DALLAS — Who would have thought that Tim Brown, the Heisman Trophy winner, would bring shame, shame on old Notre Dame?
Texas A&M's 35-10 crushing victory over Notre Dame Friday in the Cotton Bowl was bad enough to inflict severe bruises on Irish pride, but surely Brown didn't have to throw in the towel, too.
It was a bad week for Brown. First, he wrecked his car, then he wrecked his image.
It happened in the fourth quarter on what became the final play of Brown's college career after the whistle had already sounded. Brown, the nation's finest football player this season, chased a member of Texas A&M's kickoff team and tackled him from behind because that person had stolen his towel.
Well, not just any old towel, but a blue one with gold trim that has "T 81" embroidered on it. The "T" is Tim and "81" is his uniform number. The towel, a gift from a friend of teammate Cedric Figaro, had been stuck in Brown's football pants until it was stolen.
On a day when Notre Dame committed four turnovers leading to 22 Texas A&M points, the missing towel saga was a lot better than the game turned out to be.
The towel thief is named Warren Barhorst. He is a non-scholarship player and now the most famous member of Texas A&M's gimmicky 12th-man kickoff team, which Coach Jackie Sherrill culled from the school's student body.
Barhorst, who admitted taking Brown's towel, said he did it because other teams have been stealing A&M towels all season long and he was fed up with it. Barhorst held up his treasured Aggie towel.
"We have a lot of pride in these towels," he said.
So there. Now, it's easy to imagine the depth of Brown's outrage.
Figure it out. Notre Dame had lost the game, and Brown had lost his towel. The score was already A&M, 28-10, when Brown was tackled after returning a kickoff 14 yards with Barhorst landing on top of him.
In full view of 73,006 fans, as well as a national television audience, Brown got up and ran about 20 yards near the Aggie bench to catch up with Barhorst, who was jogging off the field. Brown jumped on Barhorst's back and fell with him to the ground.
Players and coaches from both benches surrounded the pile-up, but Brown got his towel back. Brown was called for a 15-yard personal foul. And while Sherrill angrily yelled at the officials to eject Brown (which did not happen), Irish Coach Lou Holtz wasn't sure what was going on.
"I turned my back to talk to (backup quarterback) Tony Rice and the next thing I know, everybody's running past me," Holtz said. "I had no idea what it was all about."
Brown said he was sorry only for causing a penalty, but not for getting his towel back by whatever means necessary.
"He had no right to take my towel," Brown said. "I didn't mean to tackle him. I was falling to the ground and I fell on top of him. It looked like I tackled him, I know."
It sure did, exactly like he tackled him.
"But I got my towel back," Brown said. "That was that."
The game wasn't nearly as simple for Notre Dame, which ended the season with its third straight loss to finish 8-4. A&M gained 294 yards rushing, held Brown without a catch in the second half and defeated the heavier Irish defensive line with its quickness to finish the season 10-2.
"When you get whipped up front and you have four turnovers, you're looking at a pretty one-sided football game," Holtz said. "And that's what you saw."
After falling behind, 10-3, in the second quarter, the Aggies converted two Notre Dame turnovers into an 18-10 lead by halftime.
Irish quarterback Terry Andrysiak, playing for the first time in 10 weeks, had Notre Dame at the Aggie 18-yard line when he threw a pass that was intercepted by Alex Morris in the end zone.
Andrysiak said there were only three things wrong with that play: It was run to the wrong side of the field, he forced the pass into coverage and he should have run with the ball instead.
Andrysiak finished with 15 completions in 25 attempts for 203 yards and a touchdown, but he was only 2 for 6 in the second half.
A&M moved 80 yards in 6 plays to tie the score on a 17-yard halfback pass from Darren Lewis to flanker Tony Thompson.
The Aggies went ahead to stay after another Notre Dame mistake. Fullback Braxton Banks caught a pass, but he dropped it when he began to run.
"I don't know where the transmission slipped," Holtz said.
It was on the Notre Dame 21, which is where the Aggies recovered Banks' fumble. Larry Horton's two-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion gave the Aggies an 18-10 lead.
Such a deficit didn't seem insurmountable to Notre Dame, especially given Brown's ability to catch the football. He returned the opening kickoff 37 yards, then caught 2 passes for 46 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown.
Brown had 6 catches for 105 yards in the first half, but that was before the Aggies changed their defense. They went from a zone to putting two defenders on Brown and sending pass-rushers at Andrysiak.