It seems like every twenty years, the University of Houston Cougars deliver a beatdown of epic proportions to the Tulsa University Golden Hurricane. In 1968, there was the infamous 100-6 game. Twenty years later, the Run-and-Shoot-era Coogs clobbered Tulsa by a score of 82-28. And now, another twenty years on, the Coogs once again lay the smackdown on 25th-ranked Tulsa, 70-30.
The Coogs, avenging last year's 7-56 loss, handed Golden Hurricane head coach Todd Graham his biggest loss since leaving a Rice program with which he had just signed a contract extension and going to Tulsa two years ago. The win marked the program's second upset over a ranked opponent in one season, something that hasn't happened since 1984, and the Coogs reached the 70-point mark for the first time since their 73-3 shellacking of Louisiana Tech in 1991.
The Cougar offense was unstoppable, amassing 641 yards against a clueless Tulsa defense. Quarterback Case Keenum had a banner game. He was 24 of 37 for 402 yards passing and a career-high six touchdown passes. He rushed for 43 yards and a touchdown as well, took no sacks and threw no picks. (For his efforts, Lou Holtz awarded him a helmet sticker on ESPN's College Football Final.) Of the nine receivers that got their hands on the ball, Mark Hafner and Tryone Carrier led with two touchdown catches a piece and 8 and 6 receptions, respectively. Carrier added a 93-yard kickoff return late in the first half to his exploits as well.
But the reason the game turned out to be as lopsided as it was is because of the Cougar defense, which held a Tulsa offense that had been averaging 52 points a a game this season to only four touchdowns on the night. They thwarted two Tulsa fourth-down attempts, sacked quarterback David Johnson twice, and recovered five turnovers. Cornerback Loyce Means had a career night, intercepting three Tulsa passes and returning one of the 69 yards for a touchdown.
Indeed, the only thing that sucked about this game was that I wasn't there to see it in person.
Unlike the 1968 and 1988 games, I don't think anybody can fairly accuse the Coogs of running up the score in this one. Their last touchdown came early in the 4th quarter; after that the second string came in to play and the Coogs ran out the clock. Besides, it's not Houston's fault that Tulsa played like absolute crap Saturday night by turning the ball over seven times (twice on fumbles, thrice through the air and twice on downs) and not fielding anything that resembled a defense.
With this huge win, the Cougars have now clinched the six wins they need for bowl eligibility. But they're not done yet; the "four game season" against division rivals is only half over; if they can knock off UTEP at home next weekend and a tough Owl team at Rice Stadium two weeks from now, they win the C-USA Western Division and head to the conference championship game with a trip to the Liberty Bowl on the line. That's the team's stated goal, and this win puts it well within reach.
In spite of the epic beat-downs that the Cougars have delivered to the Golden Hurricane over the years, the all-time record between the schools is almost tied: Houston has won 18 times, Tulsa 16.