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Texas A&M Football

SEC Round-Up: Texas A&M's improbable connection to Abilene Christian

November 16, 2023
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Las Vegas won’t set a line on the game. A blowout is imminent. An SEC football team is expected to pummel an FCS sacrificial lamb.

Texas A&M (6-4) vs. Abilene Christian (5-5), a team that four weeks ago lost by 38 points to Southern Utah, on Saturday is one of seven mismatches on the SEC’s schedule in Week 11.

There’s not much to analyze for a game between the Aggies and Wildcats. There’s no reason to believe Abilene Christian can seriously challenge A&M.

However, there was a time when Abilene Christian got one up on Texas A&M.

Actually, it was Abilene Christian kicker Ove Johansson, who stole the spotlight from A&M’s Tony Franklin on one of the most improbable days in college football history.

Back in 1976, Franklin held a record for the longest field goal in college football history… for about 10 minutes.

Sixty-yard field goals aren’t that uncommon today. Since 1998, there have been 11 NFL kickers to convert field goals of 62 yards or more.

But in 1970, Tom Dempsey of the New Orleans Saints hit a 63-yard field goal. That broke the 56-yard record of Bert Rechichar, which had stood for 17 years.

Six years later, Southwest Conference kickers were challenging Dempsey’s record on an almost weekly basis. Franklin, Texas’ Russell Erxleben and Arkansas’ Steve Little put their teams in field goal range once they crossed the 50-yard line.

Franklin had two major differences from Erxleben and Little.

Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports
The 1986 NFL scoring leader, Franklin went on to represent the AFC in the Pro Bowl that year.

First off, he preferred to kick game balls rather than worn practice balls. That ultimately helped him make a successful transition to the NFL. They failed in pro football.

Secondly, Franklin kicked bare-footed.

“I just did it because back when we played on astroturf and the soles of the shoes were like thick waffle bottoms. When you try to bend your foot to hit the ball at certain angles, shoes wouldn’t bend,” said Franklin, who is now retired and spends most of his time playing golf and hunting. “In high school, I kicked with a sock on.

“Then, during two-a-days in my sophomore year at A&M, it rained so much in practice at Kyle Field that I got tired of changing my socks. I started kicking bare-footed. It worked for me. I was more accurate and could kick the ball a lot farther.”

Rain was falling in College Station on Oct. 16, 1976.

That did not deter Aggies’ head coach Emory Bellard from calling on Franklin to attempt a 64-yard field goal in the second quarter of an eventual 24-0 victory over Baylor. Maybe that’s because he’d seen Franklin hit from beyond 60 yards in practice.

“We got to that point, and coach Bellard said, ‘Do you think you can make it?’” Franklin recalled. “I said, ‘Coach, I’d like to try.’ I didn’t hit it as well as I wanted, and it barely crept over the crossbar.”

In the third quarter, Bellard called on Franklin again. But instead to try from 65 yards out.

“That one I hit from 65 would’ve been good from 70,” Franklin said. “I knew that was good as soon as I kicked it. That’s probably the best ball I ever kicked.”

Up in the second deck was a high school student from Dallas who was attending his first game at Kyle Field.

Cindi Cannon Cox, an A&M student, had gotten tickets and invited her younger brother, Alan, to the game.

“That one I hit from 65 would’ve been good from 70. I knew that was good as soon as I kicked it. That’s probably the best ball I ever kicked.”
- A&M Hall of Famer Tony Franklin

Alan Cannon, who is now a Texas A&M football Sports Information Director, made sure to arrive early to watch Franklin in pre-game warmups. It was like going to watch batting practice at a baseball game.

“I remember the conversation pregame and everybody talking about how far he was kicking it,” Cannon said. “To actually see him trot out there in the game and nail not one, but two like that was phenomenal.”

To this day, no kicker has converted two field goals from 60 yards in the same game. Obviously, the Franklin family had much to celebrate.

Tony, his father Speck and his mother Joyce celebrated in downtown Bryan at Youngblood’s restaurant.

“The best chicken fried steak you ever had in your life,” Franklin said.

It was during that celebration that a fan approached and delivered shocking news.

“Some guys came over and said, ‘Some guy broke your record,’” Tony said. “I said, ‘Really?’”

Really.

Later that day, about 270 miles northwest, Johansson converted a 69-yard field goal in Shotwell Stadium against East Texas State.

Some suggested Johansson’s kick should’ve had an asterisk by it. He had a strong wind behind him. It’s like wind-aided track & field times or distances.

Franklin isn’t among them.

“Anytime a field goal is kicked that long, it takes talent,” Franklin said. “Hats off to him.”

Saturday’s game would’ve been a perfect time to bring Franklin and Johansson together to relive that remarkable day.

That is, had anybody thought of it?

“I think everybody at A&M has forgotten me,” laughed Franklin, who turns 67 on Saturday. “That’s fine. I spend my time hunting and going about my merry way.”

Franklin hasn’t been forgotten. He was a third-round draft choice of the Philadelphia Eagles. He kicked a field goal in Super Bowl XI for the Eagles. He also kicked a field goal in Super Bowl XX for the New England Patriots.

He’s in the Sun Bowl Hall of Fame. He was the first kicker enshrined into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. He set 18 A&M records.

“Nobody remembers I was first-team All-American twice,” Franklin said. “The only thing anyone remembers is those two kicks.”

Around the SEC

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Daniels became the first player in FBS history to pass for 350 yards and rush for 200 yards in the same game vs. Florida.

This week’s games: Abilene Christian at Texas A&M; Chattanooga at No. 8 Alabama; Louisiana Monroe at No. 13 Ole Miss; Southern Miss at Mississippi State; No. 1 Georgia at No. 18 Tennessee; New Mexico State at Auburn; Florida at No. 9 Missouri; Florida International at Arkansas; Kentucky at South Carolina; Georgia State at No. 15 LSU

Who’s hot: LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels is so hot he should be the Heisman Trophy frontrunner. He has accumulated 988 yards of total offense in the last two games. Last week, Daniels rushed for 234 yards and passed 372 in a 52-35 victory over Florida. The previous week, he rushed for 163 yards and passed for 219 in a 42-28 loss to Alabama. He figures to put up big numbers again this week when the Tigers play Georgia State. Although LSU has limited his play in previous blowout wins over Grambling and Army, he figures to get more playing time to boost his Heisman candidacy.

Who’s not: Hate to be repetitive, but Mississippi State’s offense occupies this spot for the second week in a row. The Bulldogs offense has managed just 26 points in the last four games combined. That led to the ouster of first-year coach Zach Arnett.

Keep an eye on: Missouri receiver Luther Burden III has been in a slump of sorts. He sustained an undisclosed injury in a loss to Georgia but played last week in a lopsided victory over Tennessee. However, Burden only had four catches for 26 yards. That’s the fourth consecutive game he has been held to fewer than 100 receiving yards. Before that slump, he exceeded 100 receiving yards in five straight games. Look for him to hit triple figures again this week against Florida. The Gators have allowed a 100-yard receiver in each of their last five games.

The pressure is on: South Carolina (4-6) still needs two victories to qualify for bowl eligibility. The Gamecocks’ remaining opponents are Kentucky and Clemson. Winning those games won’t come easy. Their hopes fall primarily on quarterback Spencer Rattler. South Carolina isn’t likely to even have a chance to win if he’s not productive. He has averaged 345.7 passing yards and has 11 touchdowns in the four victories. He has averaged 247.3 passing yards with just six touchdown passes in the six losses.

Best matchup: Any chance Tennessee has to upset No. 1 Georgia depends on the matchup of the Volunteers offensive line vs. Georgia’s defensive front. The Volunteers are ranked second in the SEC in rushing offense and in sacks allowed. Meanwhile, Georgia is second in the SEC in rushing defense and has a good, but not great, pass rush.

Discussion from...

SEC Round-Up: Texas A&M's improbable connection to Abilene Christian

6,385 Views | 7 Replies | Last: 3 mo ago by aggiebrad94
12mn95
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AG
Saturday's game would've been a perfect time to bring Tony Franklin and Johansson together to relive that remarkable day.

Unfortunately Johansson died a month and a half ago...(they both got drafted by Eagles. Johansson in '77 and Tony Franklin in '79)
TAMU74
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AG
Great write up Olin.
Brings back a lot of memories.
I had forgotten Tony's record was broken that same day.
DartmouthAg
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Ove was drafted by the Oilers (in the 12th round). He was apparently cut and later signed with the Eagles that same year and played in 2 games, connecting on only 1/4 FG attempts (for 32 yards) and 1/3 extra points. Career over.

He was drafted a few slots ahead of Rolf Benirschke (the penultimate player drafted) and a couple rounds after Rafael Septien.
el_guapo
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I saw Tony kick when I was in elementary school. My dad, an Aggie, told me that story several times. An interesting nugget of Aggie history. Thanks Olin. Good stuff.
ABattJudd
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AG
I sent this article to my brothers (one played at ACU, the other at Lubbock Christian). Turns out they were both at the ACU game that day as kids (way before my time).

Here's a video of the ACU kick (crappy 70s quality).

"Well, if you can’t have a great season, at least ruin somebody else’s." - Olin Buchanan
Mule
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AG
Was at that Baylor game when Tony made those kicks. It was surreal to see him break the record not once but twice in the same game. Magical.
Texas Aggies
aggiebrad94
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AG
Surprised Olin didn't mention that the main reason we don't see those long attempts anymore is that the ball is placed at the spot of the snap now. It used to be placed at the 20 on a miss.
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