FEATURE: 1996: Cougars blow it in the Bayou
On Sept. 9, 1996, The Daily Cougar’s Adam Burns reported on the UH football team’s stunning fourth-quarter collapse in a 35-34 loss to No. 17 Louisiana State on Sept. 7 in Baton Rouge, La.
The Cougars held a commanding 34-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but were outscored 21-0 the rest of the way to the delight of LSU fans. UH fans could only trudge back to Houston in disbelief.
The Cougars’ unfortunate turn of events could be traced to one big play. At the start of the fourth quarter, UH was forced into a fourth-and-short situation at its 46-yard line. The Cougars chose not to gamble, instead punting away to LSU punt returner/tailback Kevin Faulk.
Big mistake: Faulk returned the punt 78 yards for a touchdown that pulled the Tigers within 34-21 with 14:44 left in the game.
The next two UH drives ended with zero scores. The next two LSU drives both resulted in touchdown runs, including the all-important game-winner from running back Rondell Mealey.
Despite the disappointing loss, which dropped UH to 1-1, head coach Kim Helton didn’t appear to concede too much credit to LSU.
‘No, I think we’re a better football team than they are,’ he said. ‘They are a decent team, and we are a decent team, and they beat us by one point.’
The Cougars went on to have a successful campaign, finishing 7-4 in the regular season and winning the Conference USA title. UH received a berth in the Liberty Bowl, where it was defeated by Syracuse, 30-17.