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Friday, September 29, 2023


Wednesday Rewind: Briles leads UH in return to success

On Saturday, Robertson Stadium will host a football game for the final time, so The Daily Cougar decided to honor the stadium’s legacy with this gallery. | Rebekah Stearns /The Daily Cougar

Following many years of futility and losing for the Cougars, former UH athlete Art Briles returned to coach Houston and led them back to their first conference title since 1996. | File photo/The Cougar

The University of Houston athletics program is one of the most storied in the country, boasting a long, rich history of signature moments, players and achievements. Over the past few weeks, The Cougar has been taking a look back at some of the marque seasons that made the program into what it is today, and today we look back at the 2006 Cougar football team.

Following the 1990 season, football fell into a slump, amassing a 40-93 record, tying for one conference title and just one bowl appearance in a 12-year span, including the only winless campaign in the history of the program.

In December 2002, UH hired Texas Tech University assistant Art Briles to be the 10th head coach in school history and rejuvenate the once-proud program.

A wide receiver for the Cougars from 1974-77, Briles became the first former player to lead the UH football program.

Heading into his fourth season in 2006, Briles believed the Cougars were prepared for a strong season with 17 starters returning, including senior gun-slinging quarterback Kevin Kolb, and a favorable schedule.

Briles appeared to be correct as the Cougars got off to a 4-0 start to the season, before three straight losses threatened the Cougars chances for a conference title.

Briles would then lead his team to five consecutive wins, and the Cougars were able to capture the West Division title and the right host to the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles in the C-USA Championship Game.

Having suffered defeats in seven of the previous eight meetings, the Cougars were out for revenge in the rematch at Robertson Stadium before a then-record crowd of 31,818 fans.

The Golden Eagles came into the game with the league’s top rushing offense and led the Cougar’s 17-13 at halftime.

Early in the third quarter, however, the tide began to turn when the Cougars scored on a 46-yard carry for a touchdown.

From there, the UH defense was able to hold the Eagles to 46 total yards in the second half as Kolb recovered from a sluggish start to throw two third-quarter TDs and put Houston ahead for good.

The resulting 34-20 victory gave the Cougars their first conference title since 1996 and earned them a spot in the Liberty Bowl against the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.

Though the Cougars were not able to win what would have been the team’s first bowl game victory since the 1980 season, losing to the Gamecocks 44-36 in a shootout, the 2006 season was still an immense success for the program.

Kolb, who finished his career as the most prolific passer in school history, had his best season by far, throwing for 3,809 yards, 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions in route to a consensus selection as the 2006 Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year and a unanimous pick to the All C-USA First Team.

After leaving UH, Kolb was drafted number 36 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2007 NFL draft, making him the Cougars’ highest-selected player since 1997.

For his efforts, Briles was named the 2006 Conference USA Coach of the Year and the Sportexe 2006 Division I-A National Football Coach of the Year.

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