The Cougars finally did something they haven't done since they joined Conference USA in 1996: beat a team from the Big XII. By defeating Oklahoma State in front of impressive crowd (by UH standards) of 28,260 at Robertson Stadium last Saturday, the University of Houston made a statement against a conference that until now had proven to be their nemesis.
Now, this isn't the first time that the Coogs have beaten a school from a BCS conference since the Southwest Conference broke up; they've actually done it a handful of times (including a victory over LSU in Baton Rouge in 1999 that cost coach Gerry DiNardo his job). But, given the overwhelming perception among the UH faithful that the Big XII left UH in the lurch ten years ago when what was then the Big 8 invited Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor to join their conference and caused the SWC to dissolve, this win meant a lot for the program.
I wished I could have been there in person, but I was at least able to get the audio feed here in Dubai and listen to the game. It was an exciting matchup between two undefeated teams, and Oklahoma State quarterback Bobby Reid was the real deal as he picked apart Houston's defense for 281 passing yards, 85 rushing yards and three touchdowns. But Houston's Kevin Kolb was even better, passing for 313 yards and four touchdowns. Houston's offense found success in keeping the ball away from the Cowboys, possessing the ball for 36:07 against Oklahoma State's 23:53. The Cougar defense, in spite of giving up a lot of yards to the Cowboys, also came up with a couple of huge stops late in the game when the Cowboys were close to the goal line to preserve the win.
For once, Houston was also the beneficiary of typcially incompetent C-USA officiating, rather than the victim. An apparent UH fumble late in the first half was overturned on replay, and the Cougars used the good fortune to score right before the half. The C-USA replay official who overturned the fumble call was later suspended, but even Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy agrees that the bad call was not the reason the Cougars won the game: "we couldn't stop them and we turned the ball over late. That's why we lost the game."
Not all the news was good for the Coogs, however. Houston's best offensive lineman, SirVincent Rogers, went down with torn knee ligaments early in the game and will miss the remainder of the season. Depth on the offensive line is now a key concern for the Coogs.
Next up for the Coogs is a trip to the Orange Bowl to face the Miami Hurricanes. Miami is struggling right now; their preseason dreams of contending for the national championship have evaporated following losses to Florida State and Louisville and they're not even ranked at this point. Nevertheless, they're still loaded with talent and will pose a formidable challenge for the Coogs.
I won't be too disappointed if the Cougars lose this one, however. Their win over Oklahoma State is good enough to put the rest of the college football world on notice that this team has improved and should be taken seriously.