Mackovic's UT coaching career doomed in 66-3 loss

June, 22, 2009
6/22/09
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 15

Rout 66: No, that score wasn't a typo

Date: Sept. 13, 1997
Place: Darrell K. Royal/Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas
Score: UCLA 66, Texas 3

Simply stated, it was one of the most embarrassing moments in Texas football history.

 
  Stephen Dunn /Allsport
  Bruins quarterback Cade McNown threw for a school-record five touchdown passes.

Rebuilding UCLA came into the season unranked. And the Bruins' national perception took a hit after starting the season with losses to Washington State and Tennessee.

The No. 11 Longhorns met UCLA without starting quarterback James Brown, who was nursing a bruised left ankle. Texas still had many of weapons returning from a team that had notched an upset victory the previous season to claim the Big 12 championship over Nebraska.

But those factors didn't matter to UCLA quarterback Cade McNown, who blistered Texas' secondary for 202 passing yards and a school-record five touchdown passes to spark the stunning victory.

McNown blew the game open with a pair of touchdown throws 20 seconds apart early in the second quarter; he hit Skip Hicks on a 43-yard scoring pass and then hooked up with Mike Grieb on a 1-yard touchdown reception after a Texas turnover.

But he was just getting started. McNown hit Jim McElroy with a 4-yard touchdown pass and Grieb with another 1-yard scoring toss that boosted UCLA to an improbable 38-0 lead with 4:37 left in the first half.

Texas got a 35-yard field goal from Phil Dawson early in the third quarter to account for all of its scoring, but the landslide didn't stop when UCLA coach Bob Toledo pulled his starters and inserted his substitutes.

The Bruins erupted for 21 points in the fourth quarter, including a 10-yard scoring run from Keith Brown with 4:24 left and a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown from Damian Allen 23 seconds later.

The Longhorns struggled with eight turnovers and seven sacks in a humiliating performance that hasn't been matched in Texas' modern football history. It was the worst home defeat in Texas history and at the time was the worst loss for a ranked team in the 61-year history of the Associated Press poll.

The game was played before a crowd of 77,203 that shrank to a few thousand hardy souls before halftime.

But it still didn't keep those fans left fromgiving the Longhorns a standing ovation late in the first half -- after the beleaguered defense forced a incompletion by McNown on third down, stopping UCLA from scoring for the first time.

After the loss, Texas coach John Mackovic was living on borrowed time on the Forty Acres.  

Factoids to note: UCLA scored on its first six possessions ... Mackovic tried two quarterbacks to fill in for Brown with little success. Starter Richard Walton went 16-for-27 for 145 yards with an interception and four sacks before he was pulled. Replacement Marty Cherry was sacked three times and completed 9 of 18 passes for 105 yards and three interceptions ... UCLA's underrated defense shackled Ricky Williams and held him to one of the worst performances of his career. Williams rushed for only 36 yards on 13 carries, the third-lowest total of his career. His only games with less rushing production were 4 yards against Oklahoma in 1995 as a freshman and 7 yards against Nebraska in the 1996 Big 12 championship game ... The victory was the most lopsided for UCLA since the Bruins romped over San Diego Naval Training Center, 67-0, in 1954 ... UCLA turned six of its eight turnovers into touchdowns.

They said it, part I: "My family's out there waiting. I know it sounds horrible, but I don't want to look them in the eye. Playing sports all my life, fighting with my brother, I've never seen something like this. It's embarrassing," Texas center Ryan Fiebiger, who told reporters of his angst after the loss.

They said it, part II: "What do you say to friends and family who see this score?" Texas coach John Mackovic after the loss.

They said it, part III: "When the landslide starts, it's hard to get it stopped. I feel bad for John," UCLA coach Bob Toledo, who spoke after the game of his empathy for Mackovic.

They said it, part IV: "At least the band kept playing." The classic first paragraph in Kirk Bohls' column about the game.

The upshot: Mackovic was never able to overcome the loss as he was fired after the season ended. Only a year after the Longhorns claimed the Big 12 title, Texas finished 4-7. But the Longhorns have been to a bowl game every season since hiring Mack Brown.

Walton would win the starting job in Mack Brown's first season. But he sustained a season-ending injury early-on against the Bruins at the Rose Bowl and never started again for the Longhorns.

The Bruins used the big victory to spark them on a memorable comeback. After losing the first two games of the 1997 season by a combined nine points, UCLA erupted on a 10-game winning streak to finish the season, capped by a 29-23 victory over Texas A&M in the 1998 Cotton Bowl. In that game, UCLA overcame an early 16-0 A&M lead to charge back for the triumph that helped them finish No. 5 in the final Associated Press poll.

The countdown:

16. Kansas State finally slays the Cornhuskers.
17. Kingsbury and Long hook up in a passing duel for the ages.
18. Henery and Suh make Colorado blue.
19. Stunning OSU rally leads to Stoops' first home loss.
20. It's never over for Texas Tech until it's over.
21. Reesing to Meier. Again and again.
22. A Texas-sized comeback -- Texas over Oklahoma State in 2004.
23. A Border War unlike any of the rest -- Missouri over Kansas in 2007.
24. Seneca Wallace's wild TD run vs. Texas Tech in 2001.
25. Baylor's "So Much for Taking a Knee" against UNLV in 1999.

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