The annual border war known as the Texas-Oklahoma football game turned in the Longhorn's favor today when the equivalent of a buck private charged off the bench to rescue his team in its hour of greatest need.
Randy McEachern, a junior who spent last year as a spotter in the press box for a Texas radio station, came trembling onto the field early in the second period after the first two Texas quarterbacks were knocked out with injuries.
And when the afternoon had ended, his jubilant Texas teammates carried him off the field after he helped engineer a stunning, 13-6 victory over Oklahoma, ending the Soorers' six-year domination of this affair and elevating McEachern to the status of genuine Texas folk hero.
Over the next few days, the eyes of Texas also will gaze reverently at three other Longhorn players who played major roles in fifth-ranked and undefeated (4-0) Texas' dramatic upset of the second-ranked Sooners, now 4-1.
Earl Campbell, the Heisman Trophy candidate who may be the swiftest 220-pound fullback in the country, scored on 24-yard touchdown in the second quarter and gained 124 yards in 23 brutal carries through an Oklahoma defense that often seemed intent on yanking his head off.
Russell Erxleben certified his status as the premier kicking specialist in the college game - and maybe the world - when he connected on a 64-yard field gold, third longest in NCAA history, in the second period. He set the record last week with a 67-yard kick against Rice.
He later added a mere chip shot, a 58-yard kick in the final period, and his 69-yard punt from his end zone with 2 1/2 minutes to play left Oklahoma with rotten field position.
The Sooners could not pick up a first down from there, and Texas killed the clock in the final 71 seconds.
Texas safely Johnnie Johnson made the game's most important tackle two minutes before Erxleben's long punt when he hit Oklahoma quarterback Thomas Lott inches short of a first down at the Texas five on fourth down.
With eight minutes to play. Oklahoma, trailing by the final margin, moved from its 20 to fourth and one at the Texas five.
Lott rolled down the left side of the line, with the option to pitch out to his halfback of cut inside. He chose the latter, and Johnson was there waiting for him.
"He just seemed to cut up a little early," said Johnson, who was knocked groggy making the tackle when a ton of beef landed on his head in an effort to push Lott backward.
It's my responsibility if the play goes inside. My main thought was not to let him slip away. Oh yeah, this is the greatest thing that ever happened to me."
That tackle was among the worst things that happened to the Sooners. Early in the third period. Oklahoma was ready to gamble on fourth and two at the Texas 10-yard line. But the Sooners, trailing by 10-3 at the time, were called for delay of game, and Uwe von Schamann kicked a 37-yard field goal to cut the lead to 10-6.
"We just had too many people out there trying to make decision about what to do ," Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer said.
Switzer was asked why he did not call for an all-out rush on Erxleben's punt from the end zone.
"That really surprised me. Erxleben said. "I thought they were coming, I really did, until I saw they only had a seven-man rush. I felt a whole lot better."
Said Switzer: "We wanted to set up a return and get field position, and then the kid just goes and kicks it out of sight."
Switzer did not expect that, and no one in this capacity Cotton Bowl crowd of 72,032 expected Texas' thirdteam quarterback to perform any miracles after starter Mark McBath and back-up Jon Aune were knocked out of the game with leg injuries in the first period.
But McEachern had other ideas, even if he had spent his freshman year on the sideline, his sophomore year on the scout team as a redshirt and his third year as a spotter in a radio booth recovering from a knee operation.
McEachern completed four of his eight passes - including tosses of 23 and 18 yards on Texas' touchdown drive - and flawlessly handed off the football to Campbell for decent gains on both field-goal drives.
Routine handoffs between quarterback and running back may not sound like much, until you consider what McEachern does during Texas' practice sessions.
"Most of the time I kind of stand around and watch the other two guys." he said in the jubilant TExas locker room. "I don't work with the offense very much because we usually just run two units. I might throw every now and then, but that's about it."
Fortunately for the Longhorns, McEachern did play briefly in the team's first three games, all lopsided romps that allowed all the reserves a bit of game action.
"But that was nothing like this," he said, a grin all over his face. "When Mark (McBath) got hurt, coach told me to go ready, but I sure didn't think Jon (Aune) was going down, too.
"I was a little uneasy when I went out there. I've never played in a big game before. Matter of fact, I was a little uneasy the whole day.
"It's been three long years for me, but right now I'd have to say it was all worth it."
It was Texas' first day victory in the series since 1970 and the first game in 11 years in which the Sooners failed to score a touchdown.