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Saturday, September 30, 2023


Reflecting on UH highs and lows

Although fans will remember the Cougars’ 34-28 win over Air Force in the 2008 Armed Forces Bowl as the program’s first postseason triumph in 28 years, the game might barely register a blip in the memories of older fans who have witnessed more thrilling games.

Older fans have seen the Cougars play in more prestigious games such as the Cotton and Bluebonnet bowls. They’ve seen heart-stopping wins and heartbreaking losses. They’ve seen the Cougars at their best and at their absolute worst.

So, where does the 2008 Armed Forces Bowl rank among the program’s eight bowl wins? Probably not as high as the casual observer may think.

Here’s my pick for top five UH bowl wins:

5. 2008 Armed Forces Bowl: UH 34, Air Force 28.

4. 1980 Garden State Bowl: UH 35, Navy 0.

3. 1973 Bluebonnet Bowl: UH 47, Tulane 7.

2. 1980 Cotton Bowl: UH 17, Nebraska 14.

1. 1977 Cotton Bowl: UH 30, Maryland 21.

Of course, the Cougars have taken several bowl games down to the wire only to come up short.

Here are my top five UH bowl games that got away:

5. 2006 Liberty Bowl: South Carolina 44, UH 36. The Cougars took a slim 28-27 lead into the locker room at halftime, but the Gamecocks rattled off 17 unanswered points to open the second half to take a 44-28 lead. The Cougars cut the deficit to 44-36 on Jackie Battle’s 3-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion with 5:42 left in the game, but they would get no closer.

4. 1974 Bluebonnet Bowl: UH 31, N.C. State 31. The Cougars led 31-17 late in the fourth quarter, but the Wolfpack scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes to tie the game. There was no overtime at that time, so the game ended in a deadlock.

3. 1988 Aloha Bowl: Washington State 24, UH 22. The Cougars trailed 24-9 at halftime, but two touchdown passes in the second half by backup quarterback David Dacus pulled them within two points with 13:16 left in the game. Washington State’s defense shut out UH’s offense from there to hold on for the win.

2. 2003 Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii 54, UH 48 (3 OT). The Cougars were seemingly down and out in this one until Vincent Marshall took a short pass from Kevin Kolb and turned it into an 81-yard touchdown that tied the game at 34 with 22 seconds left in regulation. The two teams battled until the third overtime, when Hawaii went ahead by six points after scoring a touchdown. The game ended when the Cougars came up short on a fourth-down play on the ensuing possession.

1. 1979 Cotton Bowl: Notre Dame 35, UH 34. This game will forever live in infamy for Cougar fans. The Cougars led 34-12 at the start of the fourth quarter, but were outscored by Notre Dame 23-0 in the final period. The Fighting Irish claimed the heart-stopping win when Kris Haines reeled in an 8-yard touchdown pass as time expired. The guy who threw that touchdown pass? Oh, just a soon-to-be NFL legend named Joe Montana.

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