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1982 Cotton Bowl, Texas vs. Alabama: One Perfect Play

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1982 Cotton Bowl, Texas vs. Alabama: One Perfect Play
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In 1954, Junior Quarterback Charlie Brewer threw two touchdown passes as Texas defeated Bear Bryant and Texas A&M 22-13. Twenty-eight years later, Bryant was still coaching and this time Charlie sat in the Cotton Bowl stands and watched his son Robert help Texas pull off a 14-12 upset of Bryant’s Crimson Tide.

The 1981 regular season had been a mixed bag for the Longhorns. Texas started the season ranked No. 8, and after defeating the Jim Kelly-led Miami Hurricanes and Oklahoma in back-to-back games, the Longhorns were ranked No. 1.

Then came a disastrous trip to Arkansas. Due to a travel mixup, the team arrived at the stadium hours ahead of schedule and spent the extra time in the cramped quarters of the visitors' locker room.

The Horns, flat from the opening kickoff, were routed 42-11 by the Razorbacks. Robert Brewer, a walk-on and the third team QB, got in for mop up duty in the final moments.

A few weeks later, with Texas trailing the University of Houston 14-0, Coach Fred Akers inserted Brewer into the lineup. He led Texas to a 14-14 tie, and won the starting job. Texas entered the 1982 Cotton Bowl 9-1-1 and ranked No. 6 in the nation.

Alabama meanwhile was also 9-1-1 and ranked No. 3 in the AP poll.


Bear Bryant entered the 1982 Cotton Bowl after having broken Amos Alonzo Stagg’s record of 314 career head coaching wins.

Bryant, in his 37th season as a head coach, had tied Stagg’s record with a win over Joe Paterno and Penn State, and then set the mark with a win over archrival Auburn. Alabama also held out some hope for the National Championship, depending on how other bowl games turned out.

The game started out as a defensive struggle and was scoreless after the first period. Then midway through the second quarter, ‘Bama QB Walter Lewis completed a six yard touchdown pass to receiver Jesse Bendross. Those would be the only points for either team for three quarters.


For three quarters Texas tried everything, including a leaping John Walker, to try and establish a consistent ground game against Alabama.

Early in the fourth quarter, Alabama stretched the lead to 10-0, and then Texas finally got on the scoreboard. Brewer, who had thrown for less than 100 yards in the first three quarters, suddenly began to find receivers like Donnie Little and Lawrence Sampleton.

The Horns soon faced a 3rd-and-10 from the ‘Bama 30-yard line, and as he stepped to the line, Brewer saw Alabama’s defensive setup, and he quickly called timeout.

“I saw their safety (Tommy Wilcox) move up, and I knew if we ran the play I would be sacked,” said Brewer. Having already been sacked seven times in the game, Brewer was well versed in the ‘Bama blitz package.

The play Akers and OC Ron Toman came up with during the timeout was simply called “One.” It was a QB draw that had been used when Donnie Little played the position, but it wasn’t in the game plan.

Alabama had been playing man all game, sending linebackers with the Texas running backs and corners with the wideouts. The play had Rodney Tate and Terry Orr both swing out of the backfield while Little and Herkie Walls ran deep routes.

Mike Baab had the key block as he had to handle All-SEC nose guard Warren Lyles. “When Robert called it, I thought, ‘Oh shit,' ” said the Longhorn center. “The whole play basically comes down to my block.”

Lyles helped out when Baab raised up as if to pass block, he made a move to the left. Baab just influenced him out that way, and Brewer easily scored.


The field was so wide open for his QB draw, Robert Brewer remarked that “my mother could have scored.”

That cut the Alabama lead to 10-7, and the next time Texas got the ball, Brewer led them 80 yards to the winning score. Brewer hit four straight passes of 37, 10, 19, and 10 yards before Terry Orr bolted over from the 8-yard line for the touchdown.

Alabama had one more chance as Joey Jones ran the ensuing kickoff all the way back to the Texas 38. Longhorn safety William Graham stopped that threat on the very first play from scrimmage.


William Graham stepped in front of ‘Bama receiver Tim Clark to help preserve the Cotton Bowl victory.

Graham’s interception came on the one-yard line, and after three Brewer sneaks, punter John Goodson took an intentional safety. eb6rTexas punted and Kiki De Ayala sacked Lewis to end the game. Of course what most fans carried out of the Cotton Bowl that day was the memory of the QB draw.

Texas finished 10-1-1 with a final No. 3 National Ranking. Alabama saw its record against the Longhorns go to 0-7-1, where it stands as we get ready for the BCS championship game on Thursday.

 

POSTSCRIPT

Taking a look back at the most recent meetings between these two college football powers is, for me at least, more than a nostalgic trip through history.

When two tradition-rich programs meet for high stakes, there are invariably back stories revealed in time that bring an added texture to the game and helps make college football the sport we all love.

The 1965 Orange Bowl was a classic contest, and years later Joe Namath and four of his Longhorn adversaries became teammates and played in one of the most significant games in pro football history.

In 1973 the Texas-Alabama clash showcased two true legends of the sport squaring off on the field, while also showcasing their life-long friendship.

Today, Randy Edwards is a successful attorney in Atlanta. In 1982 Edwards was a defensive end for Alabama, and he spent most of the Cotton Bowl contest trying to get around, and fighting with UT offensive lineman Bryan Millard. Edwards admits that they didn’t like each other much that week. But the two eventually became teammates in the NFL and today they call each other best friends.

As for Robert Brewer, his backstory is one of my all-time favorites—as it involves the qualities of perseverance and loyalty. As mentioned, Robert was a Longhorn Legacy, a walk-on who followed his father to the 40 Acres.


Robert Brewer’s career at Texas is a prime example of what makes College Football a unique sport.

I was traveling with the Longhorns during this time, and thanks to a connection through the sports photographer at my station, I got to know Robert in 1981. In fact, we all sat in the back of the plane on the way back to Austin from that miserable trip to Fayetteville.

Robert talked about trying to balance studies and Longhorn football, and since he was third team he was beginning to think it might be time to just concentrate on the academics, and forget about football.

The next week we ran into Robert at practice and the asked about his plans.

“I’m going to stick it out,” Brewer said. “It means to much too me to be a part of the team, the friendships are too important, and it isn’t going to last forever anyway.”

Two weeks later, Robert Brewer was the starter for a Top 10 football team. Two months later, he was the Offensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl. In 1982, Brewer was the triggerman for a dynamic offense that averaged over 35 points a game as he set the then-school records for yards passing and touchdowns in a season.

Twenty-eight years after playing for Texas, Charlie Brewer had the chance to sit in the stands and watch his son achieve at a high level for the school that he loved.

Now 28 years later, it is Robert’s turn as he sits in the stands and watches his son, Michael lead his Lake Travis High School team to a state championship. The symmetry in that is very appealing to me.

Thursday’s Texas-Alabama matchup for the BCS Championship promises to add to the short but intense history between these two teams.

It should be one helluva game.

And in time, there should be one helluva backstory to enjoy as well.

_____________________

This article was written by srr50 of Barking Carnival

Follow Barking Carnival on Twitter: @BarkingCarnival

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