Friday, October 23, 2009


Aikman stunned by KU


Kansas University football fans are hopeful that Oklahoma’s quarterback situation leads to a repeat of some history in 1984. That’s when OU came here with its top quarterback injured and a promising but untested freshman from Henryetta, Okla., as the only alternative. That sacrificial lamb? Troy Aikman.

Major upset: Kansas 28, Oklahoma 11.

Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford won’t play QB for the Sooners on Saturday, but the Okies are better-equipped to thwart a KU upset than they were 25 years ago. Landry Jones has seen combat; he threw for six touchdowns in one game after taking over for Bradford. OU is 3-3 while Kansas is 5-1, still, the quick and agile Sooners are favored by about seven points.

Back to ’84: With OU starter Danny Bradley hurt, coach Barry Switzer had to throw Aikman into the fire. Only 29,500 saw it, but Mike Gottfried’s Jayhawks took full advantage of the rookie QB. This was a future All-American and pro hall-of-famer?

To his credit, the poised but battered Aikman sat at his Memorial Stadium locker and answered media questions as long as they flowed. Switzer said he couldn’t have been prouder of his gutty signal-caller even though the KU defense had made him the equivalent of a “whipped pup ... but a great kid, gave us all he had, wrong place, wrong time for him.”

Things soured again in ’85. Aikman broke his ankle in the fourth Sooner game, against Miami, in his sophomore season. Jamelle Hollieway became the quarterback, and OU won the national championship. Aikman was more a passer than a Switzer-style wishbone operator; he transferred to UCLA to play under pass-minded Terry Donahue, onetime Kansas assistant under Pepper Rodgers.

Troy sat out ’86, then took over in ’87. He finished his UCLA career with a 20-4 record and a victory over Arkansas in the 1989 Cotton Bowl. As a Bruin, he completed 65 percent of his passes for 5,298 yards and 41 touchdowns. So on to the NFL where he was drafted by the tottering Dallas Cowboys, who had gone 3-13 in 1988.

More turmoil for Aikman. Dallas owner Jerry Jones fired the legendary Tom Landry as coach and brought in Jimmy Johnson from Miami U., against whom Aikman broke his ankle in ’85. The natives got increasingly restless. Not only did they love Landry, but they seethed when the new “savior” at quarterback had a 1-15 season. More sputters, but Troy led Dallas to Super Bowl victories in 1992, 1994 and 1996, the latter team coached by Barry Switzer, who had recruited Troy to OU.

Aikman, now a first-class TV commentator, has played it smart in a lot of ways, including finally showing the sense to retire as a player after 10 (yes, 10) concussions. Dallas waived him the day before he was due a $7 million, seven-year contract. With all his cranial conks, he couldn’t hook on elsewhere, though he tried. Let’s hope all that battering doesn’t doom him to early dementia. Despite the setbacks, Troy Aikman has prospered wonderfully. I interviewed that “whipped pup” here in ’84, and I delight in his prosperity.

But may the ’84 demise of a quarterback-shaky Oklahoma repeat itself against Kansas on Saturday, before a sellout of more than 52,000. The stage is set if the again-underdog Jayhawks can muster the grit and gumption to make it happen.


waywardJay 12 years, 10 months ago

Ummm 1993, 1994 and 1996 but who's counting.

kuME10 12 years, 10 months ago

Reading Bill Mayer's stories is like opening a dusty book that's dusty because nobody ever reads it.

Eliott Reeder 12 years, 10 months ago

You guys are foolish. This was an awesome, extremely informative article.

minnhawk84 12 years, 10 months ago

Thanks for the flashback. I had planned on going to the game, but the wife made me go to Metcalf South for an ethnic diversity day -- she and her mom modeled Norwegian heritage dresses, and I had to listen on the radio. It would have been nice to hear about the KU team that beat the Sooners that beautiful fall afternoon........

Rick Arnoldy 12 years, 10 months ago

I enjoyed the article. I was at that game. The KU defense had Troy's head spinning. As OU drove for a late TD, the crowd started chanting "Don't let'em score." I met up with some folks later at The Wheel who had left the game early to go drinking. I kept hearing "We WHAT?"

Carter Patterson 12 years, 10 months ago

That was my freshman year at KU. It was a lot of fun tearing down the goal posts. I remember Dodge Schwartzberg nailing field goal after field goal that season.

2 years later, ABC and Keith Jackson covered the game in Lawrence hoping for a repeat. It was such a blow out they left the game at halftime.

In my 4 years watching KU football as a student, this was the most memorable game. The funny thing is, I had no idea that it was Troy Aikman until I read this article today.

eastcoasthawk 12 years, 10 months ago

Yes we can. We can play OU in Lawrence. I remember 79' when we were in the midst of a 1-10 season yet we played OU to the wire only to lose by one on the last plays. I think the final score ended up 17-16. It was amazing how our team stepped up and gave them our best that day. Can only hope we give them our best tomorrow.

packywacky88 12 years, 10 months ago

I was there in '84 and it was wild. I remember people complaining all week that it was stupid to play OU homecoming. On Friday, the OU Winnebago’s appeared on campus incessantly blaring their horns that played “Boomer Sooner”. When we(band members) would see them, we would pull the tuning slides out on our trumpets and play a very comical-out-of-tune “Boomer Sooner” back at them. It was hilarious.

It was a typical KU football game in the '80s and the crowd was small and apathetic as usual. Around the end of the 3rd quarter, we realized that we just might win this thing. The crowed ignited like a wildfire and within a couple of minutes, it spread through the whole stadium…….and with that crowd behind them, there was no way the Hawks were going to lose to OU.

Lets hope that spirit lives again in Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Rock Chalk.

Ben Kane 12 years, 10 months ago

I wasn't at the KU game but I was at the OU Miami game when Troy got hurt. I'm not sure what this article is really about but there is no doubt that getting hurt against Miami and transferring to UCLA was the best thing that ever happened to him. He was able to go to a school that let him air it out and showcase his abilities rather than running the option 90% of the time.

I think we have a very real chance to win this game though. I was immensly disappointed with the Colorado game and our inability to run the ball, but fortunately turned my anger and disappointment to my advantage at a poker table. However, I believe to win this game we have to pass pass pass. use the pass to set up some runs, but definitely not the other way around. OU D-Line is realy good so Reesing will need to get rid of the ball quick on slants, screens, and such, specially early in the game. Second and long is not the time to either try to run it or try to go deep because we will likely not pick up a third and long all day. I think we will have great success getting to the QB with our D Line because the OU O-Line might be the worst in the conf.

This is really a huge game for us and the mental state of this team. Win and we are back in the driver seat. Lose and it will be an almost impossible climb back up. Fortunately this game is at home.

Prediction: KU 31 OU 21

Waylon Cook 12 years, 10 months ago

ya I have always heard that Matt..........

jayhawkinnc 12 years, 10 months ago

Finally.....a Bill Mayer column worth reading and one that you can follow and understand and that makes sense! (except for botching Aikman's Super Bowl years by 1...nice catch waywardJay.)

rockchalk80 12 years, 10 months ago

to confirm jayhawkinnc... Troy Aikman was the SB winning QB in '93 (not '92), '94 and '96.

XXVII January 31, 1993 Dallas Cowboys 52–17 Buffalo Bills XXVIII January 30, 1994 Dallas Cowboys 30–13 Buffalo Bills XXX January 28, 1996 Dallas Cowboys 27–17 Pittsburgh Steelers

63Jayhawk 12 years, 10 months ago

Bill, As usual, I enjoyed your article. I was not aware that Troy had competed against the Jayhawks. I spent 29 years in Dallas follwoing the Cowboys. Troy Aikman ALWAYS exhibited class, and he is doing an excellent job in broadcasting.

KirkwoodHawk 12 years, 10 months ago

eastcoast hawk, I was at that game as well. KU converted the 2 pt conversion to win, but had too many men on the field. The one team we beat was #8 UCLA.

That was also the year that SI declared Slippery Rock the national champions over OU because they did a string of wins starting with Slippery Rock over Shippenburg St, who then beat someone, and on and on, to someone who beat KU, who beat UCLA, who beat someone and on and on to the team that beat OU. I think it went through about 30 games in the string.

okiedave 12 years, 10 months ago

quote from Tulsa, Okla. World in picking winner of O.U. vs. K.U.

"...the KU basketball team kicked the KU football team's backside, which explains the lousy performance of the Kansas front seven. OU by 6.

Joel Hood 12 years, 10 months ago

This was the first KU game I ever went to as a freshman in college. What a great way to be introduced to KU football. To me, no other game has matched that one because KU wasn't even given a chance to win. The Orange Bowl was away and other big games at Memorial Stadium we had a good chance to win. Great article Bill.

hawksfan77 12 years, 10 months ago

Let's not forget Dodge Schwartzburg scored 14 points that game. Schwartzburg 14 - Oklahoma 11. Go Hawks!!!

ku_foaf 12 years, 10 months ago

Aikman was only 17 years old at the time of that game. I was in KC listening on the radio. It was reported that people started coming into the stadium in the second half and the stadium started filling up a little!

Paul Meyer 12 years, 10 months ago

I was at the game and I remember after the field goal was torn down, it went from the field and into the stands and almost thrown over the east side of the stadium.

gardenjay 12 years, 10 months ago

This was my favorite game as a KU student as well. I went around to the alumni side for the game so I could see the OU players better, and be more anonymous - allowing my rabid fan behaviour to come out more freely. Plenty of seats to choose from after all. It seemed like OU had a massive number of players, all with muscles you could see from a distance.

I cheered 'em on until I was hoarse during that game, and near the end, it is true, the people around me did get into the game that time. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Frank Seuer was the QB in that game for KU - and other big reasons we won that game should be mentioned, i.e. it was not just because their QB was young and naive. ALL of the OU players were bulldozers. KU had fielded a great team that day, period.

Joel Hood 12 years, 10 months ago

gardenjay - wasn't it Mike Norseth? I believe Seuer was gone a year or two before.

Steve Brown 12 years, 10 months ago

We had season tix, spent the morning making wife happy at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, trying to avoid the slaughter. When we hit the car and heard the radio broadcast score at half we raced over and witnessed the last 1/3 of the game. Yes, I had the tix in the car so she couldn't back out. It was a grand day, after the game the Sooner nation said with their regular QB it would have been different. Maybe not, here is why, that QB had said early in the year he liked the big games against Texas and NEB since they were electric but it was hard to get up for unimportant games like Kansas. That article was on the bulletin board for weeks, awaiting his arrival to Lawrence. The whole defense was wanting to smack D. Bradley so Mike G told them to pretend he was wearing Troy's jersey, and boy did they.

actorman 12 years, 9 months ago

"You guys are foolish. This was an awesome, extremely informative article."

Well, it wasn't quite informative enough. (More on that later.) It's great hearing from so many people who were at the '84 game. I was there too. I wasn't feeling well, and remember thinking that if KU was getting slaughtered at halftime I might have to leave because it wasn't worrth sitting through a miserable second half.

But here's the MINOR detail that Mayer left out of the article (and that apparently no one else remembers either): Aikman was not the second-string QB, he was the third-string QB!!! Not only was their starter hurt, but their backup had been declared academically ineligible just a few days before the game. So they had to go with Aikman, who had practically no time to prepare and who was in no way a wishbone quarterback. It was a ridiculous overmatch. As much as I love the trip down memory lane, it is a MAJOR stretch (worthy of Willie McCovey) to compare that game to tomorrow's.

The play I remember the most from the game, that made the crowd go crazy, was the interception return for a TD (I forget who made it). He went about 65 yards, weaving in and out of players. It was a truly incredible return.

Dan Harris 12 years, 9 months ago

I was at the game as well (soph) I believe it was Sauer also not Norseth.

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