On this date 45 years ago, this 18-year-old sophomore quarterbacked the Aggies to the university’s very first win on the ABC television network. First. Win. Ever. Dig it?
That’s right, the Fightin’ Texas Aggies took The Field to play a 9th-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders team that had already beaten No. 6 Texas. We’d had three straight away games scheduled before this Tech game — not a good idea at A&M, as the third game was never a charm. Sure enough, after beating No. 7 LSU in Tiger Stadium and Washington in Seattle, two of the LOUDEST stadiums you could ever possibly play in, Emory Bellard’s brand new wishbone triple option offense fell apart in, of all places, Lawrence, Kansas. We’d fumbled and tumbled our way down from No. 5 (No. 4 UPI) to No. 16 in the A.P. poll.
Nevertheless, this was our first SWC game and by gosh, ABC had been delegated by the NCAA to televise it. ABC, the pillar of college football broadcasting at the time, had televised only SIX Aggie football games — and ALL were A&M losses by an average of 23 points. The Aggies, in fact, had won only 3 of their 17 televised games in their history, and when playing games on the three major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS), their record stood at 2-12 all-time. One of the two wins came in the 1968 Cotton Bowl against Bear Bryant’s 8th-ranked Alabama team, and the other when Bear Bryant’s 1957 team beat Maryland in a game played in Dallas. Two Wins On Network TV, Ever.
HBO Boxing’s legendary announcer Jim Lampley was beginning his career as the very first college football sideline reporter in 1974, and he and I sat in front of the athletic dorm the day before and did an interview. He was a really nice guy who, I’m happy to say, has stayed in touch. To this day he can effortlessly recite our starting backfield: Bubba Bean, Bucky Sams and Skip Walker, names, as he says, “that are a microcosm of football in Texas.”
We were playing the 19th Top 10 opponent to ever play at Kyle Field since the Associated Press had begun its poll in 1936. The Aggies’ record in such games was 2-15-1. They’d upset No. 4 Oklahoma in 1951 and No. 4 TCU in 1956. That was it. Two Wins Ever!
Between 1956 and this game against Tech 17 years later, the Ags had dropped six straight at home against Top 10 competition. Obviously, neither TV nor the Top 10 had been good to the Aggies, nor much of anybody else for that matter, and in this game against Texas Tech we had a tough combo to beat.
With all this history getting laid on us and after losing the week before to a team that had no business beating us, we came out firing in front of a packed stadium. For a lot of us, it was our very first time to ever play on TV, while the others had played only in a 38-3 blowout loss to Texas two years earlier. This was special.
The defense was, as always in ‘74, outstanding, and our offensive line just pounded them. The final score was 28-7. My only completion in 5 attempts went for a touchdown to split end Carl Roaches.
We were now 1-0 in conference and feeling confident about ourselves again. We had removed a couple of huge monkeys from the Aggie Faithful’s backs by beating a Top 10 team at Kyle Field for the first time ever on TV. We moved right back into the Top 10 at No. 8 the following week. It felt good.
As with the 1974 LSU game that started the winning tradition at A&M, this Texas Tech game was similarly important to building the Aggie brand because it was seen by so many on national television. You can only imagine the excitement this victory created. A&M was becoming cool — and a winner.
TV Trivia: The Aggies lost all 12 televised games played against the Texas Longhorns prior to winning in 1975 and 1976, with both contests broadcast by ABC. The ‘75 game was played at Kyle Field and the ‘76 game at Memorial Stadium in Austin. Both of these teams finished with 10 wins, the first time the Aggies had back-to-back 10-win seasons. The ‘76 win was only the second in over 50 years at the Longhorns’ Memorial Stadium, and the first in twenty years.
The ‘76 team remains the only Aggie football team that ever beat the ‘Horns in Austin, won their bowl game, and finished ranked in the Top 10 — the perfect ending to Texas A&M’s Centennial Year. 1939’s national champions and the ‘85 and ‘87 SWC champions are the only Aggie football teams that beat Texas at A&M, won their bowl game, and finished ranked in the Top 10. Ours is quite a fraternity, but small.
By 1977, the Aggies were squeezing an all-time school record 57,000 fans into a 48,000-seat stadium. Very soon afterwards, the Aggies would add an unprecedented 50% increase in seating capacity, expanding the number of seats at Kyle Field to 72,000 following these successes.
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More: The Aggie football season with the most TV wins without a loss is 1976 (4-0). The most televised losses without a win occurred in 2003 (0-8.)
Records vs Top 10 opponents at Kyle Field by decade:
2010’s 3-8 (with one upcoming)
Record vs Top-Ranked Teams at Kyle Field:
1-7 (Oklahoma 2002, with one upcoming)
Records for TV games by decade:
1960’s 1-8 (Bama, Cotton Bowl)
2011-‘19 All games are televised.