West Virginia and Texas may be in the same conference for the first time ever, but that doesn't mean the two schools are strangers on the football field. The storied rivalry may not be on the same level as Texas-Texas A&M or WVU-Pitt, but it does have a long and heated past. The Mountaineers and Longhorns faced off for the first time ever in Austin in 1956, with WVU winning every single meeting. Today, we recap the first time WVU visited Texas Memorial Stadium.
Fifty six years ago to the day, Art "Pappy" Lewis marched a 1-1 Mountaineer team, fresh off a 30-6 thrashing of Southern Conference rival Richmond that followed a heartbreaking 14-13 season-opening loss to Pitt, into a hostile Longhorn crowd of 30,000 and took down the powerful Longhorns, 7-6.
On a beautiful fall day where the temperature reached 85 degrees and a gentle breeze blew through the stadium, the Mounties and Longhorns engaged in a ferocious defensive battle, trading punts for much of the first half. With 4:05 remaining in the third quarter, WVU fullback Larry Krutko broke free for a 15 yard touchdown to put WVU up 6-0. Elizabeth, WV, native Bob Snider successfully completed the point after to make it 7-0, and the Mountaineers were fully in control.
But Texas answered back with 13:00 to go in the game on Walter Fondren's 5 yard touchdown grab from quarterback Joe Clements. Fortunately for the Mountaineers, Texas kicker Johnny Elam missed the PAT and West Virginia clung to a 1-point lead. The game may not have come down to the final seconds had WVU been able to recover more than 1 of the 5 fumbles they caused or not committed two turnovers of their own. After the teams exchanged punts, Texas got the ball back with a chance for a game-winning drive, but an Elam field goal attempt from 45 yards out sailed wide and the Mountaineers celebrated a huge victory in their first-ever trip to Austin.
The Mountaineers rode into Austin on an all-time high, finishing with 2 or fewer losses in each of the preceding 3 years under Lewis. Texas was headed in the other direction, having fallen from a preseason #4 ranking in 1954 to finish 4-5-1 and then ended up at 5-5 in 1955. Much like this year, the Longhorns had much to prove.WVU was not able to parlay its upset win into much, finishing the season 6-4 and not being invited to a bowl. On the heels of the heartbreaking loss, Texas went on to suffer one of the worst seasons in their storied history, losing every remaining game to finish 1-9.
Will this year's meeting follow the same script? With Geno Smith and the WVU offense flying high off a historic Orange Bowl victory and Texas reeling after two years of mediocrity, the circumstances are eerily similar, right down to the date of the game. I don't see the final score winding up 7-6, but I wouldn't be shocked if the Mountaineers continue their dominance over the Longhorns.
[HT to Texas Sports for the game stats.]