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On This Date in Sports January 1, 1970: Texas Hooks National Championship

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Texas beats Notre Dame 21-17 in the Cotton Bowl, to lay claim to a National Championship. It was the second National Championship for the Longhorns, following a title in 1963. Texas had already been declared National Champions by President Richard Nixon, after beating Arkansas in their regular-season finale. Texas needed a late scoring drive to beat the Irish, as Billy Dale’s plunge with 68 seconds left was the difference.

The 1969 Texas Longhorns team was a symbol of transitional times. It was the NCAA’s 100th Anniversary, and still, many schools in the south had yet to integrate. The Longhorns coached by Darrell Royal were among those that had, however, to recruit an African American player. By the fall of 1969, this was changing as Julius Whittier enrolled to play football at Texas, but at the time, freshmen were ineligible to play, leaving Texas all-white as they won all ten games in the regular season.

Texas came into 1969 with momentum, as they won their final nine games in1968, including the Cotton Bowl, and finished the year ranked #3. Texas had won their first National Championship in 1963 and were seeking to close out the decade with another. Texas faced its biggest test at the end of the regular season, as they faced #2 Arkansas on December 6, 1969. The Razorbacks also were unbeaten as President Richard Nixon flew in to watch the game in Fayetteville. The game was labeled the “Game of the Century” as the Longhorns scored 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win the game15-14.

As champions of the Southwest Conference, Texas was tied into the Cotton Bowl. Penn State was also unbeaten but chose to play in the Orange Bowl, due to lingering segregation issues in Dallas. This left Texas facing #9 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. The Irish coached by Ara Parseghian reversed a long-held policy of not playing in bowl games that season and were making their first bowl appearance since 1925.

The day did not start well for Texas, as Notre Dame built a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, with Tom Gatewood reeling n a 54-yard pass from Joe Thiemann. Texas would get on the scoreboard late in the first half as Jim Bertelsen capped a 74-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run. Notre Dame maintained their 10-7 lead until the fourth quarter when Ted Koy had a three-yard touchdown run to give Texas the edge. Notre Dame would answer, as Jim Yoder caught a 24-yard pass from Thiemann with 6:52 left.

Down 14-10, Texas went on a 76-yard drive, picking a key fourth-down conversion to the two-yard line on an eight-yard pass from James Street to Cotton Speyer. Two plays later, Billy Dale scored from the one to give Texas the lead with 68 seconds left. The Longhorns would win the game 21-17, claiming their second National Championship.