A&M's Most Important Wins: No. 3

Aggie Websider's David Sandhop takes a look back at the 20 most significant football wins in he 1974-2012 era. We are getting down to the end of the series, and today look at the No. 3 game that was played in Kyle Field with a berth in the Cotton Bowl on the line.

No. 3 Texas A&M 42 Texas 10, 1985 Kyle Field in College Station

For the younger fans, you need to know about college football in the pre-1990's era. In the 1985, the preseason focus was still conference-centric. Teams in the Big 10 and Pac-10 looked to the Rose Bowl. SEC teams pointed to the Sugar Bowl as their goal. The goal of every SWC team was to play in the Cotton Bowl.

In 1985, the SWC was still credible as a national power conference. Texas and Arkansas were historical national powerhouses. Baylor under Grant Teaff was a fringe Top 25 program and the Bears were ranked in the Top 15 for most of this season. SMU competed for national championships in the early 80's and the remnants of those teams still placed SMU in the top 25. Even TCU under Jim Wacker made a 2-3 year run in the polls during the mid-1980's.

So winning the SWC was a big deal. Going to the Cotton Bowl was a big deal. Texas A&M hadn't been to the Cotton Bowl in 18 years. I started at Texas A&M in 1983 and the Cotton Bowl drought was a common theme of any Aggie football conversation in those days.

After losing to No. 15 Baylor in early October, the Aggies went on a roll. Then the Aggies hosted SMU and Arkansas in back-to-back games at Kyle Field on ESPN, and the momentum continued to build with every win that was progressively more significant.

And when it was all said and done, the dream match-up was established…the Aggies and Longhorns at Kyle Field for all the marbles. The winner goes to the Cotton Bowl. In 1985, it didn't get any bigger than that.

But the game had a bigger storyline that would last longer than the 1985 season. With the 1975 win in College Station (which is still to be discussed in this series), the Aggies stopped the total domination of the series by Texas. Over the next 10 years, the two in-state rivals played an even series finishing 5-5. The 1984 win in Austin was considered an upset at the time, although in retrospect it was the start of bigger changes in the state's pecking order.

However, there was no mistaking that the 42-10 thumping of the Longhorns to win the SWC was legitimate, thorough, and conclusive. Not only did the Aggies control every aspect of the game, but the team did it with swagger and confidence. Every player, coach, and fan watching that night game on ESPN knew it. Texas A&M was the better team and the program was surging ahead while the Longhorns under Darrell Royal's successor, Fred Akers, was slowly fading into mediocrity mainly because Jackie Sherrill was beating him for the state's top recruits.

After 1985, the Aggies would go on to win nine of the next 10 meetings with Texas in the single most dominant period in this rivalry for Texas A&M. In the process, the Aggies won an unprecedented six SWC titles and played in six Cotton Bowls in that 10 year span.

As far as the game itself, the rowdy night game atmosphere at Kyle Field was unlike any other up to that time. The crowd was in a frenzy from the opening kickoff and the team fueled the enthusiasm throughout the second half. The Aggies took a slim 7-0 lead to the half, but completely dominated the contest from that point forward, scoring 21 unanswered points and taking a 28-0 advantage to the final quarter thanks to the pounding of the Aggie ground game to the tune of 234 yards that night on 55 carries. QB Kevin Murray only completed 11 passes, but he made them count tossing a pair of TD passes to Rod Harris and another to Jeff Nelson.

But what made this game so much fun for Aggie fans in attendance was the game was salted away by the end of the third quarter and it was a 30 minute party in the stands, and the team continued to add fuel to the fire scoring two more TD's in the final stanza. For most of that fourth quarter, cotton balls filled the air like snow flakes as the crowd unleashed bags and bags of the white fluffy stuff.

There have been many other loud games at Kyle Field, and plenty of celebrations in the stands, but in my 40 years of going to Kyle Field, I don't recall a time where it was such a long, sustained celebration in the stands. It was literally a party in the student section with spirits being passed around throughout the crowd. And the party did not stop after the students left Kyle Field. In what was probably the closest celebration to resemble the couch-burning victory marches at West Virginia on the Texas A&M campus, many of the students migrated over to Northgate and the intensity of the party did not moderate in the least. By the time I worked my way over there a couple of hours after the game, the police had shut down University Avenue with students flooded into the street outside of Northgate. Some students were scaling the buildings and getting on the roofs of the buildings trying to lead drunken yells for the crowd below. In John Belushi style, I saw one Aggie out of his mind breaking an empty beer bottle over his head and feeling no pain in the process.

It was just one of those rare sporting events where the thrill of victory is so great that time stands still and you simply try to release the energy and emotion by drinking large amounts of beer and acting stupid. Oh how I miss being a non-Heisman Trophy winning 20 year-old college student in that environment...and the drinking age was 19 back then.

Getting back to the game, I remembered three things from that game. First, the Aggies turned away an early drive by Texas and I recall the defense making a huge goal line stand against big stud RB Edwin "Naked Boy" Simmons, stopping him on third and fourth down from the one-yard line. That really turned the tide for the Aggie defense, and the Longhorns never established another long drive until the fourth quarter when the game was decided. Second, it was a brutal contest. The Aggie defense made Texas pay on every play, even on completions and positive runs. The team didn't want to just win the game, they wanted to make a statement. Add in the six sacks and several runs for losses, and A&M delivered punishment. Even on passes Brett Stafford and Todd Dodge delivered in time, they went down on some vicious hits. Those two guys were picking themselves off the artificial turf on virtually every passing play.

The third memory, and probably one of the greatest (if not the greatest memory) at Kyle Field was Brett Stafford standing in the backfield waiting for the Kyle Field crowd to calm down so he could call the signals. Back in those days, the referees would allow the opposing team to wait it out and hope for the crowd noise to die down. If that didn't work, the refs would direct the PA announcer to quiet the crowd, and if that didn't happen the home team could be penalized for delay of game. In this case, the referee must have known that trying to calm down this crowd was impossible so he allowed Stafford to stand there and wait…and wait…and wait. After a full two minutes of waiting, Stafford looked back to the referee and he finally signaled him to get under center. Of course, as soon as that happens, the crowd noise exploded as he snapped the ball. Slocum sent a double safety blitz and in less than two seconds, Alex Morris and Domingo Bryant met in the backfield at Bret Stafford. It was immediate and it was a fitting end to that sequence.

That episode was also symbolic of the evening. Texas was subdued and frankly intimidated by the Wrecking Crew and the stadium atmosphere in the second half. There's no question, the Aggies got in their heads and beat them between the ears.

This game was also important for another reason. If you recall from my discussion of the previous two games against SMU and Arkansas at Kyle Field in November, ESPN's Jim Simpson and Paul Maguire called all three games and by the Texas game, they were completely familiar with the traditions and the stadium atmosphere. The broadcasts really highlighted the special Kyle Field atmosphere which culminated in the thousands of cotton balls floating through the air and eventually raining down on the field. The 12th Man Kickoff Team was a household name and Jodie Mudd was a star.

If I may be so bold to say, this game was really the birth of the national reputation of Kyle Field as one of the great game day experiences in college football.

To be honest, writing up this summary has me rethinking my list. I could be easily swayed to move this game up to No. 2 on my list.

Regardless, this was a special night and one of my greatest memories at Kyle Field. Need I remind you that the Aggies made the most of their first Cotton Bowl appearance in 18 years, beating Bo Jackson and Auburn handily 36-16. 1985 was a great year for Aggie football.

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