Wednesday Rewind: Cougars stun the nation in memorable fashion
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 now we look back at the 2009 Cougar football team.
After head coach Art Briles left UH to join Baylor University, the Cougars brought in former Oklahoma Sooner Co-Offensive Coordinator Kevin Sumlin to lead the program as the 11th head coach in school history in December of 2007.
During his time with the Sooners, Sumlin helped turn the Oklahoma offense into one of the best in the country before becoming the first African-American to both lead the Cougar program and be hired to lead a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision program in the state of Texas.
The first season under Sumlin started rough, with a 1-3 record. However, the team rebounded to finish 8-5 and captured their first bowl game win since 1980, making the memorable 2009 season arguably one of the best in team history.
In the first game of the year, the Cougars nonchalantly beat Northwestern State 55-7. However, the next week faced the daunting task of heading into Stillwater to take on the fifth-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys.
The previous week, Oklahoma State had perhaps the biggest opening win in the program’s history the against Georgia, earning them a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated. They also handed the Cougars a 37-56 loss the year before. With this in mind, few gave Houston a shot to win.
The Cougars started the game off hot however, stunning the crowd at Boone Pickens Stadium with a 24- 7 lead at half time, powered by two passing touchdowns and a running score from junior quarterback Case Keenum.
Oklahoma State came out firing in the second half though, reeling off 21 unanswered points, including an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown by future Dallas Cowboy’s receiver Dez Bryant, and surged ahead 28-24.
Houston led 16-7 before OSU’s offense came alive behind three Bryant TDs, including a long punt return for a score. The Cougars would then be the ones to rally back this time.
Taking full advantage of several lucky breaks, including a fourth-down TD pass that ricocheted off OSU linebacker Donald Booker and fluttered right into the hands of Houston running back Bryce Beall, the Cougars regained control of the game in the fourth quarter.
Down 35-38, with a little over three minutes left in the game, OSU quarterback Zac Robinson, looking for a comeback drive, targeted Bryant as he ran a slant pattern, but the receiver tipped the pass up into the air where junior defensive back Jamal Robinson snatched it up for the pick.
Robinson quickly made a beeline for the end zone and completed the upset win with a 26-yard pick-six, giving Houston their first victory against a top-five opponent since a 1984 defeat of the No. 3 University of Texas Longhorns.
The team also went on to have several other impressive games that year, including an exciting 29-28 come-back win against Texas Tech. The Cougars finished the season 10-4, but closed the year out with a loss to the East Carolina Pirates in the Conference USA Championship game followed by a disappointing defeat to Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl.
In the end though, Keenum received the Sammy Baugh Award as the top passer in collegiate football, Sumlin was honored as the C-USA Coach of the Year and most importantly, the Cougars treated fans to a once-in-a-lifetime experience in undoubtedly one of the biggest wins in Cougar Football history.