Gilbert vs. Gipson, A 1968 Clash of Champions

UT Star Running Back Chris Gilbet and Coach Darrell Royal, 1968.

UT Star Running Back Chris Gilbet and Coach Darrell Royal, 1968.

Way back on Saturday night, September 21, 1968, at Memorial Stadium in Austin, a titanic challenge battle took place between the visiting University of Houston Cougars of Coach Bill Yeoman and the home town Texas Longhorns of Coach Darrell Royal. It was the UH Veer offense versus the UT Wishbone in college football for the first time with a lot riding on the outcome. As per usual, UH had everything to gain, but not much to lose but the opportunity from a defeat. For UT, however, it was their often served sip of not much to gain from victory, but everything to lose from defeat. Every fan from UH or UT at the stadium that night had a lot riding emotionally on that outcome. And your humble reporter from The Pecan Park Eagle was there among those Cougar fans who had driven over from Houston as a UH alum – and seven years before I also added my UT degree. I was totally partisan for UH and still am today. Can’t help it. It’s in my blood.

What nobody counted on was what happened. – The game ended in a 20-20 tie and, as was the rule back then, there was no protocol for an overtime playoff to sudden victory for one team over the other. Everybody just had to go home with that not-so-great “kissing your sister” sensation that Bear Bryant used to ascribe to feelings generated by games that end in ties.

Tie outcome aside, the game had been a mighty showcase battle between two great running backs from UH and UT. Senior fullback Paul Gipson of Jacksonville, Texas and UT Senior halfback Chris Gilbert of Spring Branch High School in Houston both lived up to their advance game billing.

Chris Gilbert had finesse and speed. - Paul Gipson had power and speed.

Chris Gilbert had finesse and speed. – Paul Gipson had power and speed.

Here’s how Associated Press sports writer Murray Chass described the star running back face-off a couple of days later:


Texas U. Star Runs for 195 Yards


By MURRAY CHASS, Associated Press Sports Writer

O.J. Simpson of Southern California was a first team All-American halfback last year. Chris Gilbert of Texas and Paul Gipson of Houston only made the second team.

On college football’s first big Saturday, Simpson scored four touchdowns and rambled for 236 yards on 39 carries as second-ranked Southern California defeated Minnesota, 29-20.

O.J., however, did not overshadow the play of Gilbert and Gipson in what some people called the championship game of the Southwest. Both had a lot to do with the 20-20 tie that resulted from the clash between the nation’s Number 4 team, Texas and the Number 11 team, Houston.

Star Performances

Chris Gilbert lived up to his pre-season tout on the night of 9/21/1968.

Chris Gilbert lived up to his pre-season tout on the night of 9/21/1968.

Gilbert ran for 195 yards on 21 carries; Gipson gained 173 yards on 28 tries. Simpson’s average was six yards per carry, the same as Gipson’s. Gilbert finished with a nine-yard average.

Included in Gilbert’s gains were touchdown runs of 57 and 8 yards. Gipson scored all three of Houston’s touchdowns on runs of one, 66, and 5 yards.

Paul Gipson above, going down hard in an earlier UH win over Florida State. - In the UT game, did Paul Gipson lose the call on his late game goal line run and dive that would've given UH the win? AS ONE WHO SAT DIRECTLY ON THAT LINE, I WILL FOREVER SWEAR THAT I SAW HIS HEAD, ARMS, AND THE BALL ALL BREAK THE PLANE BEFORE UT PUSHED HIM BACK FOR AN OFFICIAL "STOP".

Paul Gipson, above, going down hard in an earlier UH win over Florida State. – In the UT game, did Paul Gipson lose the call on his late game goal line run and dive that would’ve given UH the win? As one who sat directly on that goal line from the lower stands, I will swear forever that I saw Paul’s head, shoulders and the ball break the TD plane before UT pushed him back for an official “stop”. But that’s just how things go sometimes.

There was one time (late in the 4th quarter), however, when Texas stopped Gipson (at the goal plane) and that (“stop”) meant the difference between a tie and a Houston victory. The Cougars had the ball at the Texas two with a fourth down and the Longhorns stopped Gipson at the (goal) line.

~ excerpt from the Murray Chass article, as it appeared in the Lubbock (TX) Avalanche Journal, Monday, September 23, 1968, Page 47


When we asked the referee after the game about how many inches Gipson had missed on his dramatic 44th quarter failed TD dive for a UH victory, the ref just flashed us the above hand signal to denote the difference maker.

When we asked the referee after the game about how many inches Gipson had missed on his dramatic 4th quarter failed TD dive for a UH victory, the ref just flashed us the above hand signal to denote the failed distance.

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10 Responses to “Gilbert vs. Gipson, A 1968 Clash of Champions”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    I attended the UH vs. UT game in 1968 with some fellow UH students and stayed at my parents’ house in Austin–where they had moved from Pearland in 1963. We painted large UH letters on the hood of the car–which didn’t completely wash off later. Our seats were on the 50 yard line in the east stands, so I didn’t get a good look at the controversial call at the goal line. I didn’t kiss my sister that day, but that’s what the 20-20 tie felt like.

  2. Wayne Roberts Says:

    I remember this one well; listened to it on the radio with my dad. I was excited for UH but in a few short months, by Christmas 1968, I knew I was going to Hook ’em High. I always felt a warm spot for UH until the Yeoman scandal and the John Jenkins scuz era. This was close to the end of the Cougar High golden era in football.

    I am in mourning over James Street….way too young to die. Class act and an Austin icon to the very end.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Wayne, we both understand today where we stand on the issue of UH-UT. Some topics, principally Coach Yeoman, aren’t worth the ire we could each produce from your judgment and my defense of the man and his character. – So just let it go and spare us both the waste of time and potentially bad feelings. I value your friendship over the fact that we are polarized opposites on this score. As for Mr. Jenkins, we probably could find something close to 100% agreement.

      As for UH-UT and the actual field rivalry, I really miss it. I know you don’t think the Cougars will ever recover from the their SWC closing freefall, but I’m just hoping you’re wrong in the long run.

      The pinnacle turn to UH’s descent into the nadir came on the wings of a great victory that just happened against the wrong foe at the wrong time, and under the wrong circumstances.

      The mistakes: (1) UH defeated a NCAA superpower on their home turf; (2) The fallen foe was UT, by 30-0; (3) it was upstart UH’s first year in the SWC; (4) it was UT icon Darrell Royal’s last year as head coach; (5) late in the rout, UH students unfurled a 30-yard sign in the stands that read: “Houston is The University of Texas”; (6) the UT deep pocket backers were already probably asking, “Who in the hell invited these UH people to the party? They need to be fired or punished for what happened here; (7) UH went on to win the SWC and go to the Cotton Bowl in three of their first four years in the conference, sealing their eventual fate; and (8) when SWC the bellied up and the four SWC survivors went to the Big 8 to make it the Big 12, UH was cast into the NCAA Sea to sink or swim on their own as the only SWC state school that would not be taken into the blueblood company of the great midwest conference.

      That’s pretty much as I see it. At UH, our lack of political connection and good-old-boy finesse has always been our shortcoming. And you of all people should know how that particular handicap plays out in Austin.

      Regards, Bill

  3. Wayne Roberts Says:

    I will back off on the Yeoman issue because I understand how it gets under your skin. Not sure I understand how the UH-UCLA basketball game worked against UH. I consider it the peak of UH triumphs. I do believe UH got hosed in the SWC breakup and have long maintained that UH deserved a position long before Baylor or Tech (and for that matter A&M which at the time had been a doormat other than the Sherrill era). I was at the 30-0 debacle (from my position only) and I never resented the UH students’ actions–no different from any other school that upsets a “name” opponent. At the time I worked for the Legislature and the president of UH gave me a cup that just read “30-0” which I displayed for years in my office. I also remember the head of the Cotton Bowl Association (whoever it is that puts that bowl game on) griping in the media about UH fans by saying: “Half of them will be in the local 7-11 drinking Slurpees and the other half will be trying to rob them.” The UH administration and boosters brought in 7-11 cups for their pre game receptions which I thought was cool. Jenkins really did the damage by running up the scores with his creative offense. That in turn made other schools (and I remember UT in particular) returning the favor. Normally UT pulls its first team for the second half in clear blow outs but not against UH. That was Jenkins’ doing. There’s a lot of debate about the SWC breakup. My insiders (and they’re deep but not the final “inner circle”) say it was Bullock (not Richards–she was a nobody in state decision-making) who shafted UH. Bill Cunningham (UT president back then) reports it differently than I do and he was there. Regardless, I doubt UT would have gone to bat for UH. Remember, UH was coming out of a huge pyramiding scheme in its investments that tumbled Hoffman and others and they were widely perceived as sleezy through and through, not just the athletic program. Remember the “suicide” in the nightclub parking lot? Politically, UH was incredibly connected until Bill Hobby stepped down. That was your sugar daddy and he went to bat for you. I love that guy and you should too. Again, I’ll back off of Yeoman. He may have gotten Paternoed but I’d rather not go into that either.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:


      Thank you for those interesting, sensitive, forthright, and informative comments. With your ear-to-the ground life within the body of the whale that is Austin politics, I am more trusting of your personal integrity to report what actually happened there to UH than I am any others that come to mind.

      Take care and regards, Bill

  4. Wayne Roberts Says:

    I wouldn’t go that far but I do know some folks with some good insight in what goes on around the Pink Building. Someday a panel of those around and in the position to know of the SWC breakup would be interesting since some people who were instrumental and could object aren’t around anymore, e.g., Mr. Bullock. I loved that guy too but he was a Tech graduate and a Baylor Law grad. Don’t read too much into that!

  5. David Becker Says:

    Reminder about the 1976 game. Earl was on the sideline with a shredded hamstring.

  6. brad taylor Says:

    Houston was really good those years, but this game would have been different later in the year with James Street running the Bone.

  7. Eric Blakeman Says:

    UH FAN

  8. Phil Woodring Says:

    I’m fairly sure Gipson was from Conroe.

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