Some called them the “Comeback Coogs” while others preferred “Cardiac Coogs,” but whatever fans called them, no moment exemplified their nickname more than the comeback of all comebacks on Sept. 17, 2011 in Ruston, La.
The Cougars entered the 2011 season full of promise following the announcement of the NCAA granting quarterback Case Keenum an unprecedented sixth year. After a statement-making victory over UCLA at Robertson Stadium in its opening week, UH examined a relatively soft schedule envisioning perfection — then came the trip to Ruston.
For more than two and a half quarters, Louisiana Tech dominated the Cougars, moving the ball consistently and with ease on UH’s defense. The Bulldogs found the end zone twice in the first half and tacked on two field goals, while the Cougars’ offense struggled mightily and turnovers proved costly.
The Bulldogs took a 20-7 lead into the half and had no intention of looking back.
“They confused us a little early,” said head coach Kevin Sumlin after the game. “We talked at halftime about playing each way and how we can’t get it all back at one time; it’s going to take every play.”
Louisiana Tech tacked on two more touchdowns and took a 34-7 lead with 5:11 remaining in the third quarter. Then, something happened.
“There was some real soul-searching going on,” Sumlin said. In those situations, there’s a time to get mad, there’s a time to be angry — but there’s also a time to think rationally about what you’re trying to do.”
Just 44 seconds after the Bulldogs took their biggest lead, Keenum and the Cougars responded — and big, courtesy of a 50-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Patrick Edwards.
The next two UH drives lasted under four minutes, both taking nine plays and more importantly ended in touchdowns, courtesy of two running back Bryce Beall rushes closing the gap 34-28.
Then, thanks to a huge sack by linebacker Sammy Brown forcing Louisiana Tech to punt, the Cougars got the ball back and made the most of it.
During a play where Keenum was forced to scramble out of the pocket, he found Patrick Edwards at the back of the end zone for an over-the-shoulder catch.
“That’s just him, hustling,” Keenum said. “I just put it out there and he made one of the best catches I’ve ever seen in my life.”
The 35-34 win marked the biggest comeback victory in the 66-year history of UH football and helped further the legend of the Cougars’ heart-wrenching comeback abilities.