AUSTIN (KXAN) — West Virginia joined the Big 12 Conference in 2012, and since then, the Mountaineers have faced off with the Longhorns 10 times heading into Saturday’s game at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.
The schools have split their conference games 5-5, but there’s one outlying game that has the scales tipped in West Virginia’s favor in the all-time series. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you probably didn’t see it — because it was in 1956.
“The West Virginia Mountaineers, as rugged and forbidding from the mountains from whence they came, ground out a last-gasp Texas drive like a cigar butt at the goal line and handed the eager but erratic Longhorns a 7-6 setback before 30,000 fans at Memorial Stadium Saturday night,” wrote Austin American sports editor Lou Maysel in the lede of his story headlined, “Mountaineers Edge Erratic Steers, 7-6,” in the first-ever meeting between the programs.
It was a classic defensive battle for the era it was played in, and came down to a goal line stand by the Mountaineers with two minutes remaining in the game, and then a missed Longhorns field goal with 15 seconds left as the Mountaineers escaped with the win. Texas also missed the point after touchdown try following the Longhorns’ only touchdown, a 5-yard pass from Joe Clements to Walter Fondren with 13:00 left in the fourth quarter.
West Virginia stopped Clements in his tracks twice trying to “ram the ball over from inside the one-yard line,” Maysel wrote. Clements tried a quarterback sneak on third down and was denied by the Mountaineers’ defensive front, “gaining barely a fraction of a foot and was still two feet shy.”
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Clements then tried a bootleg play using Fondren “as a decoy for a pitch out,” but that fourth-down play was snuffed out short of the end zone with 2:50 left in the game.
Johnny Elam had a chance to win it for the Longhorns with a kick from the West Virginia 33-yard line with 15 seconds left, but the kick was both short and wide “barely crossing the goal line.”
West Virginia outrushed the Longhorns 180-133 that hot October evening, but Clements had a nice day throwing the ball with 122 yards on 10 of 16 passing and the lone touchdown. Three Texas players threw passes that day with Fondren and Vince Matthews combining to go 6-for-9 for 83 yards.
West Virginia fullback Larry Krutko scored in the third quarter on an 15-yard run. Maysel described Krutko as a “wild bull battering over helpless toredores on his 15-yard touchdown run through the Texas line.” West Virginia’s Bob Snider converted the extra point which proved to be the difference.
Krutko recalled the game when speaking with the West Virginia athletic department for a feature on the game in 2015. Krutko, who also played linebacker, said the team came into the game preparing as if that Longhorns team was one of the best in the country.
“I don’t think that was one of the better Texas teams,” Krutko said, “but it was the beginning of the season and the reality of them not being a good team wasn’t really known yet.”
Before the West Virginia game, the Longhorns beat Tulane 7-6 for what ended up being their only win of the season. The Longhorns lost seven consecutive games following the West Virginia setback, finished the season 1-9 and Price resigned at the end of the season to take an administrative position at UT.
The Longhorns played Baylor and SMU tough that year, losing both games by a combined four points, but lost to everyone else by multiple scores. The Longhorns didn’t win a Southwest Conference game that season.
However, the bad season allowed for perhaps the most influential change in school history — the hiring of Darrell Royal. He took over the next season and had them in the Sugar Bowl. By the end of the 1959 season, the Longhorns were ranked No. 4 in the country by the Associated Press.
The rest, as they say, is history.