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An Alternate Universe | John Cappelletti Wins Heisman for Texas Tech, Goes Undefeated

Helmet courtesy of Helmet Project.

I love writing assignments that force me to think, and this particular writing assignment for the EA Sports launch is one of those assignments. We were asked what former Heisman Trophy winner would we want on our team. On the surface, it seems somewhat simple. I could have just picked any player from any era and placed him on a Texas Tech team, but I wanted to make this a bit more difficult. I restricted myself in that I could only add a Heisman Trophy winner from that particular year, i.e. Cam Newton could only have played on the 2010 team. You can go through the Wikipedia list of former Heisman Trophy winners. My initial thoughts were to pick the absolutely best seasons for Texas Tech and then narrow them down by what I thought I could actually research. Obviously, the 2008 and the 1973 seasons are arguably the best in the program's history, so I narrowed it down to these two seasons.

I looked back at the 2008 season and if you recall, the Heisman Trophy winner was none other than Oklahoma's Sam Bradford. Now my question is whether or not I would want to essentially trade Bradford for Graham Harrell because only one of them could actually play and I just couldn't pull the trigger.

So now I turn to 1973, Coach Jim Carlen's best year as a head coach and one win away from being undefeated. Texas Tech would end up with a final ranking of No. 11 in the country in the AP polls, but it was an early season loss to a ranked Texas Tech that spoiled Texas Tech's season.

1973 Record: 11-1-0
September 15: Utah (W, 29-22)
September 22: New Mexico (W, 41-7)
September 29: @ Texas (L, 12-28)
October 6: @ Oklahoma St. (W, 20-8)
October 13: Texas A&M (W, 28-16)
October 20: @ Arizona (W, 31-17)
October 27: SMU (W, 31-14, Homecoming)
November 3: Rice (W, 19-6)
November 10: @ TCU (W, 24-10)
November 17: Baylor (W, 55-24)
November 24: @ Arkansas (W, 24-17)
December 29: Tennessee (W, 28-19, Gator Bowl)

In a lot of way, this is almost a role-reversal from the 2008 season where Texas Tech lost late in the year to lose their national title aspirations, but in this case, Texas Tech lost early to what was at the time a ranked Texas. Texas Tech was never ranked early in the season.

So who was the Heisman Trophy winniner in 1973. Penn State running back John Cappelletti. Cappelletti only played running back for two seasons for Penn State, but his senior year, he was terrific. Cappelletti rushed 286 times for 1,522 yards, 17 touchdowns and caught 6 passes for 69 yards. That's an average of 126 yards a game and almost one and a half touchdowns a game.

Make sure and note that in the box score, Tom Landry rushed 9 times for 47 yards with 2 catches for 20 yards.

I wish Texas Tech had box scores of all of their past games, unfortunately, Texas Tech does not, but Texas does have the box score from that game in 1973. In order for me to even reasonably pick Cappelletti, the game would have to have been winnable with Texas, and I think you could make the case for that. During the year, Texas Tech rushed for an average of 251 yards a game, but during that game with Texas, the Texas Tech offense was held in check to 119 rushing yards on 35 carries and only 232 total yards, while the Longhorns played ball control football, as they had 67 total plays, 59 rushing plays for 234 rushing yards for the day. It appears that Texas Tech just couldn't get Texas off the field that game.

So would have Cappelletti have made a difference? You could certainly argue that a Heisman winning player would have made some difference during the course of the game. And this wasn't a case of being blown out, losing by a couple of touchdowns. Texas ended up 8-3 that year in 1963, losing to a ranked Miami (FL) team 15-20, being blown out by a ranked Oklahoma team 13-52 and losing the Cotton Bowl that game to a ranked Nebraska team 3-19. Texas wasn't a perfect team, they lost only to ranked opponents.

The other nice thing about adding Cappelletti is that this wouldn't have been an either-or scenario, like in 2008. Either Harrell or Bradford. Cappelletti could have been added along with leading rusher QB Joe Barnes, FB James Mosley and newcomer of the year, RB James Isaac. Adding Cappelletti maybe would have been one of the most feared running attacks in the nation. Cappelletti also ran for 200 yards for three straight games during that 1973 year and maybe one of those games would have been against Texas. There is hardly any video of Cappelletti actually running the football, although there are a few seconds here as well as Cappelletti's Heisman Trophy speech which he dedicated the trophy to his younger brother, Joey, who was diagnosed with Leukemia and would pass away a few short years after winning the Heisman. Cappelletti had speed to burn and in addition to winning the Heisman, Cappelletti also won the Maxwell Award, the UPI College Football Player of the Year, the Walter Camp Award, the Chic Harley Award, as well as receiving All-America honors.

If Texas Tech wins that early season Southwest Conference game, then Texas Tech is playing in the Cotton Bowl against Nebraska rather than in the Gator Bowl and could have gone undefeated on the year.

I've posted this before, but this is the Texas Tech highlights from the 1973 Gator Bowl win against Tennesee. You get to see Barnes, Isaac and Mosley in action. This was a great football team:

I also wanted to point you towards the program from the 1973 Gator Bowl as well as the box score from that game if you like nostalgic things.

And after the jump are all of the players, honors and statistics I could find from the 1973 season.

MVP Gator Bowl and MVP: QB Joe Barnes

1st team All-American: TE Andre Tillman

All-SWC: G Dennis Allen, QB Joe Barnes, DT Ecomet Burley, OT Tom Furgerson, KS Don Grimes, G David Knaus, RB Larry Isaac, DB Kenneth Wallace, DB Danny Willis, TE Andre Tillman

NFL Draft: OG Russell Ingram, DT Don Rives

Pete Cawthon Memorial Team Most Valuable Player Award: QB Joe Barnes

Dell Morgan Memorial Courage Award: B James Mosley

Donny Anderson Sportsmanship Award: LB George Herro, DB Ken Wallace

RB Larry Isaac (1973-76): 538 attempts (6th all time), 2,633 yards (7th all time), 31 rushing touchdowns (6th all time), 31 career touchdowns (7th all time tied with Wes Welker), 1973 Newcomer of the Year


Leading Rusher: Joe Barnes: 135 attempts for 568 yards 4.2 Avg.
Leading Passer: Joe Barnes: 37 of 125 for 978 yards
Leading Receiver: Andre Tillman 26 catches for 428 yards 5 TD's
Leading Scorer: Larry Isaac 10 touchdowns
All Purpose Yardage: Lawrence Williams 77 rushing yards, 233 receiving yards, 35 punt return yards, 491 kick return yards
Leading Punter: David Kyukendall 64 punts for 2,442 yards and 38.2 Avg.
Leading Punt Returner: 8 returns for 35 yards 4.4 Avg
Longest Kickoff Return: 95 yards for Lawrence Williams vs. New Mexico
Leading Kickoff Returner: 19 returns for 491 yards 25.8 Avg. 1 TD
Scoring Offense: 314 points, 11 games, 28.6 Avg.
Rush Offense: 2,763 yards, 11 games, 251.2 Avg. (621 Attempts)
Pass Offense: 1,158 yards 11 games 105.3 Avg.
Total Offense: 3,921 yards, 11 games, 356.4 Avg.
Scoring Defense: 168 points, 15.3 Avg.
Rushing Defense: 2,055 yards, 186.8 Avg.
Passing Defense: 1,360 yards, 123.6 Avg.
Total Defense: 3,415 yards, 310.5 Avg.

This post was sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 13. Check out the video for the game below.

EA SPORTS NCAA Football 13: "Tiger" (via EASPORTS)