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Did TCU's Johnny Crouch really give back a touchdown in 1954 that kept OU's win streak alive?

Like most things that now live in dusty history books and the memories of old men, legend and truth make for a cloudy mix. The fact is, the wrong Frog might be the honored hero in a legendary story of good sportsmanship that helped preserve the Sooners' record win streak.
by Berry Tramel Modified: November 29, 2012 at 7:59 pm •  Published: November 29, 2012
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The Oklahoma Sooners and TCU Horned Frogs play football Saturday in Fort Worth. I don't know what will happen.

But I know what won't happen. There will be nothing like their game from 58 years ago.

TCU's train was late leaving Fort Worth the morning of Sept. 25, 1954. Texas Christian athletic director Dutch Meyer was watching his pennies, so he had the Frogs ride to Norman the day of the game.

Time was running thin, so east of OU's campus, TCU coach Abe Martin had the train stop before it pulled into Norman's depot. The Frogs grabbed their gear, navigated through a couple of fences and trudged to Owen Field, arriving just a few minutes before kickoff.

But that's not what people remember. Nor do they remember the two epic punt returns that saved the Sooners, or the launch of a glorious career — Jimmy Harris replaced the injured Gene Calame and quarterbacked OU to a 21-16 victory. Harris would go 25-0 as the Sooner QB.

But the lasting image of that game was the sportsmanship of TCU end Johnny Crouch, who gave back a touchdown with honesty that won him awards.

If only it were so.

Like most things that now live in dusty history books and the memories of old men, legend and truth make for a cloudy mix. Fact is, the wrong Frog might be the honored hero.

The story has been widely told. TCU threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Crouch, but Crouch handed the ball to the ref and admitted he didn't catch it.

Jim Dent's book on the Bud Wilkinson dynasty, The Undefeated, devoted an entire chapter to that game and that play. Dent placed the play at the end of the game, as TCU drove for the winning touchdown.

And indeed, the Southwest Conference and Fort Worth organizations honored Crouch for his sportsmanship. But there's more to the story.

Alas, can't get it from Crouch. Efforts to reach Crouch failed, and I had half of Fort Worth looking for him this week.

This much we know. After his playing days, Crouch coached in south Texas. Lived in McAllen as recently as six years ago. Most of his former teammates think he's still alive. But none of us could find him.

Crouch was a 1954 TCU captain. Might have served in the military before landing in Fort Worth.

“He was kind of older,” said Jim Swink, a TCU sophomore in 1954 who would go on to be one of the Frogs' greatest players. “He was a pretty tough, old-school type player. He got a lot of penalties called on him. I don't know if that was trying too hard or if that was just the way he played.”

And in 1954 at Norman, Crouch had a monster game. Four catches for 81 yards. Crouch also made the tackle on Buddy Leake's 50-yard punt return that set up the winning touchdown, Bob Herndon's 10-yard run on the next play.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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