A Look Back At NT Football History: North Texas vs. Tennessee, 1975

Nov. 3, 2014

In honor of the 1,000th game in Mean Green football history Saturday against Florida Atlantic, we are highlighting five of the top moments, in no particular order, in the team's history.

North Texas vs. Tennessee
Neyland Stadium - Knoxville, Tenn.
Oct. 25, 1975

DENTON - In its first year out of the Missouri Valley Conference as an independent school since 1956, the Mean Green marched into Knoxville, Tenn., looking for one of the biggest upsets in program history.

In his first two years as head coach, trying to get North Texas back on the winning track, Hayden Fry had yet to record a winning season, going 5-5-1 in 1973 and 2-7-2 in 1974.

But 1975 was a new year as North Texas jumped out of the gate with wins over Texas-Arlington and former MVC foe Drake before going on a three-game losing streak heading into a game with Houston.

That battle took place in Irving's Texas Stadium, then-home to the Dallas Cowboys, where NT would blow out the Cougars, 28-0.

Now the Mean Green had back-to-back road contests against SEC opponents Mississippi State and Tennessee.

North Texas hung in with Mississippi State but eventually fell 15-12, dropping to 3-4 on the year heading into the big game against Tennessee.

The Volunteers had been ranked as high as No. 10 in 1975 and had just fallen out of the AP rankings with a loss to No. 6 Alabama the week before the Mean Green invaded Neyland Stadium.

After a scoreless first quarter, Tennessee got on the board when running back Stanley Morgan dove over the Mean Green defense across the goal line to put the Vols up 7-0.

A 1975 Tennessee Volunteers game
program for the game
against North
Texas - click
image to view full program

After the Mean Green was unable to capitalize on a Burks Washington interception later in the second, Tennessee got the ball back deep in their own territory with 8:30 left to play in the half.

On second down, Tennessee quarterback Gary Roach pitched right on the read option, but the ball was snagged out of the air by defensive end Jimmy Burkholder to put North Texas in the red zone.

Senior running back Sears Woods would punch the ball in from three yards out to tie the game 7-7.

On the ensuing kickoff, Burkholder would again make his presence felt by putting a hard hit on returner Terry Moore, jarring the ball loose, again giving the Mean Green possession with great field position.

Woods then drove the ball into the end zone for his second touchdown and the Mean Green took a 14-7 lead into the half.

Like the first, both teams were held scoreless in the third quarter, and North Texas was 15 minutes away from a remarkable upset. With 4:39 left in the game, Volunteers quarterback Randy Wallace completed a two-yard pass to tight end John Murphy to tie the game at 14.

But the lead was short-lived as Woods returned the kickoff 98 yards for his third touchdown of the game to give the Mean Green the lead for good.

The Volunteers had 198 more passing yards, 41 more rushing yards and had 11 more first downs than the Mean Green, but the hard-hitting North Texas defensive made the difference in the game.

NT had two interceptions and forced seven fumbles, three of which were recovered by the Mean Green.

Mean Green Hall of Famers and All-Century Team members Walter Chapman, J.T. Smith and Burks Washington played a part in the Tennessee upset. Chapman had six solo tackles while Washington and Smith both had five.

North Texas won its three remaining games as had its win total adjusted to 8-3 on the season as Hayden Fry began a remarkable turnaround for Mean Green football in the following years.

Check back every day for the next installment for five of the top moments in North Texas football history.

Next game: 1977 vs. SMU


North Texas Mean Green