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Friday, April 23, 2021

Football

Flashback Friday: Late Cotton Bowl comeback cements Cougars’ great season


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Former head coach Bill Yoeman, left, led the team to an 11-1 season, including a come-back bowl victory in the Cotton Bowl. | Courtesy of Houstonian yearbook

This year will mark the 36th anniversary of coach Bill Yeoman’s most successful season as head coach of the Houston Cougars football team in 1979.

That season, the Cougars began their campaign on an eight-game winning streak. Starting with an opening day win over at the University of California, Los Angeles, UH rode that victory through their out-of-conference games and into conference play.

During that stretch, the Cougars outscored their opponents 188 to 90.

Wins against the University of Florida, Southern Methodist University and fourth-ranked Arkansas put UH in first place in the Southwest Conference, and a fifth-placed ranking in the Associated Press Poll.

Their only loss of the season came against eighth-ranked University of Texas on Nov. 10, a game they lost by only eight points.

The Cougars still managed to close out the season with a couple of wins, the latter being a 63-point shutout over rival Rice University, to earn a share of the Southwest Conference Title and the eighth place in the AP Poll.

The team’s finish booked them a second straight trip to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl, which hosted the winner of the SWC.

UH was hoping to avenge their loss from the previous year, where they lost to Joe Montana’s Notre Dame University Fighting Irish in a game that is known as one of the greatest bowl comebacks in college football history.

But the Cougars had their own comeback victory against the seventh-ranked University of Nebraska Cornhuskers.

After being tied 7-7 at halftime, the Cornhuskers took a 14-10 lead, with only three minutes remaining in the game.

Quarterback Terry Elston drove the Cougars to the Cornhuskers’ six yard line with only 19 seconds left.

On fourth-and-one, following a scramble, Elston found wide receiver Eric Herring in the end zone to give UH a 17-14 lead with only 12 seconds remaining, securing the win.

The Cougars finished the season with an 11-1 record, outscored their opponents 279-121, ranked fifth in the nation by both the Coaches and AP Polls, won their third Southwest Conference in four years and their second Cotton Bowl victory.

The 1979 season for UH is remembered as a shining moment in the history of Cougar athletics.

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