillips throughout the game.

    Down 17-13 on their final drive, the Longhorns looked dead in the water after Phillips fumbled for a nine-yard loss. But the play stopped the clock, and gave Royal a chance to call "86 pass, Ted crossing, Sam post."

    It was 3rd-and-19 with 12 seconds to play and the crowd stomping on the aluminum stands. Phillips took the snap, dropped back and hit Cotton Speyrer just before the defender got there. Speyrer's legs did the rest.

    That would give Texas the longest winning streak in SWC history at 23, which they would eventually carry all the way to 30 wins and another national championship for Royal. 

7. "Roll Left" (12/7/1996)

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    Most Texas fans hear the name John Mackovic and cringe. Rightly so, but the maligned former head coach sealed the inaugural Big 12 championship game with one of the most spectacular plays in program history.

    It was fourth down with inches to go for the Longhorns at their own 28. They were leading Nebraska, 30-27, at the time, but Mackovic decided that score was too close for comfort with 2:40 to play. So he had his guys line up in a textbook short-yardage formation. Even the announcers knew a power run was coming.

    But it didn't. Instead, quarterback James Brown rolled left and eased one to tight end Derek Lewis, who chugged all the way the Nebraska 10-yard line. Running back Priest Holmes carried the next one into the end zone.

    Though Mackovic was unable to repeat his success in subsequent seasons, his daring with "Roll Left" will forever give him favor in Longhorn lore.

6. Shearer and Johnson Team Up Against Lott (10/8/77)

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    The 1977 meeting of Texas and Oklahoma went as wrong as it could have for the Longhorns. But thanks to legends Brad Shearer and Johnnie Johnson, the 'Horns were able to pull off one of their greatest victories in the history of the rivalry.

    Following a six-year winless streak against the Sooners, the 1977 game gave the Longhorns a shot at some redemption. They had the best player in the country in Earl Campbell as well a defense that refused to be his subtitle.

    However, those hopes were swiftly dashed as Texas lost both its starting and backup quarterback in the first half, leaving third-stringer Randy McEachern as the final option. But behind the ferocious running of Campbell, the 'Horns were able to carry a 13-6 lead deep into the fourth.

    That was until Thomas Lott was able to drive the Sooners deep in Texas territory. The defense was able to force a 4th-and-1 at the four, and Lott got one last chance to convert.

    Lott decided to keep the ball on the triple-option and looked to be headed for the dagger when Johnson came out of nowhere to stand him up. Then Shearer, the massive All-American, came over and polished Lott off to give the ball back to the Longhorns.

    Two All-Americans. One game-winning play. That'll do pig. That'll do.

5. Cotton Speyrer Does It Again for the National Championship (1/1/70)

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    Even after staging a miraculous win over No. 2 Arkansas a month earlier (more on that later), the Fighting Irish refused to accept the Longhorns as national champions without getting a crack at them. They got it and fell to some signature Darrell Royal magic.

    Texas was the better team, but Notre Dame had no intentions of conceding that. The Irish took a 17-14 lead into the final two-and-half minutes of the game, putting Texas on their last down at the ND 10-yard line.

    Royal decided to put the game in quarterback James Street's hand on a run-pass option. Street went with a pass, finding Speyrer for eight yards and a first down. Three plays later, the Longhorns pounded it in for the game-winning score.

    Speyrer's game-clinching catch, his second of the season, gave Texas its first outright title since 1963 and made it official that Texas was one of the premier programs in college football. 

4. Nobis Drops Namath in the Orange Bowl (1/1/65)

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    The 1965 Orange Bowl was a dream matchup of Texas and Alabama, the nation's last two national champions. The game also featured two of the best coaches of their time in Darrell Royal and Bear Bryant, with each having two of their favorite all-time players on their respective sides.

    Something had to give in college football's first prime-time game.

    On a bum knee, Joe Namath led the champion Crimson Tide against the reigning champion Longhorns and superstar linebacker Tommy Nobis. In spite of a knee injury that forced him to the sideline in the first half, Namath had a game for the ages in putting his team in position to take the lead with seven minutes to play.

    Inches from the goal line on 4th-and-2, Bryant called for a Namath dive into the end zone. But Nobis was able to burst through and wrap him up before Namath could cross the plane. The Longhorns then rode Nobis and the defense in preserving the 21-17 victory.

    The play was arguably the greatest of Nobis' career as the best defender in Texas history. Texas' win over the "champion" Tide also led to 1965 being the final year that the national champion was crowned before the bowl season.

3. Ricky Runs Past Dorsett (11/27/98)

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    Ricky Williams needed only 11 yards against the Aggies to break Tony Dorsett's career rushing record. Someone must have told him that overkill is underrated.

    With 1:13 left in the first quarter, Williams followed bruising tackle Leonard Davis off the left side and broke three tackles for a 60-yard score. Williams finished the game with 259 yards on a career-high 44 carries, also breaking Napoleon McCallum's all-purpose rushing record, and the Longhorns won the game, 26-24.

    Williams' run, and game, provided his "Heisman moment" for the season and vaulted Texas into the Cotton Bowl. Though both of his national records have since been broken, Williams remains Texas' all-time rushing leader, and fans will never forget this record-breaking rumble.

2. "Right 53 Veer Pass" (12/6/69)

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    One play decided the "Greatest Game of the Century." And if it was not for a certain someone, that play would be the greatest in Texas history.

    Riding in to play No. 1 Arkansas on an 18-game winning streak, the top-ranked Longhorns had their work cut out for them. The Razorbacks were riding a 15-gamer of their own and were the nation's top scoring defense.

    Down 14-0 heading into the fourth, quarterback James Street scrambled for a touchdown, and the Longhorns made the two-point conversion to make the score 14-8. Arkansas answered with a 73-yard drive only to be picked off by Danny Lester in the end zone.

    Darrell Royal's Longhorns began to drive for the lead, but stalled with 4:47 left on a 4th-and-3 from their own 43. Royal called timeout, and, much to his quarterback's dismay, told Street to run "53 Veer Pass."

    After some sneaky work in the huddle, Street found Randy Peschel on the left side of the field and lofted it over double coverage for the completion. The play gained 44 yards and took the 'Horns all the way to the Arkansas 13.

    Two plays later, Jim Bertelsen ran in the game-winning score for the greatest win of Royal's career.

1. Vince on 4th-and-5 (1/4/06)

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    Without a doubt, the greatest play in the history of the Texas Longhorns was Vince Young's touchdown run on 4th-and-5 in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

    Against the so-called "Greatest Team Ever" and facing the man that beat him out for the Heisman Trophy, Young delivered the greatest performance in college football history.

    Down 12 with under seven minutes to play, he marched his team down the field in under three minutes to put Texas within a score. After a stellar fourth-down stand, he got the ball back and went right on back to work.

    Facing 4th-and-5 with :26 to play, Young dropped back to pass and found nothing downfield. With the pocket collapsing, he sprinted for the end zone for a stand-up touchdown to give Texas the lead. He then converted for two points to give Texas the 41-38 victory.

    Not only did Young throw for 267 and rush for 200 in the game, he accounted for every single yard on Texas' final two drives. His 4th-and-5 run was the icing on the cake, but the entire game was the stuff of legend.