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TAFS Feature: The Final Act

December 23, 2013
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Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
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(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)

THE FINAL ACT

bowl trips put memorable ends to successful seasons in Aggieland

by Will Johnson '01
Texas A&M Football Show

It’s the last scene before the curtain comes down on your season.

The final act, with hopes of a lasting impression.

As much controversy as they’ve caused, the memories created by them surpass any criticism.

The Bowl Game is still the destination at the culmination of every college football campaign. This year’s trip to the Chick-fil-A Bowl marks the Aggies 35th.

“It was an honor to be selected to go to any bowl, as it is today, as far as I’m concerned.”

- John David Crow, on the 1957 Gator Bowl vs Tennessee

The school’s greatest tradition was born in its postseason debut…in 1922 at the Dixie Classic, E. King Gill appeared and the 12th Man is still seen today.

January 1, 1940, in the Sugar Bowl…John Kimbrough and company claim a national title. The late star reflected on the celebration years later.

“I never did like champagne,” Kimbrough said in a 1998 interview. “Now, I ate all the steak that I wanted.”

Another great, John David Crow, fashioned a 24-5-2 record as an Aggie, but made just one postseason game. It was in his last in the Maroon and White, at the ’57 Gator Bowl.

That opportunity nearly didn’t materialize.

“We as a team voted not to go to the bowl because Coach Bryant had announced he was leaving A&M and going to Alabama,” Crow recalled.

“So I had to tell him that the team had voted not to go to the Gator Bowl.”

Crow then realized The Bear had other plans.

“He said ‘well, we got a problem. I’ve already accepted it, so we’re gonna play.”

Not even the team’s most looked-to leader would dare question Bryant in those days.

“Yes sir.  I’ll go tell ‘em.”

And Crow and the Aggies were off to Jacksonville for a date with Tennessee. Looking back, the Heisman winner is glad that his head coaches vote was only one that counted.

“It was an honor to be selected to go to any bowl, as it is today, as far as I’m concerned.”       

Obviously the Cotton Bowl is etched in the minds of Aggies, with 13 trips to the Metroplex.  

Some of these memories are ingrained, and easy to retain.

R.C. Slocum can readily recount the goal-line stand that thwarted Bo Jackson and Auburn’s chances in the ’86 classic.

“After three tries they called timeout, (and) by that time it was 4th and 2,” said Slocum, who was the Aggies’ defensive coordinator that season. “And what would you do? If you don’t give it to the Heisman Trophy [winner], whatever else you try, it better be successful.”

“I told our guys they’re probably going to give it to him,” Slocum says as the environment in the old Cotton Bowl stadium comes back to him. “We had our fans down in that end zone, and it was loud.

“They thought they were pretty good, and they were favored in the game, and we just beat the dog out of ‘em."

- R.C. Slocum, on the 1990 Holiday Bowl vs BYU

“I said y’all go back out there and enjoy this moment, and I’ll send something out there in a minute.”

R.C. Slocum has been involved in 18 of A&M’s bowl games--or right at half. The Jackson stop is still deep-rooted in his conscience. So is the 1990 Holiday Bowl, in which the Aggies weren’t given much of a chance versus BYU.

“They had made some comments about how they wished they’d gotten a higher ranked-bowl opponent, someone who would have elevated them a little bit.”

Slocum tries to hold back a soft laugh when discussing if he used that as motivation or not.

“I would never do something like that as a coach, to bring something up like that,” as he can no longer contain the laugh. “We talked about it every day. Before every practice. We were on a mission.

“They thought they were pretty good, and they were favored in the game, and we just beat the dog out of ‘em.”

The college game’s postseason has changed greatly over time. The holiday menu of bowls is robust to say the least. Title sponsors are all a part of it now. Payouts are huge, but these days your win total doesn’t have to be. And for the player, it continues to get more lavish.

“Staying at the Anatole in Dallas, good bowl gifts, great hospitality…all the way up to the game it really was a treat,” says Johnny Manziel as he looked back to last year’s Cotton Bowl.

In the end the bowl game is about the lasting image, ones that live for decades. The traditions, the championships, the reward…say what you want about college football’s postseason and what it has lacked over the years.

But don’t forget it has provided us all with oh so much.

 

 


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